Med-assisted treatment red flag


It’s wonderful to read that Warren Municipal Court Judge Thomas Gysegem has advocated for a new probation officer to lead a proposed medication-assistance treatment program, or MAT, through the court.

But there is a red flag in reading Dr. Martina Moore’s statement that MAT will reduce cravings of those actively using drugs so that they can succeed in treatment. It’s important for taxpayers and families of addicts to understand that the drugs used in treatment do much more than simply reduce cravings.

Opiate addiction carries a stigma that prevents people from recognizing the benefits of methadone or buprenorphine (Suboxone) over heroin or pain pills. When the person’s addiction is active, they take their heroin or drug of choice erratically throughout the day because most pain medications, including heroin, wear off after just a few hours.

Methadone and buprenorphine, on the other hand, remain in the system for at least 24 hours and maintain the person on an even keel. There is even an injection that can be taken monthly. Their dose of medication is regulated by a doctor, so addicted persons aren’t getting too little or too much. They no longer spend the day feeling sick, scrambling around for more drugs or just sleeping. The addicted person maintains equilibrium throughout the day, taking care of their children, going to school or work and performing daily responsibilities without stopping to look for illegal drugs.

Because the person is no longer using drugs illegally, they stop worrying about arrest. They can take care of medical issues that they ignored when they were actively using illegally. The risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis is reduced, and the person is more likely to seek treatment for ongoing conditions such as asthma or diabetes instead of spending all their money on opiates. In fact, some MAT centers offer primary care as well as addiction treatment so that the whole person receives medical treatment.

Family counseling programs offered by most treatment centers offer education about the risks and benefits of treatment, helping families to heal. MAT offers much, much more than just reducing the cravings.