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Network Matters
News and Information for the
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Network

May 2014

Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Abuse 

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is an approach in treating substance abuse that incorporates medications and psychosocial treatments into a comprehensive treatment plan. Research has found that combining MAT with ongoing outpatient maintenance treatment planning stabilizes physical cravings and controls behaviors that may lead to relapse.

MAT utilizes the FDA-approved medications to address substance withdrawal and cravings and prevent relapse. For dependence on prescription opioids (such as heroin, morphine, Vicodin, oxycodone, etc), the following medications are approved for short and long-term MAT:

  • Zubsolv (buprenorphine and naloxone)
  • Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone film)
  • Subutex (buprenorphine)
  • Methadone (only available in a licensed outpatient opioid treatment program)
  • Vivitrol (naltrexone XR intra-muscular injection)

An effective MAT plan uses these medications in conjunction with substance use education, abstinence and relapse prevention efforts, individual counseling and cognitive behavioral therapies, and community-based recovery and sobriety supports.

Research has found that MAT can offer improved outcomes, including:

  • Lower treatment drop-out rates
  • Sustained engagement in treatment services
  • Connection with supportive services to facilitate recovery, such as 12-step programs and other community sober supports
  • Increased support to providers and members to access peer and social supports
  • Resumption of productive life activities; such as employment, education, parenting or job training

Harvard Pilgrim’s partner Optum/United Behavioral Health (Optum/UBH) can assist you with substance abuse treatment planning. Optum/UBH clinical leaders have been reviewing national substance abuse treatment best practices to ensure that their policies, practices, and care networks are aligned with the latest evidence-based medicine. Beginning intensive treatment early provides patients with the support often needed to begin recovery. Optum/UBH suggests that patients who are newly diagnosed with an alcohol and other drug disorder have a follow-up appointment within 14 days of the start of treatment.

How Optum/UBH can help your patients—For complex clinical situations, Optum/UBH is available to provide consultative assistance. Practitioners can call the Optum/UBH Physicians Consultation Service at
800-292-2922. To refer a patient for behavioral health services and to facilitate the coordination of care, call Optum at 888-777-4742.

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Eric H. Schultz,
President and Chief Executive Officer

Richard Weisblatt PhD,
Senior Vice President, Provider Network

Annmarie Dadoly,

Kristin Edmonston,
Production Coordinator