What You Might Not Know About Treating Opioid Use Disorders 

Medicated Assisted Treatment

By Shaun Thomas, Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist  

Maybe you have heard of a “methadone clinic,” or you know someone who goes to a clinic, or you participate in treatment yourself.  

A methadone clinic is an older term for what we now call an Opioid Treatment Program (OTP).  

At SouthLight, which has one of North Carolina’s largest and oldest Opioid Treatment Programs, we use Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) to treat individuals who are struggling with opiate addiction (what we call opioid use disorder).  

First, it is important to understand that opioid use disorders are not a personal failing or a choice. Opiates are highly addictive, and regular use results in changes to a person’s brain chemistry that makes it very difficult to stop using opiates without help.

Four Important Things to Understand About Opioid Addiction

4 Important Things to Understand About Opioid Addiction

  1. Medication Assisted Treatment involves the use of opioid agonist or partial agonist medication (methadone or buprenorphine) to treat an opioid use disorder by preventing withdrawal symptoms, reducing cravings to use opiates, and blocking the effects of other opiates such as heroin and fentanyl.
  2. This medication treatment is used in combination with counseling services provided by licensed addiction counselors.
  3. MAT is not simply replacing one drug with another. Substance use disorders are characterized by an array of unhealthy behaviors and symptoms often resulting in a loss of control over one’s life.  MAT allows individuals to regain control over their lives and focus on what is most important to them.
  4. MAT works! It is an evidence-based treatment that has been demonstrated to increase an individual’s likelihood to reduce illicit substance use, reduce relapse, and reduce accidental overdose and death.  

We are in the midst of an opioid epidemic. But help is available and there is hope. 

Recovery from Opioid Use Disorders: Bigger Than MAT

Successful recovery from an opioid use disorder is often bigger than just MAT. It involves addressing an individual’s housing, employment, relationships, community engagement, and access to services for mental health disorders.

This requires city- and state-wide efforts to ensure individuals have access to affordable housing, supported employment, counseling services, and psychiatric services.  

While efforts are being made in Raleigh to address these issues, there is still a vast need in these areas in order to support individuals experiencing opioid use disorder.   

We need to have as many access points into treatment as possible. This is why I’m excited about starting evening clinic hours at SouthLight.

SouthLight provides another point of entry to treatment for individuals who need help with their opioid use disorder. We are the first OTP in the state to offer these extended hours. We are hopeful that this serves an unmet need in our community, and enables more people to access care at times that are convenient to them.  

About Shaun Thomas 

Shaun is the Lead Counselor for SouthLight’s Opioid Treatment Program. He is a mental health counselor and addiction specialist who has been working in community mental health and substance use for five years. Shaun believes that every person is capable of making positive change in their life, and that every person in need of help should be able to get that help.

Helpful Resources

About SouthLight Healthcare:

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 or visit