Reducing stigma around Substance Use Disorder to support recovery

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) combines medication with behavioral health care to provide a comprehensive, individually tailored, and holistic approach to substance use disorder (SUD). While MAT has proven to be an effective way to treat those with addiction to alcohol, heroin, and prescription pain relievers that contain opiates, there are many myths and misconceptions about the treatment, as well as stigma surrounding people who receive MAT.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there is abundant evidence that shows the positive outcomes of using MAT medications, including: reduced opioid use and related symptoms, reduced risk of infectious disease transmission as well as reduced criminal behavior associated with drug use.

“Addiction is so powerful. For many individuals who are addicted to substances, it can be extremely difficult to just stop. Often there are multiple unsuccessful, painful attempts. MAT can be the first successful step in the recovery process. It gives individuals the ability to begin living more of a self-directed life,” said Wendy Nadolny, LCSW, and Behavioral Health Provider with Northwest Colorado Health. “Community members can support these efforts by learning how and why this treatment is effective. Reducing the stigma around MAT ultimately helps remove barriers to treatment for those who need it. Also, it will help build a more supportive community for those seeking recovery and their families.”

Breaking down the Myths about MAT:
• Myth: Using MAT medications replaces one addiction for another.
Fact: The FDA has approved several different medications to treat opioid addiction. These medications relieve withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings that cause chemical imbalances without providing the high associated with opioid abuse. Patients work closely with their doctors to begin and end their medications. This reduces unwanted side effects.

• Myth: Providing MAT will hinder a patient’s recovery process.
Fact: MAT medications have no adverse effects on a person’s intelligence, mental capability, physical functioning, or employability. MAT removes the fear of withdrawal and reduces the drug-seeking urge.

• Myth: MAT is for short-term treatment.
Fact: People participating in MAT can stay on the prescribed medications as long as the medication is working for them and is taken under medical supervision.

• Myth: Abstinence or quitting cold turkey is better than MAT.
Fact: The withdrawal symptoms from opioids can be excruciating and sometimes life threatening. MAT quiets the urge to abuse drugs and ultimately makes it easier to abstain from drugs in the long run with behavioral health support. MAT is one piece of an overall treatment plan focused on a “whole-patient” approach.

• Myth: MAT is expensive.
Fact: Most insurance covers MAT and for those without insurance the cost of the medications is much lower than the cost of obtaining opioids of abuse. Northwest Colorado Health has prescription programs that can help with the cost of MAT.

To learn more about MAT, or for help finding treatment for substance use disorder call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website at For affordable Behavioral Health support and MAT treatment, call Northwest Colorado Health at 970-879-1632 in Steamboat Springs or 970-824-8233 in Craig.

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