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Understanding Medication-Assisted Recovery: How Recovery and Medication Coexist

What is Medication-Assisted Recovery

You may think people dealing with substance use disorders or issues with substances have to be free from any medication or substance to fully recover. In reality, sometimes medication is one of the best things a person can have to support them during their recovery. Medication-assisted recovery can help people with substance use disorders as they heal.

What is Medication-Assisted Recovery?

Medication-Assisted Recovery (MAR) is another term for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) which is a way to treat substance use disorders that combines medications and counseling to help a person’s body and mind start to recover.

Integrative Life Center centers the use of the word “recovery” to emphasize our commitment to your healing from substance use disorders, and recovery from other mental health issues, like trauma. Sometimes, people start using substances to feel better as a result of trauma and mental health issues. That’s why ILC emphasizes a whole health approach to recovery.

Dr. Julie Eberwein, Executive Director at Integrative Life Center, said medication can help people manage symptoms as they engage in personal recovery efforts.

“When combined with psychotherapeutic sessions, the individual can begin to find healing and peace, eventually leveling off the need for medication, returning to a fulfilling life,” she said.

What are the Benefits of MAR?

MAR has many benefits, including but not limited to the following:

  • Eases Symptoms. People starting recovery from substance use disorders often go through phases of withdrawal symptoms. These can range from being dizzy, nauseous, and physically sick to mental symptoms like anxiety and depression.
  • Increases Treatment Retention. Treatment retention describes the level to which a person can commit to treatment and recovery. Medication can help people fully participate in recovery, lessening the chances of relapse.
  • Reduces Cravings. Physiologically, the body goes through a massive change when a person stops using substances. Medication can assist a person with managing cravings.
  • Restores Balance. If a person has been dealing with a substance use issue for an extended time, those substances have most likely caused changes in the person’s brain. Medication during recovery can help ease the adjustment period and restore balance in the brain. 
  • Helps Control Symptoms. Symptoms of withdrawal can be intense. Medications can help ease these physical and psychological symptoms while healing occurs.

How Do Recovery and Medication Coexist?

Mental health professionals use the word “clean” to describe a person who is recovering when they aren’t using alcohol or drugs. This term can be confusing. Is the person “clean” from all types of medication and substances? Do prescribed medications count? 

At ILC, we know that each person’s recovery is unique. Some people may prefer not to use medications while recovering from substance use.  But, sometimes prescribed medications are vital to a person’s health and well-being, such as antidepressants, vitamins, antibiotics, or other medications that help control diseases and illnesses.

The types of medications professionals prescribe to a person beginning their recovery from substances are not the same as illegal drugs, alcohol, or even prescription drugs taken without being advised by a medical professional to use them. 

This means that using these specific medications for recovery isn’t just swapping one substance for another. It means these medicines are effective for people in recovery.

The two most important factors that make recovery and medication able to coexist are:

  1. Therapy is at the Center. Therapy remains the key to recovery, with medication allowing a person’s commitment to therapy to be easier for them, with fewer negative symptoms of withdrawal.
  2. Medication Can Be Temporary. People who use MAR don’t have to continue taking medication for the rest of their lives. Medication can be a temporary way to alleviate greater pain.

What Kind of Therapy Couples with Medication-Assisted Recovery? 

MAR may include many different types of therapy. Each person’s treatment plan will vary depending on their specific needs. 

Common therapies that mental health professionals may use with MAR include:

  • Trauma-focused therapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Family, group, or individual therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Mindfulness-based therapies
  • Animal assisted therapies

To learn more about different types of therapies that can be used during recovery from a substance use disorder, read our post on Types of Therapy Used for Substance Abuse: Options in Recovery.

Can I Achieve Recovery Without Medication?

Each person is unique, and so is their recovery. While it’s not impossible, recovery from substance use without medication or the guidance of a mental health professional can be dangerous. It’s best to seek the opinion and guidance from your doctor, counselor, or other medical professional.

If you’re ready to get the individualized help you deserve on your journey to recovering from substance use, contact ILC today. Our staff is ready to help you or your loved one by answering questions about our programs or connecting you to the right mental health professional.

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