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What is Medication Assisted Treatment?

Put simply, MAT is a treatment that utilizes FDA approved anti-craving medication and couples it with counseling and behavioral therapies to take a whole patient approach to treatment.

July 3, 2019
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Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) isn’t just an idea being advocated for by proponents within the rehab industry, it is also the law here in California and growing as an accepted treatment method across the United States.  As of January 2019, clients in licensed residential treatment facilities in California are required to have access to MAT.  That law and recent outreach efforts by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) makes it clear that California Health Care has planted its flag firmly in support of MAT.  Wavelengths Recovery supports that effort and we provide MAT to our clients when our Medical Director determines that it is appropriate for an individual client’s needs.

Medication Assisted Treatment: A Definition

So, what is MAT?  Put simply, it is a treatment that utilizes FDA approved anti-craving medication (Methadone, Naltrexone, Buprenorphine) and couples it with counseling and behavioral therapies to take a whole patient approach to treatment.

Proponents of MAT include nonprofit associations, federal agencies, and patient groups.  They frequently cite studies that show MAT reduces the rate of relapse, compared to abstinence-based treatment modalities.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) lists several resources that can explain the theory behind MAT and highlights studies that support their findings.

Critics of MAT often charge that it is really just substituting one drug for another, only now, big pharma, rather than cartels, are reaping the profits.  Along with that, they point out the use of MAT has the potential to be abused because it can produce effects similar to opioids, in some instances. Others in the 12-step community preach abstinence as the only true path to recovery. While slightly more moderate critics believe you should use traditional therapies first and keep MAT as a last resort option.

According to a DHCS toolkit recently distributed by Division Chief, Marlies Perez, who heads the Substance Use Disorder Compliance Division, research shows a wide variety of benefits from MAT.  This includes decreased opioid use, decreased opioid-related overdose deaths, decreased criminal activity, decreased infectious disease transmission and increased social functioning and retention in treatment.  The toolkit includes sample documents that will help providers obtain Incidental Medical Services (IMS) certification.  Contact DHCS to obtain a sample toolkit.

MAT Resources

Regardless of your personal opinions on MAT, the current paradigm in California has shifted towards the utilization of MAT as part of a client’s treatment model.  To ensure compliance with the current laws and better understand the facts and dispel the myths of MAT, every treatment provider should engage in self-education through the DHCS and SAMHSA websites.




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