Understanding MAT: Medication Assisted Treatment

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Medication Assisted Treatment (also known as MAT) is the use of medications with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders and prevent opioid overdose. While MAT is primarily used for the treatment of addiction to opioids, it can be used to help treat the withdrawal symptoms for most drugs and alcohol.

How Does MAT Work?

When a person makes the decision to enroll in a treatment program for their addiction, it is often a huge and stressful decision. Even though it can be a happy time for family and loves ones, there are a lot of scary unknowns for the person entering treatment. One of the biggest and scariest unknows is how the detox process will feel. Depending on the length and severity of the addiction, detox can range from mild to debilitating symptoms.

One of the many reasons it is almost impossible to quit drugs or alcohol cold turkey is the painful withdrawal symptoms. Physical symptoms are painful, emotional symptoms are unbearable, and cravings are at an all-time high. Instead of having to subject oneself to these intense symptoms, people can choose to get MAT and make the detox process much more comfortable. That way, people can more quickly focus on their recovery and begin to receive the treatment they need.

During MAT, medications are administered to help alleviate painful withdrawal symptoms. They are also administered to help slowly wean patients off of drugs so that the detox process isn’t such a shock to their body. Medications are also given to help prevent cravings, as well as to prevent patients from getting high or drunk at all. These preventative measures help as an extra buffer in early recovery when relapse is most likely, and sobriety is most fragile.

Detox Withdrawal Symptoms

Detox symptoms can vary from person to person, depending on the length and severity of the addiction. Some people may experience every symptom possible, while some people only experience a few. The length of the withdrawal symptoms varies greatly, as well. Some people are able to get through the detox process in just a few short weeks, while some people may feel acute symptoms for months or years. In general, the withdrawal symptoms that someone can experience during the detox process in treatment include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Hunger
  • Lethargy
  • Hunger or loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Shakiness
  • Shivers or sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Nightmares
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Teeth chattering
  • Tremors

Medications Used in MAT

While there are many medications that are offered to patients who enter Pinelands to help make their detox process more comfortable, Vivitrol, Naltrexone, and Methadone are the most commonly used.


According to Vivitrol, it is a non-addictive, once-monthly treatment proven to prevent relapse in opioid-dependent patients when used with counseling following detoxification. Vivitrol blocks opioid receptors in the brain while you work with the psychological aspects of counseling.

Blocking opioid receptors will help prevent cravings and can actually prevent patients from getting high. In addition to MAT, Vivitrol is also given before clients leave Pinelands for that extra cushion of support. Since most relapses happen within the first 30-90 days, the Vivitrol shot can make all the difference in a person’s long-term sobriety. In addition, there are many outpatient centers that administer Vivitrol. Therefore, it can be used in aftercare once someone leaves Pinelands.


Naltrexone works in the same manner as Vivitrol, however, it is administered as a once-daily pill. This can be beneficial for people who do not like shots or are triggered by needles and shots. It is important to remember to take the pill every day, or else the person’s sobriety can be put in jeopardy.


Methadone is a medication that helps slowly wean patients off of opioids. Slowly weaning people off of opioids in MAT is beneficial so that withdrawal symptoms are minimal and it is not such a shock to the system. During an opioid addiction, the body stops producing its own opioids due to the large presence of opioid substances being put into the body. Giving the body time to produce its own opioids and dopamine again greatly helps during the detox and recovery process.

About Pinelands Recovery Center

MAT can make all the difference in a person’s recovery process. Since the inability to control or stop use is a huge hallmark of addiction, it can be almost impossible for someone to quit cold turkey for a day – let alone forever. Having the assistance of MAT to help carry people through this difficult time is very comforting and helpful, allowing the person to begin work on behavioral treatment more quickly.

Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford is widely known as one of New Jersey’s finest, most respected addiction treatment facilities. With comfortable 30-bed accommodations and 24-hour professional staff, we can offer clients a serene, relaxing environment amid the lush piney woods. This stress-free setting with its sense of warmth and welcoming enables you to feel comfortable and confident about your clean and sober life ahead.

We will establish clear goals, both general in nature and specific to your needs. We continue to monitor those goals, to make sure that our clients are progressing and buying into their recovery plan. Pinelands thrives on assisting clients in feeling connected to the recovery community, share and demonstrate effective coping techniques, help clients to modify attitudes and patterns of behavior and everything else you will need to be happy and productive living a sober, healthy life.

We ensure that clients complete their planned concrete tasks, encourage hope, optimism and
healthy living. Our recovery program is not a revolving door treatment program; it is a recovery model designed to help clients go on to lead productive, happy lives. For more information, visit pinelandsrecovery.com