Medication Assisted Treatment and Alcohol

When people are undergoing Medication Assisted Treatment, or MAT, for an addiction to opioids or recreational drugs, they are vulnerable to a multitude of perils.


Addictions are commonly interlinked with mental health ailments, such as depression and anxiety. So during the recovery process, urges to perform self-destructive acts are still prevalent, as something of a band-aid to deal with emotional duress. 


The physical and psychological dependency on these substances can overwhelm anybody’s best intentions. Addiction is a disease, and successfully overcoming symptoms of addiction is something that often requires a team of professionals.


group therapy


Some methods of rehabilitation incorporate MAT to manage the common side effects of withdrawal. These medicines wean individuals off their addictions. However, despite the therapeutic potency of these pharmaceuticals, they won’t necessarily achieve the same chemical euphoria as an abused substance. To achieve that level of inebriation, some patients might drink alcohol.


Even if you’re going through treatment and not tempted to abuse alcohol, you may be curious as to whether you can consume it at all during treatment. Let’s take a look.



What Medications Are Used for MAT?


There are a variety of MAT-based pharmaceuticals prescribed to patients. For opioid addiction, two popular treatments are methadone and buprenorphine, which both make the brain believe that it’s experiencing the effects of the substance in question. The doses are dispensed so that patients don’t get the feeling of a high – instead, they feel normal, which soothes withdrawal.


Then there’s naltrexone, which – unlike methadone and buprenorphine –blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of the abused drug. It is used to treat alcoholism as well.  Let’s take a look at how each of these medications interacts with alcohol.


How Does Methadone Interact with Alcohol?


Alcohol is a nervous system depressant, meaning it causes the following potentially dangerous complications (and more) when combined with methadone:


 Respiratory problems
 Low blood pressure
 Weak heart rate
 Risk of overdose


Methadone also intensifies the buzz caused by alcohol in some people.



How Does Alcohol Interact with Buprenorphine? 


Much like methadone, there is a vast list of potentially harmful side effects that result from mixing buprenorphine with alcohol. Depending on the patient in question and the amount of alcohol consumed, a person could become a victim to conditions such as respiratory problems or even fall into a coma.


Also, buprenorphine has its own set of side effects, such as headache, tiredness, abdominal pain, itching, rash, and others. When combined with alcohol, those symptoms are potentially heightened.



How Does Naltrexone Interact with Alcohol?

We’ve already discussed how naltrexone inhibits the euphoric effects of alcohol, therefore discouraging patients from drinking. There aren’t really any dangerous side effects associated with consuming alcohol while taking naltrexone. Though is it worth noting that since naltrexone doesn’t cause any extreme side effects, it also doesn’t help to promote abstinence or encourage restraint from other potentially addictive substances while going through recovery.






While it’s understandable that MAT addiction recovery patients would succumb to their urge to drink, the results of drinking while taking therapeutic doses range between mildly negative to catastrophic.


Unfortunately, mixing alcohol with therapeutic medicine is a significant problem that sometimes rears its ugly head during someone’s recovery. It’s something that should be considered when crafting a specific plan for patients to reduce harm if drinking might be an issue during the process.


Hopefully, with a further understanding of how the various MAT-based pharmaceuticals interact with alcohol, it will help craft more effective treatment plans.