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Top 10 Myths and Facts about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

05/25/2021

Debunking myths and decreasing stigma around MAT and opioid use are important steps in reducing barriers to treatment.

According to the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), over 2 million people have an opioid use disorder. SouthLight Healthcare is dedicated to helping people in their recovery journey, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is just one way we are here to help.

While there are multiple treatments available to address opioid addiction, MAT is the gold standard.  SouthLight believes in a whole person approach to treatment, to include the use of medication in addition to therapy and other supports.

MAT is also used in the treatment of mental health diagnoses.  Medication can help alleviate symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health disorders to improve quality of life.

If you are curious about MAT, you’ve probably heard various thoughts and opinions and may have some questions of your own.  Research supports the efficacy and safety of MAT, and misconceptions and myths can be harmful barriers to getting the right care. 

SouthLight is committed to reducing the stigma of substance use treatment and MAT and hope that breaking down these myths will help people reclaim their lives through evidence based treatment.

MYTH #1: MAT is trading one addiction for another.

FACT:

Probably the most common, this myth is often used to shame people for utilizing a medication to assist in their recovery.  In an Opioid Treatment Program, MAT is delivered daily, and people make the mistake of believing that taking this medication daily means you become addicted to it.  Many medications are taking daily and are not associated with addiction; MAT is no different.

MYTH #2: MAT will make you high.

FACT:

When properly prescribed, MAT reduces drug cravings and prevents relapse without causing a high.  In fact, the medication helps people regain stability in many areas of their lives.

MYTH #3: MAT is a short term treatment.

FACT:

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to MAT.  Every SouthLight client will work with our trained, licensed professional staff to create a treatment plan tailor made for you. People usually stay on MAT for 12 months or more.  It is not like other 30 or 90 day programs, and works best when used as long term treatment in collaboration with counseling and other supports.

MYTH #4: MAT increases risk of overdose.

FACT:

One of the goals of MAT is to reduce the use of illicit opioids.  MAT reduces cravings and withdrawal from opioid use, decreasing use, which directly impacts the risk for overdose.  Deaths from overdose decrease dramatically in people using MAT.

MYTH #5: MAT is not “true recovery” and is a crutch.

FACT:

Opioid Use Disorder is a complex, chronic medical condition, not simply a behavioral choice or moral failing.  MAT helps participants achieve recovery as they are no longer using illicit substances or experiencing loss of control over use.  SouthLight believes recovery is unique and individualized and is here to help in that journey.

MYTH #6: Insurance doesn’t cover MAT.

FACT:

Most insurances cover behavioral health and substance use treatment, including medication-assisted treatment.  Don’t assume MAT is not covered, check with your insurance provider to see what is covered! SouthLight’s top notch intake team can help.

MYTH #7: MAT is expensive.

FACT:

At SouthLight, we do our best to be sure cost of treatment is not a barrier.  We have offer competitive self-pay rates for MAT and often have financial assistance programs in place to help.  Most participants find that the cost of obtaining opioids is greater than the cost of treatment. 

MYTH #8: If I don’t use heroin, MAT isn’t for me.

FACT:

There is a common belief that some opioids are worse than others.  And, while it’s true heroin can cause more damage than a prescription pain medication, it is not easier to recover from addiction one or the other.  Moderate and severe opioid use disorders can come from use of a variety of opiates, not just heroin.

MYTH #9: People don’t need treatment until they hit “rock bottom.”

FACT:

If your life is being negatively impacted by drugs or alcohol, treatment may be an option.  We know opioid use disorder and other mental health and substance use disorders are chronic but treatable diseases.  SouthLight is here to help, no matter where you are in your recovery. 

MYTH #10: Addiction is a disease from which few can recover.

FACT:

At SouthLight, we know that recovery is the rule, not the exception.  Recovery is a process and people show up to do the work to improve their health, behaviors, and live meaningful lives.

Debunking myths and decreasing stigma around MAT and opioid use are important steps in reducing barriers to treatment.

If you’d like to learn more about SouthLight’s MAT programs, please contact our Intake Coordinator at 919-787-6131 x 1135, or learn more on our website www.southlight.org.

For additional information on MAT, please visit SAMHSA’s website.

About SouthLight:

Founded in 1970, SouthLight Healthcare is one of the area’s largest nonprofit providers of substance use treatment and mental health services. SouthLight partners with individuals and communities to provide innovative treatment solutions delivered with compassion and dignity. With outpatient and community-based programs, SouthLight provides prevention, education, and treatment services in the Triangle and beyond. Call 919-787-6131 for help or more information.