The Science of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) means that a person who is dependent on opioids will be prescribed an FDA-approved medication so that they can successfully stop using heroin or misusing prescription opioids.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is widely accepted as the most effective treatment for people struggling with opioids, and is endorsed as the first-line treatment by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other federal agencies.

Medication helps patients:

  • Avoid withdrawal
  • Lessen cravings
  • Lower the chances of relapse

MAT has been shown in studies to be at least 3x more effective than stopping opioids without medication.

The reality is that most people require MAT for at least a few years, if not indefinitely. While people are on MAT, their risk of overdose and death drops 66-80%. And when people discontinue MAT their risk of death often returns to what it was before they started treatment.

There are several medications that are commonly prescribed, at Ophelia we typically use:


A combination of Buprenorphine and Naloxone, it binds to the same receptors in the brain as traditional opioids but does not produce the same “high” at a therapeutic dosage. This medication comes in a tab, which is placed under the tongue, or a tablet.


This medication blocks the opioid receptors, preventing patients from experiencing the effects of opioids while reducing the craving to use them.

Your doctor will discuss the best option for your individual needs with you. Some people continue using MAT for a long time, and others work with their doctors to discontinue use after a certain period.

“Medications are irrefutably the most effective way to treat OUD [opioid use disorder]…” - Board on Health Sciences Policy, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division

Read more about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website.

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