Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat substance use disorder, and for some, can help sustain recovery.1 

Medication-assisted treatments have been proven to ease symptoms of withdrawal, reduce cravings, and block the brain’s ability to experience the substance’s effect.2 In many circumstances, incorporating medication-assisted treatment can increase the odds for long-term recovery. 3

Medication-assisted treatments are especially helpful in the early recovery stage, when the person in recovery is going through detoxification and withdrawal.4 
When you stop using any addictive substance—from caffeine to heroin—your body goes through withdrawal. Withdrawal occurs as the body adjusts to functioning without the use of the substance on which it has become dependent. This can result in pain, nausea, chills, vomiting, and more. Physical symptoms of withdrawal can last anywhere between one week and one month, while emotional symptoms—such as anxiety, depression, irritability and insomnia—can last for several months. Medications can help to reduce these symptoms, which in turn reduces the craving to use the drug again.A 2014 study from  the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) estimated that 80% of detoxifications at treatment facilities included the use of medication.6

After detoxification, medication may be used to help a person avoid relapse by re-establishing normal brain function and decreasing cravings.7 
Medications that wean the body off a drug slowly, as with nicotine replacement therapy, increase the odds that a patient will continue treatment.8  Currently, medication can be used to treat addictions involving opioids, tobacco, and alcohol, and co-occurring mental health conditions.

Additionally, medication can be life-saving for a person who has overdosed on opioids.
Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in America,9 and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that more than 28,600 Americans overdosed on opioids in 2014.10 Naloxone, sold as brand names Evzio, Narcan Nasal Spray or Narcan Injection, can reverse an opioid overdose by attaching to the brain’s receptors, blocking the effects of the opioid that cause a person to stop breathing, allowing them to breathe normally again.11 Naloxone works within five minutes, and the effects can last for 30 to 90 minutes.12 Naloxone is often used by paramedics and emergency medical workers—but because it’s easy to administer in new formulations, it can be used by nearly anyone to reverse an opioid overdose. As of 2010, bystanders in the US have reversed more than 10,000 opioid overdoses using Naloxone. 13 It should be noted that because Naloxone does not flush the opiate from the system, the risk of overdosing again is high.14 It's very important to seek medical to treatment after an overdose.

Medication assisted treatment by substance


Medications can help in the treatment of alcohol use disorder.


Treatments for tobacco addiction do work. While some smokers can quit without help, many smokers benefit from treatment.


Medication-assisted treatments substantially improve the odds for successful recovery for opioid users, including heroin and prescription painkiller use.

Learn More
2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction: Facts for Friends and Family.” HHS Publication No. (SMA) 09-4443. 2011
6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “National Survey on Drug Use and Health” 2014. Retrieved from:
7-8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction”
10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016 “Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose 2000-2014” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
11-12. FAQ. Retrieved from:
13. Wheeler, E., Davidson, P.J., Jones, T.S., Irwin, K.S. (2012). Community-based overdose prevention programs providing naloxone—United States, 2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention