Medications for Addiction Treatment: An Overdose Prevention Measure for People Addicted to Opioids

Recently the Maryland Department of Health sponsored a training for those who wanted to offer presentations on medications for addiction treatment (MAT). MCF’s Ginger Rosela was one of the people trained. We asked her a few questions about what she learned.

“MAT prevents overdoses. People think that it is substituting one drug for another. No. It is part of harm reduction. Instead of a person dying, they take methadone.”

With opioid overdose deaths skyrocketing over the last few years, largely due to the introduction of fentanyl, MAT should be seen as a means to save lives. By helping people to stay off of street opioids, MAT reduces overdose deaths.

Ginger explained that there are three drugs used for MAT: methodone, buprenorphine (used in Suboxone) and naltrexone (Vivitrol). “Methadone has the most science behind it. It has been proven to reduce overdose deaths. Buprenorphine also has a solid research base; there is less evidence for naltrexone.”

Methadone and buprenorphine both treat opioid addiction by preventing the symptoms of withdrawal. They also help to stabilize the brain functions in people who have become addicted to opioids, which reduces relapses. In order to use naltrexone, a person must first go through withdrawal. Naltrexone works by blocking the effects of opioids.

Ginger noted that there is great stigma attached to people who have addictions and to people who use MAT. “This has to change. Addiction is a chronic disease. MAT is a proven way to treat the disease and it keeps people alive.”

She added “MAT is not a cookie-cutter thing. It can be both short-term and long-term. You start at a certain level. The goal is to work your way down, but if you need to stay on it, stay on it.”

To connect with one of MCF’s Family Peer Support Specialist in your region, call 410-730-8267 or email [email protected].