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Benefits of Medication Assisted Treatment for Alcohol

Addiction to alcohol affects some 16 million people in the United States. Alcohol creates not just a psychological dependence, but a physical dependence as well. Physical dependency is often one of the biggest hurdles to successfully quitting drinking. If you are struggling with alcohol addiction you may want to consider medication assisted treatment for alcohol.

What is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication assisted treatment — or MAT — is a method of addiction treatment that uses FDA approved medications in combination with therapy to treat addiction. MAT is an evidence-based practice that has been used successfully for many years to treat many substance abuse disorders. 

The medications used in MAT help your body get rid of addictive substances, like opiates and alcohol, to set the groundwork for recovery. Some other types of medications used in MAT help curb cravings, making it easier to focus on recovery and treating the psychological conditions that might have led to addiction.

Medications used in MAT for alcohol addiction are FDA-approved and include:

  • Disulfiram
  • Naltrexone
  • Acamprosate

How Does MAT Work

MAT is not a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. After you have met with a qualified addiction specialist, you will work with your care team to develop a treatment plan that works best for you. This initial assessment will determine your level of dependency, a drug and alcohol screening, and to determine if there are other co-occurring mental health issues that should be addressed during treatment. 

The medications used in MAT for alcohol addiction work in a number of ways. Some medications, like acamprosate, can ease withdrawal symptoms which makes transitioning to a state of physical sobriety easier. Acamprosate can also help reduce cravings for alcohol. Other medications, like naltrexone, work to inhibit the reward centers of the brain from feeling pleasurable effects from alcohol. 

Medication assisted treatment is a whole-person approach to treatment. MAT also involves the use of therapy to treat the psychological effects of recovery — as well as any undiagnosed or underlying mental health issues. Common therapeutic approaches used in medication assisted treatment include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Dialectic behavior therapy
  • Group therapy

MAT for Alcohol Addiction

Unlike medication assisted treatment for other types of addiction, MAT for alcohol addiction is generally not used as a starting point in treatment. Instead, MAT is used for individuals who struggle with alcohol use disorder. These individuals may have tried to stay sober unsuccessfully or are long-term habitual users. 

Treatment for alcohol addiction using MAT calls for a multi-faceted approach that is individualized for each patient. Often this approach uses some combination of medication, therapy, and other holistic practices. The medications used in MAT to treat alcohol addiction include:

Naltrexone — This medication comes in either pill form or is injected by a healthcare professional. Naltrexone stops your brain from feeling pleasure when exposed to alcohol. So while you may still feel physically drunk, you won’t actually enjoy it. Additionally, naltrexone has proved to be effective in reducing cravings by uncoupling alcohol and the pleasure response.

Acamprosate — This medication works by rebalancing the chemical messenger system in the brain. The balance of this system becomes compromised when you have been drinking for a while. Getting the messenger system in a state of rebalance helps reduce withdrawal symptoms — especially the anxiety that can accompany new sobriety.

Disulfiram — This medication changes the way your body processes alcohol. If you drink while taking this medication, it can make you nauseous or lead to vomiting. Evidence indicates that negative association of become ill while drinking will disrupt the desire to drink.

Benefits of Medication Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

The primary benefit of using medication assisted treatment for alcohol addiction is to support you in your recovery. MAT has also proved highly effective in preventing relapse. Medication used in MAT help prevent cravings and, in some cases, create an aversion to alcohol it makes it easier for you to get engaged in the treatment process.

Medication assisted treatment also is a safer way to withdraw from alcohol dependency — especially for long-term drinkers. Long-term alcohol abuse impacts your body in a number of ways and withdrawal can have dangerous side-effects, such as seizures, DTs, and hallucinations. Medications used in MAT help you slowly and safely withdraw from alcohol, minimizing side effects and making an alcohol-free life more comfortable.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Nashville

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, then it’s time to get help. Medication assisted treatment may be the right choice to break free from the cycle of addiction. Our caring and compassionate addiction specialists are here and ready to help you get on the road to recovery. Contact us today to find out if medication assisted treatment for alcohol addiction is right for you. We’re here to help and discuss your treatment options. 

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