FIVE CRITICAL QUESTIONS for understanding the value of MAT in opioid addiction treatment

Medications for Addiction Treatment

Long stigmatized, medications for addiction treatment (MAT) are increasingly understood to be the standard of care for opioid use disorder treatment. The evidence is overwhelming, and so are the stories of success. asked & answered, a public education project presented by Institutes for Behavior Resources (IBR)/REACH Health Services, presents insights on MAT from those best positioned to know: REACH Health Services patients and staff.

MAT Video

“Part of the hallmark of substance use disorders is people compulsively crave and use despite harmful consequences. Medications like buprenorphine and methadone have the ability to not only suppress the physical withdrawal symptoms, but they importantly stabilize the disrupted circuits in the brain that make those cravings relentless.”

—Dr. Yngvild Olsen



“If it wasn’t for MAT, I don’t think I’d be alive.”

Asked & Answered:
for understanding the value of MAT in opioid use disorder treatment

Words from Darrell, Karen, Patrick, Phil, Rebecca, and Dr. Yngvild Olsen lift the fog of misunderstanding around MAT, offering new hope to those wanting help for opioid use disorder.

Darrell, Karen, Patrick,, Rebecca, Dr. Yngvild Olsen, Rebecca, and Phil

Is medication for addiction treatment just replacing one drug for another?

“It’s not replacing one drug for another. It’s just medication that will help you to get better, just like you’re taking medication for all the other illnesses that we have out here.”

“You definitely hear a lot that methadone is replacing one drug for another, and you are physically dependent on it. But if you look at it as medication and listen to the doctors, they know how to sustain you on [MAT]. So long as you listen to them, I look at it as no different from taking a medication for any other health problem.”

“Methadone was something I was dead set against. But guess what? It was the only thing that helped me. It was the only thing that stopped me from repeating those same behaviors.


Are addiction treatment medications like those for other chronic diseases?

“Medications like methadone or buprenorphine are much like insulin, beta blockers, or antidepressants for the treatment of diabetes, high blood pressure, or depression. They are part of treatment and an overall chronic disease management approach.
—Dr.  Olsen

“You come in here and you get medicated. So now you can go to work, you can take care of your kids, you can clean your home, you can be a mother, you can be a daughter. It’s just like any medication that makes you get better.”

“We always talk about the negatives. We don’t ever praise the people who have been on it for twenty years and they’re excelling in everyday life and you wouldn’t know even if that person next to you was on MAT.”


Do addiction treatment medications save lives?

“We have sufficient evidence to show that the mortality benefits that we get when you provide and offer people medications as part of their overall treatment is so great that withholding that offer is not considered standard of care anymore. Studies repeatedly show that when we treat people with methadone or buprenorphine, their risk of dying from an opioid-related overdose drops by 50-80%.”
—Dr. Olsen

“If I didn’t have the option of being on a methadone program, I’d be dead today. This methadone program, we need these. In order for people to live, we need these.” 

 “If it wasn’t for MAT, I don’t think I’d be alive.”


Are people taking medication for addiction really in recovery?

“We have really good evidence MAT increases people’s likelihood of getting employed, reduces the rate of crime, and improves people’s overall health, housing situation, family relationships, and overall stability. These are the things people talk about when they talk about remission and recovery, and so the idea people cannot be in recovery when you take one of these medications? That doesn’t hold water.”
—Dr. Olsen

“Recovery is change. You come in one way, and you begin to change another way. Once your body gets a little well [with methadone], then you start working with your mind.”

“I’m in MAT, and I feel good about it.
I’m living again.



Do addiction treatment medications make people high?

“When something like buprenorphine or methadone is taken for the treatment of an opioid use disorder, in someone for whom that is the right medication and it is taken at the right dose that is therapeutic for them, they are not getting high.” 
—Dr. Olsen

“Methadone itself does not have you nodding, sleeping, stooped over. It doesn’t. Once you get the recommended dose, you function. Nobody should really know you’re taking any medication. Sometimes you might not do all the things that you need to do, but so long as you take your medication, you’re giving yourself a chance to get better.” 

“I’m not getting high off it, I’m not having fun doing it. It’s just doctor prescribed medication, and if you take it as such, that’s all it is.”


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asked & answered is made possible with a grant from The Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center, established by Executive Order as part of the Hogan Administration’s 2017 Heroin and Opioid Prevention, Treatment, and Enforcement Initiative. The Center provides an over-arching picture of Maryland’s Heroin and Opioid crisis to understand the current landscape and build upon ongoing community-based approaches to address the crisis by increasing collaboration between state and local public health, human services, education, and public safety entities.