Saving Lives with Medication Assisted Treatment

Saving Lives with Medication Assisted Treatment

Alicja Carter and Madelyn Kufahl
October 12, 2021 / 5 mins read

In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid-involved overdoses. In a previous Gateway article entitled “Prescription Takeback”, written by David Holland in April 2021, he shared, “The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the total "economic burden" of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement. Nationwide efforts to reduce the amount of overdoses by opioids over the past five years have seen very positive efforts, however, overdose deaths have risen since the COVID-19 Pandemic began.”

Gateway to Prevention and Recovery understands that these staggering numbers represent mothers, sons, co-workers, or spouses in our own community who at one time had a purpose and place and are survived by loved ones that still feel the pain of their loss every day. Gateway believes that each person’s life matters and that with the appropriate medication, treatment, and community support, a life free from the obsession of opioids is possible.

Therefore in November 2014, Gateway started its Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) clinic in response to the growing number of individuals who were desperate for a change before it was too late. The program’s combination of medication, addiction treatment, and community support has helped hundreds of local community members rebuild their lives.

The MAT clinic prescribes a medication called Suboxone to its patients, which has two ingredients: Buprenorphine and Naloxone. The medication works by attaching to the brain’s neurotransmitters to help lower potential for misuse by diminishing effects of dependency, such as withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Contrary to what a person may think, utilizing this medication is not simply trading one drug for another as it does not create a sense of euphoria or high. Dr. Paul Johnson, the MAT clinic’s addiction’s specialist doctor, states, “Opioid Dependence is best treated by medication assisted treatment. Without it, excruciating withdrawals and obsessive cravings contribute to abysmally high relapse rates, which can often be fatal.” In addition to medication assistance, Gateway’s MAT clinic integrates addiction treatment and community support. Patients in the program have the opportunity to engage in one-on-one, group, and/or family therapy and are strongly encouraged to participate outside 12- step support group meetings, faith based organizations, and community activities. Although everyone is at different points on their journey, they can grow and learn from each other and be reminded that they are not alone in their recovery. Studies show that the longer patients stay engaged in treatment, the higher their chances are of long-term recovery.

Mary Folks has participated in Gateway’s Medication Assisted Treatment clinic for the past 3.5 years. She is always eager to share her story in hopes that it will help someone else. Mary says, “My addiction to pills started from a simple prescription from my doctor for a back injury. The 10 years that followed would be the closest thing to hell that I could ever imagine. My wake up call came when I looked down and saw my 3 year old daughter pretending to pour pills in her hand and take them. My addiction was affecting more than just my life. I began researching on my phone about where I could get help and Gateway popped up. I walked into Gateway on my own at 48 years old, scared to death and knowing it was only by luck that I hadn’t gotten caught. The medication, treatment, and community support offered through the MAT clinic was exactly what I needed. Gateway taught me to breathe, dream, and have hope. I learned to set boundaries and find new ways to cope. Now, I am a productive citizen, a more involved mother and wife, and a better support to my daughter and future grandbaby. I choose to stay connected to my recovery program because my life continues to improve and I want to be a help to others.”

The MAT clinic is a special place. It gives hope to the hopeless and turns people’s lives around. Patients can feel safe and cared for knowing that they are receiving the medication, treatment, and support they need to find relief, peace, and connection. Mindee Todd, Gateway’s MAT clinic Director, says “I hear people say daily that their lives have been changed because of the MAT clinic and we are thrilled that these services are expanding to our Seminole location so that even more people can find the healing they deserve.”

If you or someone you know could benefit from participating in Gateway’s Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) clinic, do not hesitate to call Mindee Todd, MAT clinic Director at 273-1170 x151 to talk through the next steps together.