Opioid Epidemic

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)


What is medication-assisted treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an effective treatment option for individuals with opioid-use disorders. MAT combines medication treatment with counseling and behavioral therapies. Support services that may be included with MAT include psychosocial counseling, co-occurring disorder treatment, medical services and vocational rehabilitation. Opioid-use disorders (OUD) are often chronic, resulting in long-term effects; however, MAT provides individuals with OUD an opportunity for successful long-term recovery.

Medications for treatment of opioid dependency

Three classes of medications are currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of opioid dependency: buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone. These medications have not only proven to be a safe and effective treatment for OUD, but have also been prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain. Individuals should work with health care professionals to determine which medication is best suited for their needs. Continuing MAT should be re-evaluated periodically; however, there is not a recommended maximum length of maintenance treatment. In some cases, maintenance treatment may be life long.

MAT sub-treatments

Other sub-treatments included in medication-assisted treatment are detoxification, medically supervised withdrawal, medical maintenance treatment and comprehensive maintenance treatment. Any or all of these sub-treatments may be provided in opioid- treatment-program (OTP) facilities or in other settings where MAT is offered. MAT has progressed due to the acceptance that opioid addiction is a treatable medical disorder.

Chronic pain connection

Because opioids are a treatment option for chronic pain, management of pain may be challenging during medication-assisted treatment. Long-term treatment with opioid pain medications can produce a dependence on treatment medications. Dosage and duration of dependency treatment drugs may increase for individuals taking opioids as a pain management treatment. MAT professionals should work closely with pain specialists to determine the most effective route and dosage of treatment for those with a chronic pain diagnosis.


Screening begins when an individual with an opioid-use disorder or a family member contacts an opioid treatment program or a health care professional. Individuals are required to disclose their medical history, age, treatment history, all prescription and over-the-counter medication use, substance abuse history, daily opioid-use patterns, reason(s) for seeking treatment, living environment and recovery resources. Individuals are assessed by a health care professional before being approved or denied for MAT.

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