10 Things You Need to Know About Medication-Assisted Treatment

10 Things You Need to Know About Medication-Assisted Treatment

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of pregnant women with opioid use disorder quadrupled from 1999-2014. However, there is hope.

The Maternal Addiction Recovery Center, also known as the MARC program, is a partnership between Marshall OB/GYN and Marshall Psychiatry. It provides comprehensive obstetrical care, outpatient medication-assisted treatment (MAT), psychotherapy and recovery support for expectant mothers with opiate/opioid use disorder (OUD). MAT is a combination of medication and psychotherapy, which is effective in the treatment of OUD and can help some people to sustain recovery who have had difficulty maintaining sobriety with traditional, abstinence-based approaches.

At MARC, we recently asked our patients what were the most common misconceptions about MAT they have heard, and what they wished friends, family and community members knew about it. Here’s what they said:

  1. Addiction is a disease. Addiction is a complex brain disorder and mental illness. Addiction is a treatable, chronic illness. Individuals with addiction are prone to relapse without appropriate treatment and support.
  2. Patients in MAT programs are getting sober. The ultimate goal of MAT is full recovery, including the ability to abstain from illicit substances and live a self-directed life.
  3. MAT is not inherently better or worse than traditional, abstinence-based treatment. MAT has been shown to improve patient survival, increase retention in treatment and decrease illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders. Research also shows that these medications and therapies can contribute to lowering a person’s risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C by reducing the potential for relapse. No single treatment is right for everyone, and treatment providers must choose an optimal treatment plan in consultation with the individual patient and should consider the patient’s unique history and circumstances.
  4. MAT medications are not used as recreational drugs in a treatment setting. Some of the medications used in MAT are controlled substances due to their potential for misuse. In a treatment setting, medications are used to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieve physiological cravings and normalize body functions without the negative effects of the abused drug.
  5. MAT medications (at proper dosage) do not cause impairment. Research has shown that, when provided at the proper dose, medications used in MAT have no adverse effects on a person’s intelligence, mental capability or physical functioning.
  6. MAT programs have rules you must follow. Federal law requires patients who receive treatment in an OTP to receive medical, counseling, vocational, educational and other assessment and treatment services, in addition to prescribed medication. Under federal law, MAT patients must receive counseling, which could include different forms of behavioral therapy. Patients are subject to regular drug screening, pill/strip counts and other diversion prevention measures.
  7. MAT allows you to be a good mother to your children. MAT improves birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are pregnant. Without treatment, pregnant women with OUD face increased risks of preterm delivery, low infant birth weight and transmitting HIV to their infants. Our patients report that they are better able to bond with and care for their infants compared to children they had while in active addiction.
  8. MAT allows you to meet your goals. Research has shown that, when provided at the proper dose, medications used in MAT have no adverse effects on a person’s employability. In fact, MAT increases patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment.
  9. There is no clear timeline for discontinuing MAT medications. People may safely take medications used in MAT for months, years, several years or even a lifetime. Plans to stop a medication must always be discussed with a doctor.
  10. Quitting MAT can lead to relapse. Quitting medications used in MAT suddenly (without weaning down) precipitates withdrawal symptoms, increasing likelihood for relapse on illicit substances, overdose, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Quitting MAT in times of elevated stress, such as the early postpartum period, is avoided due to risk for relapse. Discontinuing MAT medications should be done under a doctor’s supervision and with appropriate psychotherapy and recovery support in place.


Call 304-691-8730 for more information about MARC, to make an appointment or to make a referral. Self-referrals are welcomed and encouraged. Health care providers may also refer patients to MARC.


Jennifer Mills Price, PsyD

Dr. Mills Price is a psychologist at Marshall Health and serves as an assistant professor at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.