Medication assisted treatment, or MAT, is an evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders, including opioid use disorder (OUD).

OUD is a complex chronic disease of the brain, like diabetes is a chronic disease associated with the pancreas. For diabetes, the treatment is insulin. For OUD, the treatment options include three medications–methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.

A National Institute of Health-funded study (published in the 08/07/18 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine) revealed that treatment of OUD after a non-fatal opioid overdose with either methadone or buprenorphine is underused when compared with each therapy’s proven ability to dramatically reduce mortality rates. The study, the first to look at the association between using medication to treat OUD and mortality among patients experiencing a non-fatal opioid overdose, confirms previous research on the role methadone and buprenorphine can play to effectively treat OUD and prevent future deaths from overdose.

The study also found that in the first year following an overdose, less than one-third of patients were provided any medication for OUD, including methadone (11 percent); buprenorphine (17 percent) and naltrexone (6 percent); with 5 percent receiving more than one medication.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), said, “A great part of the tragedy of this opioid crisis is that, unlike in previous such crises America has seen, we now possess effective treatment strategies that could address it and save many lives, yet tens of thousands of people die each year because they have not received these treatments.”

The study concluded that a nonfatal opioid overdose treated in the emergency department is a critical time to identify people with OUD, and an opportunity to offer patients access to treatment inventions, providing linkage to care following their discharge, and making improvements in treatment retention.

The Great Plains QIN will be hosting a webinar “Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder” on September 26 at 12 noon CT. Guest presenter, Dr. Melissa Henke is the Medical Director of Heartview Foundation, a treatment facility in Bismarck, ND. Dr. Henke is dedicated to treating OUD and will discuss the impact of opioid addiction as well as provide an overview of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and its benefits. Register today!