I know there’s a huge debate in the recovery community today about Medically Assisted Treatment. And for those of you who don’t know what MAT is, it is when someone is taking any medication like Suboxone, Subutex, Buprenorphine, Naloxone, Vivitrol, or even Methadone.
These medications were designed to help recovering addicts with symptoms of withdrawal, cravings, energy, and the healing of our brains. The argument presented about these medications is that we are “substituting one drug for another”. And while it does mean we are on a medication, it does not mean we are trading one high for another.
These medications (although slightly different) have one main purpose. They either block or fill the opiate receptors in our brain. Those of us who are opiate addicts have drastically changed the chemistry of our brains. For the sake of understanding, let’s just say a healthy brain has 3 opiate receptors. Every time we put more opiates into our system, we multiply those receptors. This is what is responsible for both our sickness and our tolerance. Instead of having 3 opiate receptors we now have 6. And then 12. And then 24. And then 36. They multiply to accommodate how much we’re putting into our body. So now that we have 36 receptors, our tolerance is way higher. It takes much more to get us high than it did when we still had 3.
So when we decide to detox and get clean, instead of feeling the withdrawal of those empty 3 receptors, we’re feeling the withdrawal of 36 empty receptors. Our sickness (just like our tolerance) has gotten worse because of this.
This is where MAT medications come in. As I said earlier, these medications either fill those empty receptors, block them, or sometimes both. This means that the symptoms we feel from the lack of opiates are almost completely diminished. It helps us get through our detox and into the first stages of recovery.
Sometimes we decide to stay on our medication for longer than a detox. And that’s ok. All of those empty receptors mean that we feel uncomfortable and have no energy. It means that we crave a lot and that our cravings are more powerful. Being on MAT is incredibly helpful because it works to get rid of those cravings. And when you’re not obsessing over them, you can actually begin to recover and build your life back.
To those of you saying that someone isn’t clean because they’re on MAT, that can potentially kill someone. The medication they’re on may be helping them drastically. But if you make them feel bad about the fact that they are on it… Well that’s just not fair.
Not everyone wants or needs MAT. But some people do. And for those of you who are on it, I want you to know that you ARE clean. Look at how far you’ve come and think about how far you will go! There’s nothing wrong with helping your brain heal. Nothing wrong with getting a little help from medication as long as you aren’t abusing it.
There are many different paths of recovery. It is not anyone’s job to judge another for the path they choose. And to those who do I’m asking you to think about this.
I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t hustle on the streets anymore.
I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t prostitute my body anymore.
I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t steal and beg anymore.
I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t lie to everyone anymore.
I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t stick needles into my arms anymore.
I may be on an MAT medication but I’m not homeless anymore.
I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t get arrested anymore.
I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t feel hopeless or unworthy anymore.
So even though some of you may judge the fact that some of us use MAT, that still doesn’t change the fact that we can and do recover.
Heroin to Heroine