MAT effective in treating opioid drug addiction

MAT effective in treating opioid drug addiction story by (May 2014)

Dr. Joslyn Ngu

Community-based Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is effective in treating opioid drug addiction in Malaysia, experts reveal.

“In Malaysia, MAT using buprenorphine+naloxone has been proven to work in treating opioid drug addiction. It has shown to have a retention rate of over 80 percent with medical supervision,” said Dr. Stephen Chow, president of the Addiction Medicine Association Malaysia (AMAM).

Buprenorphine+naloxone and methadone are the two drugs frequently used in MAT. Both are equally safe and effective, so when choosing which drug to prescribe, the patient’s circumstances and financial resources should be taken into consideration, said consultant psychiatrist and addiction specialist Dr. Philip George, who is also associate dean at the International Medical University (IMU).

To increase the effectiveness of MAT, the treatment duration must be long; dosage adequate; a good therapeutic relationship must exist; and strong psycho-social support ensured. This is because drug addiction is too big a problem for one person to handle alone, said Chow.

MAT combines medication, counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a holistic approach to the treatment of substance use disorders, said George. A clinically driven therapy with a focus on individualized patient care like MAT gives patients the best chance to beat their addiction.

Statistics released by the National Antidrug Agency show that there were 7,864 drug abuse cases reported in 2013. Despite a steady decline in the number of cases reported since 2010, the average number of cases reported every month in Malaysia in 2013 was 655. Of this figure, 397 were new and 258 were relapse cases. ( on 29 May) These numbers could be just the tip of the iceberg as there are more patients out there who do not seek treatment due to the stigma attached to drug addiction, said Chow.

Drug addiction or dependency has been wrongly stigmatized as a moral failing that deserves punishment. It is actually a chronic disease of the brain. In 2008, a campaign called Jiwa Baru was launched in an effort to wipe out this social stigma by increasing the understanding of drug addiction as a chronic disease and to advocate MAT as the future of drug dependency therapy. The campaign has been a success, as it has resulted in more patients receiving treatment, said Chow.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines drug addiction as a chronic medical condition that causes long-term changes to brain function and structure. These changes are what create strong drug cravings.

Chow and George were speaking at the National Conference on Addiction Medicine (NatCAM).