When Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction first became available, many in the recovery community struggled with the idea of treating a substance use disorder with a medication.
“In the beginning, and even still today, some people believed using MAT for opioid addiction would simply shift a person’s addiction from one drug to another – even to another opioid,” said Kendrick Westmoreland, Clinical Director of Outpatient Services at The GateHouse. “Today we know that isn’t how it works.”
Most MAT critics come from those within the recovery industry who have adopted a 12-step program philosophy. The majority of treatment centers in the U.S., including The GateHouse, follow the 12-step program because this approach is rooted in the power of community and human connection, with people supporting one another through recovery.
At The GateHouse, Kendrick and his team use the 12-step program philosophy to help clients build the mental and emotional strength needed for lifelong recovery. However, many see MAT flying in the face of the 12-step philosophy, and this has slowed its widespread adoption.
Our approach at The GateHouse is more nuanced.
“The common thought among the 12-step community is that if you’re on MAT, you’re on it for life,” Kendrick said. “But that’s not the goal. Once the client is established in their recovery and has a network set up to support them, they agree to wean their way off.”
MAT is Simply One Tool in the Toolbox
The GateHouse has been educating clients about MAT for years. Today, MAT is included as one of the many topics discussed during one-on-one outpatient sessions, especially if the patient is interested in learning about it as part of a total treatment plan.
If a client chooses MAT treatment in early recovery, Kendrick and his team pair it with The GateHouse’s outpatient program and 12-step approach. This is because our team does not see MAT as a standalone treatment option, because it requires monitoring and counseling support to best meet client needs.
“MAT is just one of the many tools in our toolbox,” Kendrick said. “We’re open to whatever type of treatment works best for the client.”
MAT for Opioid Addiction is Working its Way Towards Acceptance Among the 12-step Community
In the past few years, Kendrick said MAT has slowly evolved. As it has, the 12-step community has shown more of a gradual willingness to accept it.
“It’s taken a lot of education industry-wide, including with our own treatment coordinators, to see these changes to MAT start to take hold,” he said.
It’s not just that the industry has become more accepting of the role MAT can play in early treatment. Many of Kendrick’s outpatient clients are coming in having done their homework and have some level of understanding about each of the recovery options available to them.
“Our clients are pretty well versed in MAT,” he said. “They’re asking questions and being proactive about the potential benefits MAT treatment has for their recovery.”
The GateHouse has also collaborated with organizations like the Rase Project, which has allowed them to connect clients to case managers and physicians.
“The RASE Project has been an incredible partner with us and our MAT clients,” Kendrick said. “Working with them lets us make sure each client has a case manager and is working with a reputable doctor who can oversee their MAT regimen and administer it safely.”
The GateHouse and the entire industry have come a long way in recent years, embracing a treatment that’s helped many people battling addiction. In the next few years, Kendrick sees acceptance of MAT continuing to grow.
“I see us all continuing to embrace MAT as we witness the benefits in more and more clients,” he said.
Still–that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.
“What matters most is finding a treatment that works for each individual,” Kendrick said. “Whether that’s MAT, a 12-step program, or some combination of the two, we’ll do whatever it takes to support each of our clients as they work towards recovery.”
At The GateHouse, we create a support system for each of our clients to break the cycle of addiction and get them on a path towards recovery, including services for long-term recovery with locations throughout Lancaster County, PA. We’d love to help you with your next step in recovery. Reach out to us today!