Chambless Johnston Explains How Medication-Assisted Treatment is Used to Reduce Relapse Rates
When it comes to treating addictions, there are some effective individual and group therapy techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy that can help address a person’s triggers when it comes to substance abuse.
And while it may seem counter intuitive to some, there are also specialized medications that can be given in controlled doses to help a patient stay off dangerous and illicit drugs, says Chambless Johnston, CEO and doctor at East Tennessee Recovery Centre in Johnston City, Tennessee.
In addition to counseling, some clinics turn to this medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to increase the success rate and prevent overdoses. Dr. Chambless Johnston takes a closer look at what this therapy is and how it helps a patient when administered by an expert.
How Does MAT Work?
MAT is primarily used for patients that are addicted to opioids such as heroin, as well as some prescription painkillers, explains Chambless Johnston. It can also be used for alcohol dependence. The purpose of the medication is to lower the “pleasure” from taking these kinds of drugs, which will in turn decrease the cravings.
There are particular medications that have been approved by the FDA for medication-assisted therapies. For example, methadone is a popular choice to help curb dependency on opioids and the medications can be taken on a long-term basis as long as it’s monitored.
Meanwhile, there are some FDA-approved drugs to help alleviate alcohol addiction, including disulfiram and naltrexone.
Even after a patient has successfully detoxed from a drug (there are some medications that can help with withdrawal symptoms to make the process less unpleasant), counseling combined with MAT is effective to ensure the patient does not relapse.
MAT Does Not Simply Replace One Opiate for Another
There are still some misconceptions that the drugs used in MAT are simply replacing those a patient was addicted to, which isn’t true, says Dr. Chambless Johnston.
The science behind MAT is a little different. While the medications may be opiates, they are absorbed into the bloodstream over a longer period and do not trigger a “high.” There are also non-opiate drugs (such as Naltrexone) that are used to block the euphoric feelings of using substances in the case of a relapse.
Abusing drugs such as codeine for a long period actually changes the brain chemistry. These controlled medications help to “soften” the withdrawal symptoms from physical dependency, as well as the psychological cravings that come with it.
The medications prescribed in MAT carry a much lower risk of misuse and dependency.
Dr. Chambless Johnston on the Other Benefits of MAT
MAT is not just to help a person stay on track with their recovery. This approach can help prevent HIV or hepatitis from injections — not to mention possible criminal charges from using illicit drugs.
In a time when opioid abuse is perhaps at its worst in history, MAT is a proven way to address the problem head-on. While these medications are not a cure, they are effective to help provide stability that leads to more independent living.
The goal of MAT is to allow patients to lead life on their own terms and hold down a job and personal life, says Chambless Johnston. With additional supports in place, a patient can avoid relapse and live a more productive life, he adds.