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7 Myths about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Alcohol and Opioid Addictions


Medication-Assisted Treatment, MAT, has become more prevalent with the widespread opioid epidemic. Though first introduced in the early 1960s, there are still many misconceptions about its use in treating alcohol and opioid addictions. Read on to uncover the truth behind seven of the most common myths of MAT programs.

Myth 1: MAT Is Another Form of Addiction

The #1 misconception of MAT programs is that the medications serve to “trade” one addiction for another. It is important to remember that with MAT, the dependent individual is working with medical providers to stabilize their substance use disorder with FDA-approved medications that are a part of a solution for addiction recovery. This is markedly different from the substance use occurring before entry into an MAT program, often associated with other psychosocial impacts.

These respective medications minimize or eliminate cravings for opioids, such as pain killers or heroin, or alcohol. The types of medications used each have a different purpose. For example, buprenorphine, such as Suboxone® and Sublocade®, is a partial agonist that partially activates opioid receptors. Vivitrol ®, ReVia®, and Depade® are antagonists that block opioid receptors. Diskets®, Methadone Intensol®, Methadose®, and Dolophine® are full agonists that fully activate the opioid receptors. All of these medications affect the brain or body in different ways, allowing physicians to prescribe a solution based on an individual’s needs.

Myth 2: MAT Is Not “True” Recovery

There is an unfortunate belief that MAT is not a real path to becoming free from addiction and stalls true recovery. MAT doesn’t delay or stop a person’s recovery process and can have an important role in maintaining recovery. It is like any rehab program: the goal is to help the patient get healthy and live without the drugs that once controlled their lives.

The thoughts of someone dependent on drugs or alcohol are consumed with finding and using their drug of choice. MAT allows for a reprieve from this way of life by minimizing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. MAT can allow a person to function and thrive without using the substance.

Myth 3: MAT Is An Ineffective “Quick Fix”

Some believe that MAT is a temporary fix instead of a lasting solution for recovery. The truth: MAT works best when used as part of a long-term addiction rehab program. A study by The National Institute on Drug Abuse found evidence of the long-term success of using medications for opioid abuse recovery. The research followed people in recovery that were prescribed an MAT protocol. These patients were almost twice as likely to continue maintenance treatment than those who were not. Other research has shown that patients who receive 1-2 years of MAT have the best chance at sustained recovery.

Myth 4: You Must Have a Serious Addiction to Qualify for MAT Programs

Another misconception of medication-assisted treatment is that it is only for treating “serious” opioid disorders. Addiction of any kind is always a severe condition that should be taken seriously. Rehab programs should always be tailored to the individual’s situation, which means MAT may not be the best option for everyone. However, there is no “threshold of severity” to meet to consult with an MAT provider. The provider, a medical professional that specializes in medication-assisted treatment, will determine if the patient will benefit from the program. If yes, the provider will prescribe medication levels and a plan customized for the patient.

Myth 5: MAT Patients Are More Likely To Overdose

The National Institutes of Health actually found that deaths from overdose decreased by 59% in patients prescribed methadone and 38% in that prescribed buprenorphine. Other studies have also confirmed this finding. The goal of using medications like Suboxone® or Vivitrol® is to decrease the cravings for illicit drugs. As mentioned before, medications used in an MAT program are prescribed by a licensed professional and are effective for people working to maintain their sobriety.

Myth 6: MAT Programs are Expensive

Another medication-assisted treatment myth: MAT has high costs. However, MAT programs are a relatively affordable option for opioid or alcohol abuse treatment that many insurance plans cover. The Affordable Care Act requires most insurance plans to cover drug and alcohol addiction treatment. Many insurance companies have added coverage for MAT under their plans, covering some or even all costs for medication-assisted treatment options. Plans do vary, so it is best to check coverage before beginning a program.

Does insurance Cover MAT?

To learn if your insurance plan covers visits to Bradford’s MAT clinics, complete a free insurance verification. 

Myth 7: MAT Programs Are Just Pill Mills

Some opponents say that MAT clinics are pill mills where people receive medications without oversight or accountability. While some providers operate in this manner, many reputable organizations are operating ethically and lawfully. Proper MAT programs are designed to manage the chronic disease of addiction through both therapy and medication.

“It is widely understood that the treatment of addiction is much like the treatment of other chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension,” says Dr. Brent Boyett, an expert in addiction medicine and Medical Director at Bradford Health Services’ Madison, AL facility. “Patients and healthcare providers understand that the goal of medication-assisted treatment is to prevent harmful outcomes and to maintain optimal function. Positive outcomes usually require a combination of lifestyle modification and medications.”

Is MAT for You?

While treatment plans vary by individual, the first step toward recovery is to start with a consultation. Our Medication-Assisted Treatment programs are available at Bradford’s residential and outpatient facilities. Bradford’s Recovery Advisors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to help you schedule an appointment. Call 888-SOBER-40 to learn more about our Medication-Assisted Treatment programs.