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Understanding the Facts: Medication-Assisted Treatment

Fighting the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia has been an ongoing battle for officials, residents, and families suffering from the devastating effects of addiction. In 2018, 1,116 people died from drug overdoses in Philadelphia. A staggering 84% of these deaths included the use of Fentanyl. While the Resilience Project is making changes throughout the city, it’s clear there’s more work to be done. For the thousands of people still fighting a daily battle against addiction, medication-assisted treatment offers an option for hope. However, fighting addiction with medication might not always be the right technique.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) combines the use of prescription medications with counseling and behavioral therapy to fight opioid addiction and help sustain recovery. The drugs used in MAT are approved by the FDA and considered safe for patients when used with counseling and an established support system. The types of medication used and the duration of treatment may vary widely from one patient to the next with some types of long-term MAT expected to continue indefinitely.

Types of Drugs Used in MAT

There are three types of drugs approved by the FDA for the use of MAT for opioid use disorder and addiction. It’s recommended that each of these drugs is made available to patients fighting opioid addiction for the best likelihood of recovery. A physician’s choice may be related to how a medication is administered, the potential side effects for each patient, and the severity and length of addiction. These three drug types are approved by the FDA for the MAT of opioid addiction.


Common names for this drug include Bunavail, Cassipa, Probuphine, Sublocade, Suboxone, Subutex, and Zubsolv. Buprenorphine helps to fight addiction by diminishing the physical effects of opioid addiction, like cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine does offer euphoric effects and can cause respiratory depression like most opioids. However, these effects level off, lowering the risk of misuse. Sometimes Naloxone is added to Buprenorphine to help combat the risks of potential misuse. The maintenance phase of Buprenorphine can continue indefinitely, though patients sometimes undergo medically supervised withdrawal.


Common names for Methadone include Dolophine and Methadose. Methadone works by blocking the effects of other opioids while dulling physical withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is a powerful opioid which can create dependency. Incorrect use can result in overdose and even death. Methadone is most commonly used to prevent acute withdrawal symptoms that often cause an immediate relapse. It can take 3 to 6 months to safely taper off use of Methadone.


(Vivitrol) Naltrexone works by reversing the effects of opioids and blocking cravings. It is also used for alcohol addiction and considered effective for people suffering from both addictions simultaneously. Naltrexone can have serious interactions with common medications such as cough syrup and anti-diarrhea medications. It is vital that all health professionals know you’re taking Naltrexone to avoid complications with other medications. Large doses of opioids combined with Naltrexone can be fatal. Patients are required to stop using opioids before beginning Naltrexone to avoid acute withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, Naltrexone can create a sensitivity to opioids even after you stop taking it, resulting in increased risks if opioid use is continued.

Potential Side Effects of Drugs used in MAT

As with any prescription drug, the medications used for MAT can have side effects which vary from patient to patient. These effects are the most common and others may be experienced. It’s unusual for patients to suffer from all of the side effects associated with a drug, and other medications may help relieve temporary side effects and other issues related to opioid withdrawal. However, many of these side effects occur simultaneously.


  • It’s important to avoid opioids for at least 12 to 24 hours before beginning Buprenorphine to avoid acute withdrawal symptoms.
  • Stomach and digestive issues – nausea, vomiting, and constipation
  • Pain and flulike symptoms – muscle aches, cramps, and fever
  • Cravings
  • Inability to sleep – (Other medicines may be prescribed to help with this issue.)
  • Distress and irritability


  • Anemia
  • Decreased libido and erectile dysfunction
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Weight gain
  • Tooth loss
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Increased sweating


  • Nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramping and pain
  • Insomnia
  • Increased anxiety
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Increased fatigue
  • headaches

Alternatives to MAT

MAT isn’t the right treatment for everyone. Some people suggest that patients are simply exchanging one addiction for another. There are alternatives to MAT that show promising results for treatment and long-term recovery from opioid use disorder. These treatments are often used in combination with therapy and other behavioral changes.

Holistic Treatment

There are several different approaches to holistic treatment for opioid addiction. While the effectiveness of holistic treatment is questioned by experts, users of these methods reap the benefits. Holistic approaches often work to create balance and provide calm which helps counteract the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Holistic treatment methods include:

  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Reiki
  • Herbal medicines
  • Nutritional therapy

Patients who participate in holistic treatment programs are often more satisfied with the methods of treatment, making them more likely to continue the program. The goal of holistic treatment is to treat the entire individual instead of just the addiction. Therefore, the underlying causes of addiction are more likely to be addressed in a holistic treatment program.

Natural Treatment

Some natural treatments are very effective in treating the symptoms of opioid withdrawal without the risks of dependency and addiction. NAD (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) IV therapy is a treatment for opioid addiction that uses natural enzymes to repair the effects of opioids on the body and the brain. Drug and alcohol use change the way cells work in the brain. The use of NAD IV therapy works to correct this imbalance quickly to combat the physical effects of drug use and withdrawal.

NAD IV therapy is administered intravenously each day usually over the course of 10 days. Treatment is relaxing without the use of harsh chemicals and lasts about 8 hours a day. Reduction or elimination of withdrawal symptoms are usually felt within minutes after the treatment begins. It’s important to use NAD IV therapy in conjunction with behavioral therapy to eliminate the psychological effects of addiction which are often long-lasting and can lead to relapse.

No matter what treatment you seek for opioid addiction, it’s important to consider all of the facts. If one type of treatment proves ineffective, you aren’t out of options. There is a treatment for all levels of opioid addiction. You can repair your health, the adverse effects to your brain, and get back your life.┬áIf you or a family member is suffering from addiction and seeking a compassionate treatment program without addictive medication, contact Brainspark Health today.