Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Teens & Adolescents

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The withdrawal process is often the first barrier to treatment for teens. The uncomfortable and dangerous symptoms that come from the withdrawal process can keep many from beginning their recovery journey. Medication assisted treatment (MAT) is an option for adolescents to alleviate many of these uncomfortable symptoms.

If an adolescent you love could benefit from a MAT program, contact Guardian Recovery today. Our medical and clinical staff are highly trained in the safe and effective administration of MAT. Each of our nationwide facilities operates at the highest standards of care. This will ensure that your loved one receives the best quality of care available. Contact Guardian Recovery today. Our treatment advisors are available to answer any questions you may have about the treatment process. 

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What Is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

Medication Assisted Treatment is the broad term used to describe the treatment of a substance use disorder that involves prescription medications as a method of treatment. Though it can take on many forms, MAT is generally used for the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders. These medications are specifically designed to address physical and mental symptoms of a substance use disorder. 

The detox and long-term recovery process can be particularly challenging for those with opioid use disorders. This is partially because drug cravings frequently persist beyond detox. Without MAT, these cravings can be overwhelming, and may lead to relapse (a return to drug use). Some individuals in recovery for opioid use disorder find that incorporating the use of prescription medications helps aid the transition to complete abstinence.

The Role of MAT in Adolescent & Teen Substance Use Treatment

Teens seeking substance use treatment face a unique set of challenges. Physiological development, treatment motivation, and social functioning are all areas that can impact adolescents in their own way. Incorporating MAT as a method of treatment can alleviate many of the physical and psychological barriers that teens will have to overcome in treatment. This will help to ensure that program participants have a higher chance of long term success in treatment.

Detox & Medication Assisted Treatment for Withdrawal

If someone frequently uses a substance, their body will adapt to its presence. When use of the substance is abruptly stopped, their body will begin the process of readjusting to the absence of that substance. This process is known as withdrawal, and it frequently involves uncomfortable side effects. These side effects can be both physical and psychological in nature, and often require a short stay in an inpatient detox facility. 

Many beginning their recovery journey will experience this process. These uncomfortable side effects can be a difficult hurdle for those planning to embark on sobriety. MAT utilizes specific medications designed to limit the uncomfortable symptoms that can come with this process. They interact with the brain and body in order to make the process of managing these withdrawal symptoms easier.

Medications Used to Treat Substance Use Disorder (SUD) & Dependence

MAT can be tailored to the specific needs of each participant. Different substances will result in a variety of side effects associated with their withdrawal. This requires the prescription of different medications to address each treatment requirement.

Opioid Dependence

The most common application of MAT is in the treatment of opioid use disorders. Opioid misuse can involve prescription opioids as well as illicit opioids like heroin. Withdrawal symptoms from both types of opioids follow a similar pattern and require the same prescriptions. 

Frequently used medications for the opioid MAT process include:

  • Subutex — A partial opioid agonist (1) intended to satisfy the brain’s craving for an opioid and allows the person to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Suboxone — Another commonly used opioid agonist containing Naloxone, a medication that reverses the effect of opioid use.
  • Vivitrol — Mitigate cravings associated with opioid misuse after the detox process has been completed.

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Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol withdrawal (2) is one of the only types of withdrawal that can be life-threatening. This is because the central nervous system goes into shock when alcohol use is suddenly stopped. Alcohol withdrawal can produce tremors, hallucinations and grand Mal seizures. 

Frequently used medications for the alcohol MAT process include:

  • Librium — This medication allows for the central nervous system to remain calm allowing the body to slowly wean off of alcohol.
  • Serax — This medication is similar to Librium in its effect, but places less stress on the liver.
  • Antabuse (Disulfiram) — This medication is intended to prevent the body from metabolizing alcohol and leading to the “drunk” feeling.

Benzodiazepine Dependence

Benzodiazepines (3) belong to a class of medications known as sedative-hypnotics. These substances are typically prescribed for anxiety and sleep related disorders, but can be potentially life threatening when abruptly stopped. Typical protocols for detoxing from benzodiazepine dependence involve replacing the substance of choice with a safe alternative and slowly tapering the dose down until it is safe to stop completely. These medications can include:

  • Clonazepam — This benzodiazepine will have similar effects to others but possesses a longer half life. This will help ease the user’s withdrawal symptoms.
  • Diazepam —  This medication also carries a long half life and is often used as a replacement to Clonazepam if it is unavailable.

Stimulant Dependence

There are currently no approved medications for the treatment of stimulant dependence. Typically the withdrawal symptoms for stimulant dependence are more mild than those of other substances and can be addressed through proper sleep and nutrition.

Are MAT Medications Safe & Effective for Young Adults?

All medications prescribed by a medical professional for use in MAT are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that they are appropriately produced and tested for efficacy. Though there is the possibility for negative side effects, all MAT is monitored by a medical professional for this purpose.

Medication-Assisted Treatment as a First Step to a Treatment & Recovery Program

MAT can be a great first step in recovery. The withdrawal process can be a difficult barrier to overcome. The medications administered throughout MAT will decrease the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. Choosing MAT as a first step in treatment will decrease the apprehension associated with the withdrawal process and help to ensure followthrough with the subsequent steps in the treatment.

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If you or a teen close to you is in need of behavioral healthcare services, contact Guardian Recovery today. Our team of highly trained medical and clinical staff are committed to meeting the specific needs of adolescents. Call to speak with a treatment advisor. They will be able to review your treatment options and even conduct a free, no obligation insurance check. Your teen’s journey towards recovery can begin today.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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