Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Safe?

Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is one of the leading modalities used to treat opioid use disorder. It utilizes a combination of FDA-approved medications as well as counseling and behavioral therapy in pursuit of not only immediate substance addiction treatment but also the cultivation of sustainable recovery and reduction of the risk of overdose and death.

The two-prong approach first eases withdrawal symptoms with the help of medication and then continues the path to recovery through talk and behavioral therapy, medication management, 

If medication-assisted treatment utilizes substances, how is it safe?

The FDA has approved three medication families for treating opioid use disorder through medication treatment, and each of them can serve as the main ingredient in related medications to increase the accessibility of the treatment.


Methadone is a full agonist that reduces the harmful effects of opioids, including cravings and withdrawal symptoms, while also blocking or at least blunting the effects of opioids.

Methadone products approved by the FDA for use in medication-assisted treatment include dolophine and methadose.


Buprenorphine is a partial agonist that suppresses and reduces opioid cravings. Unlike other opioids, buprenorphine does not produce euphoria in the brain and is much less likely to be abused.

Buprenorphine products approved by the FDA for use in medication-assisted treatment include:

  • Bunavail
  • Cassipa
  • Probuphine
  • Sublocade
  • Suboxone
  • Subutex
  • Zubsolv


Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the euphoric effects of opioids while also not producing opioid effects itself. Rather than being a resource for withdrawal management, naltrexone is most often used for relapse prevention Naltrexone is not an opioid itself and does not pose a risk for abuse.

Vivitrol is currently the only naltrexone product approved by the FDA for use in medication-assisted treatment.

Although not approved by the FDA for medication-assisted treatment use, naloxone is likely kept on the shelves of clinical treatment programs that employ medication-assisted treatment. Unlike methadone and buprenorphine, naloxone is an antagonist, meaning it can reverse and block the effects of opioids after they have been taken.

NARCAN, a common naloxone product, is packaged as a prefilled nasal spray to be used by paramedics, emergency room doctors and nurses, and other healthcare professionals caring for a patient who has overdosed on opioids. Keeping naloxone on hand at residential treatment facilities where medication-assisted treatment is utilized adds an extra layer of safety during the treatment process.

Extensive studies over the course of decades by experts in the field have demonstrated time and time again how safe medication-assisted treatment is. The structure of medication-assisted treatment programs necessitates their safety; methadone, for example, must be administered in a clinical or residential treatment setting as required by law. Because it is supplemented by counseling that emphasizes medication management, patients can feel confident that they are being prescribed to use methadone in a safe manner.

Does medication-assisted treatment really work?

The benefits of medication-assisted treatment are vast. Most notably, medication-assisted treatment can lower the risk of fatal overdose by approximately 50%. The World Health Organization designated methadone and buprenorphine essential medications. The California Department of Health Care Services has found that medication-assisted treatment can reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms through the use of methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone; reduce or eliminate physical opioid cravings through opioid agonists and antagonists as well as mental cravings through psycho- and behavioral therapy; block the enticing, euphoric effects of opioids; recalibrate brain chemistry upon detoxing from opioids; decrease the risk of contracting HIV and Hepatitis C; reduce instances of arrest and incarceration among those addicted to opioids; and reduce the use of opioids overall.

How do I know if medication-assisted treatment is right for me?

Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling offers comprehensive medication-assisted treatment to address substance use and addiction. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are proud to offer teletherapy as part of our medication-assisted treatment to ensure the continued health and safety of our patients. If you are prepared to treat your substance addiction with the holistic combination of safely administered medication and continuous individualized therapy, reach out today at 1-800-809-2925.