In the United States, drug use has risen across all generations, genders, and demographics. Drug misuse has reached unprecedented levels, whether it’s heroin, prescription medication, marijuana, or synthetics. Since drugs are illegal and many people don’t discuss their drug use openly, assessing the exact scope of drug use in the United States is extremely difficult. Several surveys, studies, and publications, on the other hand, show that American drug use is exceptionally high, possibly reaching historic levels. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), around 31.9 million Americans aged 12 and older are “current users” of illicit drugs.

Substance abuse and addiction are unfortunately unavoidable in many cultures. People would still experiment with drugs due to natural curiosity, youthful rebelliousness, and various other factors. Experimentation can lead to abuse and then addiction in some cases. At this point, you will need the assistance of qualified practitioners to assist you in your battle against addiction.

Drug rehabilitation is an addiction treatment program that helps people dealing with substance abuse get the support they need to overcome their addiction. In the United States, there are currently over 14,000 drug rehabilitation centers, and the number is steadily increasing.

The Process of Drug Rehabilitation 

Initially, an addiction counselor or mental health professional will conduct an assessment before beginning treatment. This evaluation will gather information on substance abuse, medical records, drug screening, among other information that could prove useful for a diagnosis. The medical professional will collect information about: 

  • The pattern of drug and alcohol abuse 
  • Medical history 
  • Physical health complications  
  • Blood pressure and other vital signs 
  • Previous detoxification or rehabilitation experiences 
  • Living conditions, financial status, and legal status 
  • Risk of suicide or violence 
  • Cognitive, sensory, or physical disabilities 

The information gathered by the evaluation is used to develop an individualized treatment plan that meets each patient’s unique requirements. This treatment plan can include the following components: 

  • Individual therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or contingency management 
  • Group counseling. 
  • Introduction to support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). 
  • Family therapy sessions. 
  • Suitable behavioral therapies or alternative therapies. 
  • The use of medications to alleviate severe withdrawals and cravings.
  • Aftercare planning and relapse prevention education. 

Each of these treatment elements helps patients overcome their psychological dependence on an addictive substance. Individual therapy helps patients recognize and deal with stimuli. These therapies can also assist in developing and improving emotional skills to prevent relapses. 

Family therapies help mend strained relationships with loved ones and help educate families on the nature of addiction. Support groups provide a sense of community with like-minded individuals. Group counseling provides patients with accountability for their behavior and actions.

Medication-assisted treatment programs utilize FDA-approved medications such as Suboxone and methadone in conjunction with behavioral therapy to help patients overcome their life of dependence and addiction.

Drug Rehabilitation

Types of Drug Rehabilitation Centers 

Depending on many factors, such as the severity of addiction and the substance of abuse, patients can choose from a wide range of drug rehabilitation centers. Since there is no “one size fits all” solution to overcoming an addiction, it’s vital to seek the assistance and guidance of a physician or an addiction specialist to help you choose the right rehab program for you.

As per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the first step of any rehabilitation program is the detoxification process. A detox program helps patients safely manage withdrawal symptoms while flushing out the addictive substance from the body. Detox programs are available at all inpatient programs and certain outpatient programs. 

Here are a few types of drug rehabs for you to choose from:

Inpatient rehabilitation: Also known as long-term residential rehabs, provide comprehensive treatment programs that address all aspects of an individual’s addiction. Inpatient rehabs are substance-free facilities that provide 24-hour medical assistance and support. Individuals battling chronic drug and alcohol addiction and those suffering from co-occurring psychiatric or behavioral illnesses must seek treatment in an inpatient rehab facility. 

Outpatient rehabilitation: Outpatient rehabilitation is another form of rehab center that is ideal for patients with mild to moderate drug addiction or dependence. Outpatient recovery programs provide many of the same treatments found at an inpatient center but without the rigid structure. Patients are given the flexibility to return home each day after their treatment. The outpatient setting helps patients receive treatment while maintaining their home and work life.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): Also referred to as day programs, PHP includes many of the elements found in inpatient and outpatient programs. PHP provides intensive treatment without the need for an overnight stay. And a more structured recovery plan than a traditional outpatient program. These services successfully treat a variety of mental health conditions, including substance use disorders (SUD).

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs): IOP is an ideal recovery plan for people with substance use disorders or co-occurring mental health disorders who do not require medical detoxification or around-the-clock care. IOPs enable patients to continue with their regular, day-to-day lives while receiving the treatment they require. IOPs are also used as a step-down program after completing an inpatient program to help patients gradually intergrade back into society.

Services Provided by Drug Rehabs 

Services provided by drug rehab centers may vary from the type of rehab chosen and the patient’s requirements. But most rehabs provide services such as:

  • Detoxification programs: Detox is the first stage of a rehabilitation program. It helps patients address the physical dependence on an addictive substance while flushing it out of their bodies. Depending on the severity of addiction, withdrawal symptoms can vary in intensity and duration. Those who are likely to endure severe withdrawal syndrome will be provided medically assisted detoxification in helping to minimize the risks involved. Detox programs are widely available through inpatient settings and certain outpatient programs.

After completing detox, patients can focus on addressing their psychological dependence on drugs and alcohol.

  • Individual therapy: Individualized therapy assists patients in developing coping mechanisms and resources to abstain from substance usage and sustain abstinence through focusing on short-term behavioral objectives. It helps patients understand and recognize triggers and teach them positive and effective ways to deal with them.
  • Group Therapy: Most rehabs employ group counseling to maximize social support and to encourage a drug-free lifestyle. Effective results are achieved when group therapy is delivered in combination with individualized addiction treatment or is formatted to incorporate cognitive-behavioral therapy or contingency management concepts. 
  • Family therapy: Addiction is a widespread disease with far-reaching consequences. When one family member deals with addiction, it can have a detrimental impact on the entire family system by causing them to experience increased stress and anxiety. Drug abuse is referred to as a family disease because of its grip on families. 

Family therapy helps mend strained relationships and create awareness of the nature of addiction. It helps families better understand the person suffering from SUD. And how best to support them after rehabilitation.

  • Aftercare programs: Addiction recovery is a lifelong process with a high probability of relapse even after successfully completing rehab. So building a solid aftercare plan is critical, but the specific components of aftercare can vary from person to person. Many drug treatment centers provide their own follow-up services to help patients adjust to their new lives. Aftercare programs offer additional therapy, workshops, and programs for alumni of the recovery program.

They also provide introductions to support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), two of the most well-known 12-step programs, with meetings held around the country and attended by many people suffering from addiction.

Duration of Drug Rehab Treatment 

The duration of drug treatment programs can vary from patient to patient. However, the available length of rehab programs are:

  • 30-day program
  • 60-day program
  • 90-day program

There are two types of drug rehabilitation stays; short-term and long-term. The average length of time spent in short-term recovery is 28 to 30 days. Long-term recovery, on the other hand, usually lasts about 90 days. Detoxification programs can last for one to two weeks for both treatment options. To get clean and start a plan for long-term rehabilitation, most patients require at least three months of rehab.

The Benefits of Drug Rehabilitation 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one cannot simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Therefore, professional medical treatment is necessary to overcome drug abuse and addiction issues. Here are five significant advantages of a drug rehabilitation program. 

  • Provides a safe environment: Removing an individual from an environment that encourages drug abuse can help them in their journey to recovery. Rehabs provide patients with support,  guidance, and effective tools in helping them address all aspects of addiction.
  • Build peer support: Being surrounded by people who understand what you’re going through can create a sense of community most individuals suffering from SUD lack. Your peers help you stay accountable for your actions and provide valuable insight in helping you overcome your struggles.
  • Helps strengthen relationships: Rehab programs provide family therapy that helps mend broken or strained relationships. They help loved ones understand the true nature of addiction and how best to handle stressful situations once a loved one returns home after rehab.
  • Breaking the cycle of addiction: There are many reasons why individuals become addicted to drugs. Understanding the root cause can help you avoid a relapse in the future. Therapies and counseling provided by rehabs help patients uncover their triggers so they could be avoided or effectively managed. 
  • Promotes a healthy lifestyle: Developing habits that promote a healthy lifestyle can gradually reverse the physical and emotional damages done by substance abuse and improve your quality of life.

What to Look for in a Drug Rehab?

Deciding on a drug rehab center for yourself or a loved one can be difficult and sometimes overwhelming. Here are some questions to ask and consider before making a choice that is right for you. 

  • What types of licensing or accreditation does the facility have? 
  • What qualifications or licenses do the rehab staff have? 
  • Do they provide medically assisted treatment programs? 
  • What’s the patient-to-staff ratio at the rehab? 
  • Do they provide evidence-based treatments? 
  • Do they provide services tailored to particular genders? 
  • How effective is their recovery program? 
  • Does the rehab accept my insurance? 
  • Do they provide treatment for co-occurring disorders and other psychiatric disorders? 
  • Do they provide medical detoxification programs? 
  • What age group of patients does the rehab accept? 
  • How long will the program last? 
  • What type of post-treatment support do they offer? 

Drug rehabilitation aims to help people avoid using drugs and learn how to live productive lives. Recovery entails more than just getting clean and sober; it also entails rebuilding your life on a more strong and secure platform. Drug rehabilitation programs help individuals regain their independence and improve their quality of life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines methamphetamine as an extremely addictive central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that can cause significant harm to users when misused. Regrettably, though, the availability of methamphetamine and the consequences of its use have increased dramatically in the US in recent years. Between 2015 and 2018, a total of 1.6 million American adults confirmed methamphetamine usage. And co-occurring disorders and psychiatric disorders were widespread among those who abused methamphetamine. Because of the devastating long-term consequences of meth use, it is critical to understand the signs and symptoms of addiction to help diagnose and treat this dangerous disease promptly.

What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine was first used as a nasal decongestant and bronchial inhaler in the early twentieth century. However, the severe physical impact of crystal methamphetamine caused it to be labeled as one of the most dangerous drugs to enter the US illicit drug market. Methamphetamines relate to a broad range of drugs. While some forms are utilized as a genuine treatment for attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy, their use is restricted due to the severity of its side effects and its high potential for addiction. And thus, methamphetamine medications are classified as Schedule II drugs under the Controlled Substance Act. Crystal meth, on the other hand, is an illegal product manufactured in unregulated meth labs.

Street-level crystal meth is chemically classified as d-methamphetamine HCL. Crystal meth, as its name denotes, is crystalline in nature, and many with methamphetamine addiction abuse it in this form. The crystals can be crushed and ingested by mouth, smoked, snorted, or injected. The street versions of meth are also known as Speed, Rocket, Scooby Snax, Ice, Crystal, and Trash.

Signs of Meth Addiction

The signs and symptoms of methamphetamine addiction differ from person to person. Symptoms and their severity depend on the level of usage and the method of ingestion. The drug has a profound effect on the user’s brain and body, and the symptoms and signs of its use are noticeable in several ways.

One of the first indications of meth addiction is a sudden loss of interest in life aspects that were once significant to the individual. Hobbies, relationships, and job aspirations will continue to take a back seat during drug use. Physical signs of meth use and addiction may include:

  • Not being able to sleep
  • Not eating
  • Extreme skin breakouts
  • Weight loss
  • Long periods of not sleeping, alternating with long periods of sleep (24-48 hours)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sores that have trouble healing
  • Rotting teeth
  • Paranoia
  • Shaking and twitchiness
  • Non-stop, rapid talking
  • Short temper

The use of this drug also contributes to a drastic shift in behavior and habits. And users can experience extreme euphoria or exhibit aggression and violence. When using methamphetamines, a person can stay awake for days and ‘crash’ and sleep for days afterward. Meth addiction may induce psychosis in some users, and symptoms of this condition can include:

  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability

Meth Addiction Behavior

Severe scratching is a physical side effect induced by psychosis due to the sensation of bugs crawling over the skin. And picking and scratching are ways to ease this perceived hallucination. Consequently, skin abrasions and rashes are likely to occur and are some of the physical signs of detecting if a loved one is misusing methamphetamines.

Another behavioral sign of misuse is frequent repetitive behaviors, such as obsessive cleaning or taking apart objects and then placing them back together. As per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), this is caused by long-term meth usage leading to changes in brain regions that help regulate repetitive activities. Other behavioral signs of meth use may include:

  • Speaking fast and moving between topics quickly
  • Less need for food or loss of appetite
  • Unable to sit still
  • High motivation to accomplish tasks
  • Less need for sleep
  • Exhibiting risky behaviors

If you live around someone who uses this drug, you may also come across paraphernalia such as burned spoons, syringes, and needles.

The Warning Signs of Meth Addiction

Symptoms of Meth Addiction

Doctors use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) to verify if someone is struggling with substance use disorder. A user may be clinically diagnosed with meth use disorder if he/she meets more than two of the following criteria within twelve months:

  • Using the drug even in situations that are threatening to the user and others, such as driving under the influence or overdosing.
  • Neglecting personal, professional, or academic responsibilities.
  • Requiring more quantities of the drug to get the same feeling (drug tolerance).
  • Using larger amounts of the substance for extended periods.
  • Experiencing social or interpersonal problems caused by drug misuse.
  • Repeated failed attempts to control or quit methamphetamine use altogether.
  • Spending excessive amounts of time abusing the substance.
  • Developing psychological symptoms or physical problems because of drug use.
  • Giving up activities you once loved so you could spend more time using meth.
  • Experiencing drug cravings.
  • Experiencing effects of withdrawal when not using or attempting to quit meth.

Experiencing withdrawal symptoms is a notable sign of drug addiction. And symptoms of meth withdrawal may include anxiety, fatigue, drug cravings, and hallucinations.

Long-Term and Short-Term Side Effects of Meth Abuse

Methamphetamine’s effects may last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours, which is a comparatively longer period than other drugs. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the most common short-term side effects of methamphetamine abuse include:

  • Suppressed appetite
  • Aggression and violent behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Flushed or itchy skin
  • Paranoia
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Muscle twitching
  • Hallucinations
  • Fatal drug overdose

Other than the short-term side effects, the use of this drug can also result in the following long-term side effects:

  • Respiratory issues
  • Heart disease/heart attacks
  • Premature aging
  • Congenital disabilities
  • High blood pressure
  • Sudden cardiac death
  • Liver damage
  • Brain damage
  • Blackened, rotting teeth (meth mouth)
  • Reproductive issues
  • Skin infection
  • Seizures
  • Arrhythmias
  • Kidney failure
  • Malnutrition

Meth consists of a high potential for causing fatal overdoses. Overdose with methamphetamine may trigger chest pain, breathing difficulties, seizures, and coma. Professional medical care is essential for treating most of these meth-use-related side effects in people with methamphetamine addiction.

Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment

Addiction to this drug is one of the most complex substance use disorders to manage. Nevertheless, medical experts have combined treatment interventions to help people with methamphetamine abuse manage this issue.

Recovery from meth use disorder requires a structured meth recovery regimen consisting of detoxification, counseling, and therapy. Medical detox eliminates the physical presence of the drug from the body and helps minimize withdrawal symptoms through the use of medications.

While detox helps alleviate physical dependence, counseling will resolve the psychological aspect of dependence. Education provided during the treatment process will also help sustain long-term sobriety.

Due to the complexity of addiction recovery, it’s highly advisable to seek support and guidance through an addiction specialist to achieve prolonged recovery.

Mental illnesses include several conditions, varying in levels of complexity, spanning from mild-moderate-to-severe. And finding a treatment provider for these conditions can be daunting, particularly finding someone who meets all your needs. It’s also important to understand that finding a licensed therapist alone isn’t enough. It’s also important to consider other aspects and requirements when considering suitable mental health services. For example, the seriousness of your symptoms, the need for medication, the type of therapist, and the type of therapy that may be ideal for you.

Defining Mental Disorders

Mental disorder is defined by 2 broad categories: Any Mental Illness (AMI) and Serious Mental Illness (SMI). AMI includes all recognized psychiatric conditions. In contrast, SMI is a smaller and more serious subset of AMI. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines AMI and SMI as follows:

  • AMI is a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. AMI can vary in impact, ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate, and even severe impairment.
  • SMI is a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits major life activities.

Researchers have also discovered that the majority of psychiatric illnesses identified in the United States have a strong link to substance use disorders (SUDs). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): many people who develop substance use disorders are also diagnosed with mental illnesses, and vice versa. Multiple national population studies indicate that about half of those who develop a mental disorder will also experience a SUD at some stage in their lives and vice versa. This condition is referred to as co-occurring disorder or comorbidity.

If you have a drug use disorder in addition to your mental condition, it is strongly recommended that you seek mental health treatment that will help you deal with both conditions.

If this is your first time looking for a mental health professional, you might not be sure where to start. So here are a few tips to consider,  along with questions to ask them.

Types of Mental Health Providers 

There are many types of mental health providers, and until you start looking, you may not even be aware of them.

The majority of practitioners have received a doctorate or a master’s degree. Master of social work (MSW) and licensed professional counselor (LPC) are two common titles for master’s degree level mental health practitioners. Psychologists and physicians who specialize in mental health are among the professionals with doctoral degrees (psychiatrists). These diseases can also be evaluated and treated by family medicine physicians.

The following factors will help you when choosing the treatment specialist for your mental illness:

  • Your condition or concern: Although most professionals may provide treatment for several disorders, a professional with a specialized focus could be more responsive to your exact needs. For example, if you have a drug use problem, you will need to see a psychologist who practices in this field.
  • Whether you need medication: Only certain services can administer medication. Your family doctor may diagnose and recommend medication for psychiatric disorders. However, depending on your condition and the seriousness of the symptoms, the doctor can suggest that you consult a psychiatrist—a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental disorders and managing medicines.
  • The seriousness of the condition: In general, the more serious your symptoms or complicated your condition is, the more experience and training you need to look for in mental health professionals. For example, you have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) with depression. Such complicated situations may require a psychiatrist, a psychologist, an addiction expert, or all of them.
  • Your health insurance cover: Insurance plans differ greatly on the coverage of health providers. Check your coverage in advance. Your insurance policy may have included many specific mental health services or may cover only certain categories of service providers. Your insurance company, Medicare, or Medicaid will inform you about what kinds of treatment providers are covered and what your benefit limitations are.

Finding The Right Mental Health Service

Narrow Down Your List Based on Comfort

Once you have lined up some potential treatment providers, it’s time to narrow down your list.  Before setting up your first meeting, consider your preferences about who you would feel more comfortable talking to, as well as other factors such as:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Cultural background
  • Religion
  • Language

Do not feel guilty about excluding any mental care providers based on these criteria. Your degree of comfort is critical when deciding on your long-term mental health provider. Other than these factors, finding a mental health clinic that’s close to you is also an important factor to consider. Doing a web search on ‘mental health services near me’ can significantly help you narrow down your options.

Make Inquiries

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, contact these mental health clinics and ask a few questions. While some questions will be easily answered over the phone, others may require your initial session attendance.

Here are some questions you can ask to help you choose the right clinic for you:

  • Education, training, licensing, and years of practice (licensing conditions may differ by state).
  • Office hours, rates, duration of sessions, and which insurance companies they partner with or whether they work with Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Their approach to treatment and philosophy: to make sure it fits your style and requirements.
  • Whether they are specialized in certain conditions or age groups: some only work with teens, and others are trained in eating disorders or substance abuse.

Evaluate Your Progress 

Once you have chosen a mental health service, ensure that the match is successful. If you don’t feel comfortable during your first meeting, talk about your concerns during your next session. Or consider finding a different treatment service. As time progresses, think about how you feel and whether your needs are being fulfilled. If you’re not happy, do not feel compelled to stick with that clinic.

Finding the best specialist may be hard work and may involve some trial and error. But the rewards outweigh any inconvenience you may go through during your search. Finding the right mental health clinic can help you:

  • Resolve short-term problems, such as stress or disputes.
  • Overcome any substance use disorders.
  • Work on long-standing personal issues.
  • Help ease disruptive or upsetting symptoms.
  • Improve your relationship with others.
  • Live and enjoy life in a more positive way.

Overcoming Your Hesitation to Seek Treatment 

Mental illness carries a great stigma in many societies. It’s seen as a weakness rather than a genuine health concern. When it comes to seeking mental health treatments, many patients hesitate even though it is estimated that nearly one in five adults in the US lives with a mental health disorder.

While there is no known cure for mental illness, prolonged recovery is possible through comprehensive treatment programs. If you or someone you love is battling mental health disorders, seek professional help so you too could live a more positive and productive life.

Your odds of conquering addictions are greater with long-term maintenance therapy that incorporates FDA-approved medications along with some form of behavioral therapy or counseling. This treatment method is known as medication-assisted treatment or MAT, and it helps you preserve recovery when dealing with addictions.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) characterizes MAT with the utilization of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders (SUD).

MAT is highly beneficial during opioid addiction treatment, alcohol addiction treatment, and for patients with co-occurring disorders. This method of treatment significantly decreases the chances of a relapse and increases the chances of a prolonged recovery.

MAT’s ultimate goal is your full recovery and the ability to live a drug-free and independent life.

Medications Used During MAT

The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a variety of medications to treat alcohol and opioid use disorders during MAT programs. These medications help relieve withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings that cause chemical imbalances in the body.

The FDA has approved buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone for the treatment of opioid dependence. And Antabuse (Disulfiram), naltrexone, and Campral (acamprosate) for alcohol addiction treatment.

Medications prescribed during MAT help patients in many ways, including:

  • Working towards normalizing your brain chemistry.
  • Blocking euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids.
  • Alleviating your physiological cravings.
  • Normalizing your body activity without severe effects of the drug you are abusing.

Other Elements of MAT

Other than medications, MAT also comprises of several other elements, such as:

  • Pharmacological counseling
  • Coordination/integration of SUD treatment and other medical or psychological therapies
  • Psychosocial resources and interventions
  • Community-based educational interventions

What Is Medication - Assisted Treatment

MAT for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines OUD as a chronic lifelong disorder with serious potential consequences, including disability, relapses, and death. In 2017, more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids, causing the nation to declare opioid use disorder a public health crisis in 2017.

Withdrawal syndrome caused by opioid dependence generally leads to most relapses. However, medications utilized during a treatment program can help alleviate opioid withdrawals and significantly increase the effectiveness of treatment.

Successful, lifelong therapy to stay opioid-free involves long-term medication and counseling/ talk therapy programs. The three main medications used in MAT for OUD are:

Methadone (Methadose/ Dolophine): Methadone is a long-acting opioid that activates the same areas of your brain as the drug you are abusing without generating a high. This medication is used to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms during treatment.

MAT helps alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting

Buprenorphine: This medication acts upon the same receptors as opioids do, but not as intensely. This medication helps reduce cravings in recovering patients.

Naltrexone: This medication helps block the effects of opioids. Patients who are on this drug cannot get high if they return to using opioids.

MAT for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) 

MAT is also immensely helpful for managing AUD. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has defined AUD as a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.

Disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate are the most utilized medications in MAT programs for treating AUD. These medications are not a cure for alcoholism. But they do help minimize the chances of a relapse and strengthen your long-term recovery. These three medications help you manage AUD in the following ways:

Disulfiram: This medication is used in treating chronic alcoholism. It is particularly useful for people who have already completed an alcohol detox program or are in the early stage of abstinence.

Naltrexone: Similar to OUD treatment, naltrexone inhibits euphoric effects and sensations of alcohol intoxication. It helps patients with alcohol addiction progressively lower their drinking levels to remain in recovery or avoid relapses.

Acamprosate: Acamprosate is a medication administered after a patient stops drinking alcohol. It works by normalizing alcohol-related changes in the brain and reducing some of the extended physical and emotional discomfort caused by post-acute withdrawal syndrome.

MAT for Mental Health Treatment

Mental health disorders and substance use disorders affect over 7.7 million adults in the U.S. These illnesses are common, recurrent, and often serious but generally go untreated. Mental health disorders involve changes in thinking, mood, and behavior. These disorders can affect how we relate to others and the choices we make in life. The coexistence of both mental health and a substance use disorder is referred to as co-occurring disorder. The treatment of co-occurring disorder involves having to address both substance abuse and mental health concurrently.

If underlying causes of addiction like mental illnesses are not addressed properly, relapses are almost inevitable. To understand the effectiveness of medications in addiction treatment, one must also understand why it’s important to treat mental illnesses effectively. Psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common approach to treating mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. But, much like the use of medications in addiction treatment, medications can also be an effective enhancement in mental health treatment. The utilization of MAT therapy in treating both conditions has proven to be an effective combination.

Effectiveness of Medication-Assisted Treatment

MAT has proven to be a useful and beneficial form of treatment for helping patients overcome SUD. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), medication-assisted treatment is considered an evidence-based therapy. Indicating that unlike other conventional treatment methods, this method has been researched and backed by the scientific community to be clinically effective. When MAT is used correctly, it increases the chances of long-term recovery.

Besides reducing the risk of a relapse, MAT programs can also help prevent infectious diseases such as HIV and reduce overdose deaths. Unfortunately, this form of therapy is underutilized, although it shows great promise. It has been estimated that less than 1 million of the 2.5 million Americans diagnosed with OUD in 2012 utilized MAT as part of their treatment program.

Some other benefits of MAT include:

  • Improved patient survival
  • Increased retention in treatment
  • Increased patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment
  • Decreased illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with SUDs
  • Improved birth outcomes among women who have SUDs and are pregnant

Does MAT Substitute One Addiction for Another?

Unfortunately, this is a common misconception about MAT. This evidence-based treatment method relieves psychological cravings and withdrawal symptoms that trigger chemical imbalances in the body. It also maintains a healthy and controlled dose of medication to overcome addictions.

The risk of forming an addiction to the medications utilized during MAT therapy is extremely low.

Who Should You Consult for Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Patients who wish to overcome substance use disorder or mental health disorder must seek counsel through an addiction treatment center or a healthcare provider.

Only a certified OTP can prescribe and dispense methadone used in opioid addiction treatment. A physician who has obtained a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after taking specified training in using these drugs can prescribe you Buprenorphine-containing medications, such as Suboxone. Any licensed physician can prescribe you naltrexone. Treatment can take place in a hospital environment, in a primary healthcare physician’s office, or in residential rehabilitation centers.

All in all, MAT is an effective choice of treatment when addressing OUD, AUD, mental health disorder, and co-occurring disorder.

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