MATs, MSRs, and MARs: What They Mean for Opioid Addiction Recovery

Written by Buprenorphine Doctors

If you’re just beginning to learn about recovery from opioid addiction, you probably feel like you’re swimming in a big, confusing bowl of alphabet soup. MAT, MSR, MAR: How do you begin to know what these terms mean, and how they fit into your goal of finding opioid recovery treatment options for yourself or a loved one?

These terms aren’t as formal or daunting as they might seem at first. Keep reading to hear what you should know about them.

Background

The American opioid crisis has worsened over the last few decades, and nearly all kinds of doctors, medical associations, and government institutions are proposing new actions to reduce its body count. One medical response is to use “replacement” opioids to wean recovery patients off of harder drugs, rather than recovery only through traditional peer group methods. This response is called “medically-assisted treatment,” or “MAT” for short.

A doctor who is using MAT to help patients suffering from opioid addiction prescribes medications like methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone, and naloxone. These medications help recovery because they help patients withstand opioid cravings and tolerate withdrawal symptoms. Research has shown that MATs effectively treat opioid addiction because they lower the risk of relapse and opioid overdoses. MATs can also increase the chances that patients remain in treatment.

So Why Do I Read About Other Terms Besides MAT?

The experts in the addiction recovery field are currently debating whether the term medically-assisted treatment best describes this recovery program. This debate is mostly about semantics, and it stems from ongoing advocacy for new descriptions of addiction and of those who suffer from it. How we describe opioid addiction and patients seeking treatment can impact how others perceive them and how they perceive themselves, thus impacting treatment success, research has shown.

These advocates and researchers recommend person-first language to reduce the stigma someone might feel when they seek opioid treatment. Take a look at this list comparing old terms to the new suggested terms that help remove some of the stigma.

Traditional TermSuggested Term
Opioid addictionOpioid Use Disorder (OUD)
Abuser/AddictPerson with a Substance Abuse Disorder
CleanNot Actively Using
DirtyActively Using
Reformed abuser/addictPerson in Long-Term Recovery

Many experts agree that medically-assisted treatment (MAT) doesn’t need an update.

A few relevant institutions often use the term:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Shatterproof, an advocacy group which proposes new addiction language

However, some organizations advocate  “MSR,” an alternate term for what most experts call MAT. MSR means “medication-supported recovery.” Examples of organizations that prefer the term “MSR” include The New York State of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Office and the Ashley Addiction Treatment, an influential Maryland opioid treatment center.

Dr. Greg Hobelmann, Chief Medical Officer at Ashley Addiction Treatment, argues that using MSR better demonstrates that the medical treatment will support recovery as one program among a holistic approach for every patient.

Ashley Addiction and the New York state government aren’t alone in coining new terms for opioid recovery treatment. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (AMSAM) has proposed its own acronym, and so have the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM).

AMSAM recommends “medication-assisted recovery” (MAR)

NASEM recommends “medication-based treatment for OUD” (MBT)

So What?

These medical institutions, with their new alphabet soups of treatment terms, want to expand the conversation about whether the term “MAT” is effective or stigmatizing. Whether these terms change or remain, they all describe the same practice: medical response to patients’ physical dependence on harmful opioids. So don’t sweat the jumble of letters; the program is generally the same, and it is generally effective as a medical option for those suffering from opioid addiction.

Want to learn more about what MATs are? Look at the specific medicines here, or read a summary of the treatment here.

Or, if you want community connection as you or your loved one undergoes opioid recovery, visit In The Rooms and sign up for free. Over 50,000 people working through their various addictions have joined and found the support of their own community, whether through weekly online meetings, helpful discussion boards, addiction-specific groups, or a combination of all three.


Buprenorphine Doctors