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The Role of Medication-Assisted Treatment in Teen Mental Health Treatment

By August 3, 2023August 11th, 2023Mental Health

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), as the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare explains is “the use of medications, in combination with counseling and other therapeutic techniques, to provide a ‘whole-patient’ approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.” Substance use disorder (SUD), colloquially referred to as addiction, is a complex, neuropsychiatric condition that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Addiction is characterized by “clinically significant impairments in health, social function, and voluntary control over substance use.” MAT can play a valuable role in teen mental health treatment, as research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat substance use disorders, prevent, or reduce opioid overdose, and help teenagers sustain recovery.

MAT: Common Medications Used

Experts assert that medications, or pharmacological agents, used in the treatment of addictive disorders have “three broad objectives: management of acute withdrawal syndromes through detoxification, attenuation of cravings and urges to use illicit drugs (initial recovery), and prevention of relapse to compulsive drug use.” Common withdrawal symptoms that are eased through MAT include the following: chills, cramps, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, depression, diarrhea, joint pain, vomiting, and excessive sweating. There are different types of FDA-approved medications that are frequently used in MAT. The three most relied upon medications include the following:

  • Suboxone is a medication that is made up of buprenorphine and naloxone. It is most used to assist in treating opioid withdrawal. As a partial agonist, buprenorphine only allows this medication to partially bind to one’s opioid receptors. Naloxone works by counteracting the effects of opioids on one’s brain. Therefore, a teen who attempts to abuse opioids, while taking Suboxone will experience adverse effects due to the naloxone.
  • Vivitrol is a medication that must be administered by a medical professional, as it comes in the form of an injection. It is an antagonist medication that provides relief for opioid cravings, minimizes withdrawal symptoms, and prevents overdose. In most cases, any teen that uses Vivitrol as part of their MAT must abstain from any opiate use for a minimum of fourteen days, prior to the first dose.
  • Methadone is perhaps the most known medication used for the treatment of opioid addiction. It is a full agonist, meaning it fully binds to the opioid receptors in one’s brain and nervous system. This results in a complete block of the euphoric high that occurs from opioid drug use, as well as easing the discomforts of withdrawal symptoms. It is highly regulated, as it can be dangerous if abused.

Research has shown that when provided at the proper dose, medications used in MAT have no adverse effects on a young person’s intelligence, mental capability, or physical functioning. However, regular monitoring, adjustment of medication, and ongoing support are essential components of successful MAT for teen mental health treatment.


For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.


Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.



We are available to answer any questions you may have regarding mental health treatment and our residential program, anytime. Contact us today using the form to the right.

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