Using Medications for Opioid Use Disorder - FAQs | Treatment Care & Tips

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Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder FAQ’s

If you or someone you love has an opioid use disorder, people sometimes ask some uncomfortable questions. That won’t happen here. We only care about helping. So here are a few answers to questions you may have about medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.

What is medication-assisted treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) uses prescribed medications that provide a safe and controlled way to overcome an opioid use disorder.


How do these medications work?

These medication work either by:

  • Reducing cravings and controlling withdrawal symptoms by tricking the brain into thinking it’s still getting the drug you’re misusing.
  • Blocking the pain-relieving effects of opioids and their ability to produce a “high”.


Is MAT right for me?

It’s not for everyone, as some medications are unsafe if you have certain health conditions or you’re a woman who is pregnant. As always, talk to your doctor first, if you’re thinking about MAT.


Are there any risks with MAT?

All medications have risks. You need to weigh the pros and cons and decide if the possible benefits are worth it. Your doctor can help.


What are the medications I would take?

The three most common drugs used to treat opioid use disorder include methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone.


What should I know about each type of MAT medication?

There’s a lot of information on each one. For a quick comparison, see the chart below.


Can I take MAT medications if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

If you’re a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding, here’s what you need to know about each treatment:

  • Methadone: This is the most commonly used medication by pregnant women with opioid use disorder.
  • Buprenorphine: This medication may be a good option for pregnant women new to treatment or become pregnant while on this medication. The doctor will determine what’s right for you.
  • Naltrexone: Generally, it is recommended that women avoid it while pregnant. However, your doctor will determine if the benefits of the medication outweigh the risks.


Are there any side effects to MAT medications?

Side effects from MAT are generally rare and, if experienced, are very mild. As always, you should talk to your doctor about possible side effects.


What’s the difference in cost for each MAT medication?

The price of each one can vary based on many factors, including which medication you choose, but in general:

  • Methadone is the least expensive of the three.
  • Buprenorphine is more expensive than methadone but less expensive than naltrexone injections.
  • Naltrexone injection is the most expensive of the three.


What should I look for when it comes to finding an MAT provider?

You should look for a doctor who:

  • Specializes in opioid use disorders.
  • Offers an approach you feel comfortable with.
  • Can take care of special needs if you have them.
  • Can see you in a timely manner.


 How should I prepare for my first MAT appointment?

  • Have a list of all you current prescribed medications.
  • Provide details of any substances you use or take. BE HONEST!
  • Because methadone and buprenorphine can cause drowsiness and slow reaction time, especially during the first few days of treatment, it is recommended that you make arrangements for someone to take you home after your first appointment.


Can I take MAT medication at home?

Yes, but there are few things to keep in mind. While buprenorphine and naltrexone can be written as a prescription, methadone is more limited as “take-home medication”. Also, it’s important to remember that if you take any of these medications at home, they must be locked in a safe place away from children. Liquid methadone is colored and is sometimes mistaken for a soft drink. Children who take MAT medications may overdose or even die.


How important is a support team for MAT?

Very important! In fact, it’s key in helping you to get through the tough stuff as well as celebrating your successes. Professionals play a big role, but so do friends, relatives, those that are also recovering and other people in your community.


Table 1:  Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders and prevent opioid overdose. It’s important to fully understand the options so you can determine which treatment is right for you or your loved one.



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