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Medication Assisted Treatment Can be Key Piece in Treating Alcoholism

By: Kerry Henry
Executive Director
Gateway Springfield and Gateway Pekin

Medication Assisted Treatment for AlcoholismTreatment for alcohol use disorder, often referred to as alcoholism or alcohol abuse, calls for a multi-faceted approach that is personalized to the individual. Sometimes this approach includes medication assisted treatment (MAT).

For alcoholics, MAT initially consists of different treatment options that help them through the initial stages of detox withdrawal symptoms. Freedom from these symptoms enables people to participate in therapy sooner than later.

Skeptics of Medicated Assisted Treatment believe that it's just substituting one drug for another, which is far from the case. The medications Gateway uses are not harmful, are closely monitored, treat symptoms and, the way we use them, are not addictive. We use the minimum effective dose and discontinue their use as soon as possible.

Not everyone is a candidate for medicated assisted treatment. We look at a person's history in determining our recommendation and discuss the options with them. Should we recommend MAT therapy, an individual has a free choice to decline. We can assist those who decline with a smaller portion of the discomfort brought on by detox, and the onset of treatment may be delayed.

Average sober days per month without treatment and Vivitrol®

Average sober days per month with treatment and Vivitrol®

The ability to medically assist people with alcoholism has brought positive changes for those receiving treatment at Gateway. The biggest change we've experienced is a lowered ASA rate (people leaving treatment against staff advice). This happens because a person receiving medication assisted therapy becomes more comfortable and therefore able to engage in the treatment process, stay, and successfully complete their program. Research has shown medicated assisted treatment also helps people to remain alcohol-free following program completion.

Used as part of an integrated approach to alcoholism treatment, medications may be used as follows:

  • Vivitrol® promotes sustainable recovery by preventing the feelings of pleasure in the brain associated with substance use.*
  • Campral® assists with cravings to help with a sustainable recovery.
  • Librium® detox protocols are sometimes used to help get people into treatment and once there, engage and stay.

Gateway is on the cutting edge of new medications and evidence-based programming, and we're being successful. There's measurability about what we're doing and how we're doing it, which is different from how substance abuse treatment is generally perceived. With doctors and psychiatrists on board, our treatment has evolved into a medical model.

It's exciting that there are options out there for people who, for a long time, have struggled and lived with fear about their addiction. Gateway has ways to address alcoholism treatment where individuals feel supported and can be more successful.

To learn more about medication assisted treatment for alcoholism, or our confidential consultation, call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers today at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

*Patients treated with Vivitrol® and psychosocial counseling saw significant reductions in median drinking days and an increase in abstinent days vs those treated with placebo and psychosocial counseling. Research also shows that patients remained abstinent an average of 24 days per month with treatment and a placebo.


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