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Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) at CeDAR is an approach designed to help people with treatment-resistant substance use disorder who continue to relapse despite profound efforts to maintain recovery. If psychosocial, trauma-informed, cognitive, emotional, and community-centered therapeutic interventions prove unsuccessful, medication-assisted treatment at CeDAR is available to patients who are desperate to be in recovery but continue to relapse despite their best efforts. Contact CeDAR today to learn whether an outpatient or inpatient medication-assisted treatment program could help you or a loved one by calling 720.848.3000.
Approved & Off-Label Medications
Today there are three FDA-approved medications for the treatment of alcoholism. Other medications classified as off-label can also be used in some circumstances. The term off-label is given to medications that can be used to treat alcoholism but have not been approved by the FDA for this purpose. Off-label medications for alcoholism were all generic meds before patients began reporting that the medications also reduced cravings for alcohol.
Three FDA-approved medications include:
- Disulfiram (Antabuse)
- Naltrexone (ReVia)
- Acamprosate (Campral)
Examples of some off-label medications include:
- Gabapentin (Neurontin)
- Topiramate (Topamax)
- Lamotrigine (Lamictal)
Medication-assisted treatment is only recommended for patients who are motivated to hold onto their recovery but are impaired by insurmountable cravings for alcohol and other psychoactive drugs. Like any medical intervention, there are risks involved with medication-assisted treatment, but it can also be a vital component of an addiction treatment program.
Treating Alcoholism with Medication
Medication-assisted treatment allows patients to be treated with medications that support their recovery. Different medications work differently for different people, and we take a whatever-it-takes approach at CeDAR. Finding the right combination of medications takes time, but our clinicians are committed to getting it right. Medication-assisted treatment can be helpful to patients who have lost the desire for intoxication but need assistance managing cravings.
Medication-Assisted Treatment Is Not for Everyone
At CeDAR, we recommend medication-assisted treatment to patients who have not responded to standard substance use disorder treatment. While medication-assisted treatment saves lives, we recognize the irony in treating addiction with habit-forming medications. In addition to explaining the fundamentals of medication-assisted treatment, we also want to dispel a few myths surrounding the practice. Before considering medication-assisted treatment for yourself or a loved one, consider the following MAT facts:
- MAT is not an alternative to psychotherapy
- MAT is not a short-term solution
- MAT does not heal trauma
- MAT does not cure addiction
Origins of Medication-Assisted Treatment
Using medication approaches to help prevent relapse on alcohol, help stabilize the brain, and treat underlying pathology isn’t a new concept. Offered between 1879 and 1965, the “Keeley Cure for Alcoholism” used pharmacotherapy to treat this disease. Of note, the Keeley method for treating alcoholism was not successful.
Keeley clinics involved hotel arrangements in which the alcoholic would drink excessively during the daily program. They would then take a cocktail of mild toxins to cause vomiting through the night. Associating the desired substance with painful memories was thought to break the connection between alcohol and pleasure (i.e., Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange). Despite being ineffective, this approach was used for almost a century.
Alcoholism Is Incurable
One of the core problems with the Keeley method is that it implied that alcoholism was curable. Who wouldn’t want to be outright cured of a chronic health problem? A second problem with the Keeley method is the creation of an artificial environment. It was not relatable to a person’s real life. Finally, for some alcoholics, the disease is strong enough that even the following treatment modalities prove ineffective:
If your attempts to quit drinking or getting high on your own have proven unsuccessful, contact CeDAR’s addiction recovery campus at 720.848.3000 to learn more about medication-assisted treatment.