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Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

When someone is dangerously addicted to a substance, a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can be used to help them get the addiction under control by combining behavioral therapy, counseling, and specialized medications. MATs for opioid addiction are the most common, and often accompany a drug crime plea deal. For example, someone accused of an opioid crime may be able to successfully plead “no contest” and avoid jail time if they also agree to completing a MAT program.

Alcohol Addiction & MAT Programs

Opioid use disorder is not the only type of substance use disorder that can benefit from medication-assisted treatment, though. Alcohol use disorder can also be treated by medications and addressed through a specialized MAT program.

In addition to other treatments, MAT for alcohol use disorder may require:

  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Community support
  • Medical follow-up
  • Participation in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous

Not only are these other types of treatment often required for MAT, they also make the patient more likely to succeed in recovery than if they were just on medication alone.

What Medicines Can Treat Alcohol Use Disorder?

There are a few different medications that are used to treat chronic alcoholism, alcohol addiction, or alcohol use disorder. They are designed to make it easier for the patient to abstain from alcohol use and help them manage withdrawal symptoms while achieving sobriety. These medications cannot cure alcohol use disorder, but with other treatments they can make it easier for people who abuse alcohol to resist falling back onto the unhealthy habit. Just like with MAT for opioid use disorder, these medications should be used with other forms of treatment and social support, such as 12-Step programs and individual psychotherapy.

Three medicines used most commonly with a MAT for alcohol use disorder are:

  • Disulfiram: This is most commonly used for chronic, heavy drinking and is prescribed after a successful detoxification process. Disulfiram causes very unpleasant physical effects like nausea, headache, and chest pain when alcohol is consumed. The triggered symptoms can happen almost-immediately and last over an hour, even if a very small amount of alcohol was imbibed. The unpleasant physical effects are meant to deter the patient from consuming alcohol in any amount.
  • Naltrexone: This substance works the same way for alcohol use disorder as it does for opioid use. It blocks the receptors in the brain that give the ‘good’ feelings of intoxication that comes with drinking alcohol. While disulfiram deters patients for drinking through unpleasant physical effects, Naltrexone deters patients from using alcohol by preventing the enjoyable feelings that they would usually get from alcohol. With the enjoyable feeling no longer present, it can be easier for patients to focus on recovery and prevent relapses.
  • Acamprosate: This medicine is often used for sober patients who wish to refrain from drinking in the long run. However, acamprosate does not prevent withdrawal symptoms. It is believed to help rebalance the brain’s natural chemicals, which may become unbalanced during alcohol withdrawal.

If the patient is not willing to commit to every aspect of MAT for alcohol use disorder, though, it may be better to think of treatment options other than MAT. Doctors and judges alike need to consider an individual’s background, history, mental health, and so forth before relying on a MAT to try to help them achieve real, lasting sobriety.

Could a MAT Help You?

If you have found yourself faced with criminal charges due to your behavior while intoxicated, then you may be able to address both issues at once with a MAT. Patrick S. Fragel, Attorney at Law, P.C. in Traverse City is here to help you make the most of a MAT and get your life back on track. We may be able to convince the judge presiding over your case to accept a lenient plea deal in exchange for your voluntary involvement in a medically-assisted treatment program to control your alcohol use disorder.

Don’t wait when so much is on the line. Call or contact us online now.