Medication Assisted Treatment: Fighting the Good Fight Against Opioid Addiction

Written by Michelle Randall, a student of West Hills College Lemoore

Most people don’t set out to become dependent on their medications just to get by day to day.   After injuries, doctors often prescribe opioids as a way to mitigate intense pain.  Sometimes, fear of pain or lessening relief over time, cause prescribed users to up their dosage.  Potentially, even the most well-meaning of people can become addicted to prescribed medications.  What happens when they do?  Where can they turn to get themselves out of a spiral of opioid addiction?

Originally founded in Avenal, the newly named Aria Community Health Center has locations around Kings County dedicated to assist those who face seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Their Medication Assisted Treatment is only one of a handful of programs that are keen on helping those who cannot help themselves when it comes to battling opioid addiction.

What is an opioid?

An opioid describes a broad spectrum of drugs, ranging from prescription pain killers, such as oxycodone, codeine, and morphine, to more illicit street varieties like heroin and opium.

Medication Assisted Treatment

The Aria Community Health Center’s Medication Assisted Treatment— or MAT, as it is known, is a program committed to those who are suffering through opioid addictions. The concept is simple: in an enclosed environment surrounded by faculty and support groups, patients undergoing treatment are put on a plan using suboxone, a prescription medicine in the form of film developed to combat addiction, withdrawals, and if necessary, relapses.    

There are two stages involved with the process: induction and maintenance.  The first is where they begin treatment, (or restart if relapsed), under the supervision of a doctor. After the first dose, in which the patient must be in a moderate state of withdrawal, they work with their doctors to reach a dose of suboxone film that works for them. Stage two occurs when the doctor is sure the patient is no longer experiencing withdrawal symptoms, have minimal to no side effects, and do not have uncontrollable cravings.

The patient can take his or her medication regularly as prescribed as long they comply with all of the elements in the treatment plans-- including the responsibility of handling the medication., staying free from illicit drug use, and seeking counseling and/or psychological support.

While the MAT program does primarily battle opioid addictions through medical treatment, the initiative is also an integrative team approach where patients being served are not just being prescribed another medication, but are also receiving services such as behavioral health counseling, case management, support group services as well as regular appointments with doctors and providers supplied.

“But what if something were to happen during my treatments?”

Edith Rios from Aria Community Health Center

Edith Rios from Aria Community Health Center

That’s where members like Edith Rios comes into the picture. Edith is one of the case managers who works alongside the doctors at the Aria Community Health Center. Doubling down in duties that both concern MAT and behavioral health amenities, her job is to work alongside the patients to monitor progress, give referrals, and specifically supply them with services outside of the program that could potentially jeopardize progress in their treatment plan. She helps lessen outside factors so the patients can focus more on recovery, whether it be homelessness, hunger, or even a place for their child to be taken care of.

What’s the success rate?

Recovery time and subsequent patient success is rather difficult to define, since many variables must be factored during the MAT program. That, and it is different for everyone going through the treatment. Where one person could take months, another could take a longer or even shorter period to graduate from the MAT program. However, it is estimated about 75% of individuals who go through the treatment plan fully recover from their addiction with no relapses.

How do I contact them?

Interested parties who would like to look more into the MAT program can contact any of the ACHC locations through the use of their website or by phone at 559-924-7005 EXT 1941.