What is Medication Assisted Treatment For Alcohol Addiction or MAT?
Medicated assisted treatment for alcohol uses medications in combination with therapy, to help an individual end a substance use disorder. Medication-Assisted Treatment for alcohol addiction is effective and available.
A medical assisted treatment for alcohol alone is ineffective in addressing addiction . But when used in combination with therapy, it can help successfully treat substance use disorders, including opioid addiction.
Undertstanding Alcohol Addiction and Dependence
Addiction occurs due to changes in the brain regions associated with learning, memory, and reward or pleasure. Heavy, chronic alcohol abuse can lead the brain to form ironclad associations between alcohol use and the pleasure it produces. Over time, this can lead to powerful alcohol cravings and changes in thought and behavior patterns. Thus, addiction is characterized by compulsive alcohol use despite negative consequences.
Dependence is a physical reliance on alcohol. Initially, alcohol enhances the effects of GABA, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of calm and well-being, and reduces the activity of glutamate, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of excitability.
When alcohol use becomes chronic, the brain attempts to compensate for the presence of alcohol by suppressing GABA (calm) activity and increasing glutamate (excitability) activity. As a result, it takes more significant amounts of alcohol increasingly to produce the desired effects. This is known as tolerance, and it’s the primary sign that you may be developing a dependence.
At some point, brain function may shift so that the brain begins to operate more comfortably when alcohol is present than when it’s not. Then, when you stop drinking, regular brain function rebounds, which causes the onset of withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol dependence is characterized by these symptoms, including nausea, tremors, insomnia, headaches, hallucinations, and seizures.
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4 Types Of Medication Assisted Treatment For Alcohol Addiction
Medicated assisted treatment for alcohol detox
Medication assisted treatment for alcohol use disorder relies on four medications to help treat alcohol addiction and dependence. Which type of Medication Assisted Treatment for alcohol addiction is right for you depends on the severity of your addiction and your unique needs.
- Acamprosate: Acamprosate was approved by the FDA in 2004 for treating alcohol dependence. After detox is complete and the individual is abstinent, acamprosate is administered to help normalize the glutamate and GABA systems to reduce long-term symptoms of withdrawal, which often include insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness. In addition, treating these symptoms is effective for helping to reduce the risk of relapse.
Acamprosate Medication assisted treatment for alcohol use disorder potential side effects 
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Suicidal thoughts
- Disulfiram: Disulfiram was approved by the FDA in 1951 to help keep people off alcohol once detox is complete. This Medication Assisted Treatment for Alcohol works by inhibiting the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase, responsible for metabolizing acetaldehyde, a toxic product of alcohol metabolism. When you drink alcohol while taking disulfiram, acetaldehyde builds up in the body and causes a severe physical reaction, including nausea, vomiting, headache, and weakness. This medication doesn’t affect cravings or help to normalize brain function. Instead, its effectiveness lies in making an individual reluctant to use alcohol for fear of the adverse effects.
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Disulfiram medically assisted treatment for alcohol potential side effects 
- Metallic taste
- The yellowness of the skin or eyes
- Excessive and severe reaction when alcohol is consumed
- Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
- Losing contact with reality
- Naltrexone: Decreases or completely blocks the enjoyable effects of drinking and Decreases the number of relapses
Naltrexone Medication Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Potential side effects 
- Injection site reaction (hardening, itching, or swelling)
- Feeling tired
- Feeling sleepy
- Decreased appetite
- The yellowness of the skin or eyes*
- Allergic pneumonia with difficulty breathing, coughing or wheezing
- Suicidal thoughts*
- Topiramate: This Medication Assisted Treatment for Alcohol decreases craving for alcohol and Repairs chemical imbalance in systems of the brain responsible for excitation and reward
Topiramate medicated assisted treatment for alcohol potential side effects 
- Abnormal tingling
- Feeling tired
- Poor coordination
- Pain in belly
- Reduced appetite
- Poor memory*
- Slowing of movements*
- Difficulty with concentration*
- Difficulty finding exact words*
- Suicidal thoughts*
Each medication acts differently and has different side effects. Therefore, none of these medications will get rid of symptoms of withdrawal.
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Integrated Alcohol Counseling
As previously mentioned, there is no cure for alcoholism. As a result, these medications only serve as a portion of the alcohol rehab process. The essential part of MAT treatment is behavioral therapy and peer support.
Throughout treatment, patients participating in a medication-assisted treatment program for alcoholism will be required to actively participate in a comprehensive treatment program that integrates mental health therapy, behavioral counseling, and support groups into one’s recovery.
Some Therapies And Activities Patients Can Expect Include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Group therapy
- One-on-one counseling
- Holistic therapy
- 12-Step facilitation
- Nutritional counseling
- Relapse prevention
The purpose of these therapies is to arm individuals with the coping skills and resources they need to stay sober. While medications help reduce cravings, treatment and peer support allow patients to learn about why they abuse alcohol in the first place and how to cope in healthy ways.
Integrated treatment also helps address co-occurring disorders, trauma, family therapy, and more to provide a whole-patient approach. Most importantly, patients will work closely with their primary therapist and a physician to monitor their progress throughout treatment, make necessary adjustments, and further support the individual.
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MAT Treatment For Alcohol Addiction Works
Medication assisted treatment for alcohol disorder works in combination with counseling and behavior therapies, it uses medication to treat alcohol use disorder and sustain recovery. Medication can help to:
- Regain a stable state of mind, free from alcohol-induced highs and lows
- Provide freedom from thinking about alcohol all the time
- Reduce problems of craving
- Focus on lifestyle changes that lead back to healthy living
Taking medication for alcohol use disorder is like taking medication to treat any other medical condition. It is not substituting one drug for another. Appropriately used medication does not create a new addiction.
Please note, no existing medicated assisted treatment for alcohol can guarantee that problem drinkers will not return to drinking or relapse. Ongoing therapy is critical to maintaining sobriety.
- Counseling can be offered as part of medication-assisted treatment or by itself. It consists of talking with a mental health provider either one-on-one or in a group with others in treatment. Counseling can encourage motivation to stick with treatment and coping skills to avoid relapse.
- In group counseling and mutual support groups, people connect with others in treatment and build a network of people to support recovery.
- Support from family and friends can be beneficial during treatment and recovery. Some treatment programs offer counsel for loved ones because being close to someone with an addiction can be hard. Counseling is helpful for family and friends to learn about: Addiction, How to help, and How to handle other problems.
At We Level Up, our medical staff works collaboratively with our clients to create a medication regimen that is most appropriate for them. While medicated assisted treatment for alcohol is part of the alcohol detox process, it is not a cure-all. We focus on the lowest effective dose to decrease side effect potential while still maintaining the highest effectiveness of the medication. In addition, our medication-assisted treatment program in Florida not only provides medication to treat a person’s physical addiction but also provides counseling and social support to treat the psychological and emotional aspects of alcoholism as well.
Our compassionate staff understands the path to recovery is not an easy one. At We Level Up, we offer patients a personalized care plan that meets their individual needs. If you believe you or your loved one can benefit from Medication Assisted Treatment for alcohol addiction (MAT) and would like more information, make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment professionals. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.
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1. Health Quality – Medications for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder (va.gov)
2. SAMHSA – https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment