What is Medication-Assisted Treatment For Alcohol Addiction?
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of FDA-approved medication, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to comprehensively treat substance use disorder. MAT can be used for both alcohol use disorder and opioid use disorder. Not everyone is a candidate for MAT. Before starting Medication-Assisted Treatment for alcohol addiction, medical professionals assess the patient to determine if MAT is suitable. Factors include prior treatment experiences, medical history, and history of medication compliance. Medication-Assisted treatment for alcohol addiction has proven effective around the globe when combining certain medications with a comprehensive treatment program.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH)  reports that 14.1 million adults ages 18 and older had alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2019. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , says excessive alcohol use led to about 95,000 deaths and 2.8 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2011 to 2015, reducing the lives of those who died by an average of 29 years. Moreover, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years.
Risks For Alcohol Addiction
A person’s risk for developing alcohol addiction depends, in part, on how often, how much, and how quickly they consume alcohol. Alcohol misuse, which includes binge drinking and heavy drinking over time enhances the risk of alcohol addiction. Other factors also increase the risk of alcohol addiction, such as:
- Drinking alcohol at an early age. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) , among people ages 26 and older, those who began drinking before age 15 were more than 5 times as likely to report having alcohol addiction in the past year as those who waited until age 21 or later to begin drinking. The risk for females in this group is higher than that of males.
- Family history and genetics of alcohol problems. Genetics play a role, with hereditability almost 60 percent. However, like other chronic health conditions, alcohol addiction risk is determined by the interplay between a person’s genes and their environment. Parents’ drinking patterns may also affect the possibility that a child will one day develop alcohol addiction.
- Mental health conditions and a history of trauma. A wide range of psychiatric conditions, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are comorbid with alcohol addiction and are connected with an increased risk of alcoholism. People with a history of childhood trauma are also vulnerable to alcoholism.
Benefits Of Medication-Assisted Treatment For Alcohol Addiction
Through the involvement of physicians and other health care professionals in identifying and treating alcohol addiction is possible, necessary, and practical. Asking professional alcohol addiction treatment is imperative as quitting alcohol; without any medical intervention can lead to severe withdrawal seizures and even death. Treatment initially aims to reduce the alcohol withdrawal symptoms by close monitoring and prescribing a slow taper off medications.
Medication-Assisted Treatment For Alcohol Addiction Can Help To:
- Regain a steady state of mind, free from alcohol-induced lows and highs
- Give freedom from thinking about alcohol all the time
- Decrease problems of craving
- The potential for relapse drops significantly
- Concentrate on lifestyle changes that lead back to healthy living
- Physical health begins to noticeably rebound
- Mental clarity and lucidity begin to return
Receiving medication for alcohol use disorder is like taking medication to treat any other medical condition. It is not replacing one drug with another. Used properly, medication does not produce a new addiction. Medication-Assisted Treatment for alcohol addiction is a great step to recovery for addiction.
3 Common Medications Used For Medication-Assisted Treatment For Alcohol Addiction
It is for people in recovery, who is no longer drinking alcohol and want to avoid drinking. It works to prevent people from drinking alcohol, but it does not prevent withdrawal symptoms after people drink alcohol. It has not been shown to work in people who continue drinking alcohol, consumes illicit drugs, and/or engage in prescription drug misuse and abuse.
Treats chronic alcoholism and is most effective in people who have already gone through detoxification or are in the initial stage of sobriety. Offered in a tablet form and taken once a day, disulfiram should never be taken while intoxicated and it should not be taken for at least 12 hours after drinking alcohol.
Disulfiram disrupts the metabolism of alcohol, resulting in an unpleasant reaction, which can be severe whenever an individual taking disulfiram consumes alcohol. Unpleasant side effects (headache, nausea, vomiting, chest pains, difficulty breathing) can happen as soon as ten minutes after drinking even a small amount of alcohol and can last for an hour or more.
Naltrexone hydrochloride is a long-acting opioid antagonist. The FDA approved oral naltrexone for the treatment of alcohol dependence or alcoholism in 1994. It blocks the euphoric feelings and effects of intoxication and allows people with alcohol use disorders to reduce alcohol use and to remain motivated to continue to take the medication, stay in treatment, and avoid relapses.
Educating The Client And Obtaining Informed Consent
Before medication-assisted alcohol treatment for addiction begins, the client should understand what to expect, including how the proposed medication works and the associated benefits and risks. This is best achieved through face-to-face discussions and the use of written educational materials.
Medication-Assisted Treatment For Alcohol Addiction Can Be Part of a Greater Framework
Clinical settings typically offer MAT as a standalone program. These tools can be enough to help someone enter and sustain Recovery, but MAT has much more substantial potential. 
Elements of effective patient education include the following points:
- Information about alcohol use disorder as a chronic medical disorder
- A description of what to expect from treatment
- Information about the medication and the reasons it was selected, including a discussion of potential risks and benefits and the time to full effect
- For women of childbearing age, an explanation of the importance of using an effective birth control method
- Clear information about what to do if the patient resumes alcohol use after a period of abstinence · The importance of informing all doctors and dentists that the patient is taking medication for alcohol use disorder, to avoid inadvertent drug interactions, especially when surgery (including dental surgery) is being considered
- Symptoms that should be reported to the prescribing physician
- A discussion of the importance of concurrent psychosocial treatment and participation in a mutual-help group
- Plans for follow-up care
Find Primary Mental Health Treat with Co-Occurring Alcohol Use Disorder Diagnosis
Inpatient medical detox and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility at Level Up West Palm Beach Rehab. For some primary behavioral health treatment clients, medical detox and or addiction rehab may be required first. If you have a co-occurring severe substance abuse diagnosis, please contact us prior to beginning inpatient mental health therapy. Treatment services may vary. Please call us to learn which treatment options are most suited for your individual needs.
 NIH – https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder
 CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
 SAMHSA – https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma15-4907.pdf