What We Treat & Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”

The disease of addiction manifests in many ways, creating unhealthy patterns of functioning. Health and relationships are negatively impacted. There are often legal issues or the threat of incarceration. Individuals who struggle with this disease feel immense guilt, shame, or hopelessness when it comes to their substance use. There are many telltale signs of addiction, but the primary characteristic is the persistent, compulsive use of a substance even when the repercussions are adverse or dangerous.

At Sanford House, you will learn about the disease of addiction and begin to heal. You are not alone in this journey.


We Treat Addiction to the Following Substances:


Individuals who overuse alcohol, have difficulty controlling how much and how often they drink. These folks may be physically dependent on the substance and in need of medical detox to safely begin their recovery journey.


One of the most commonly used illicit drugs, marijuana is often used in conjunction with other substances. Problem users may rely on the substance to combat feelings of anxiety and depression and ignore how marijuana use interferes with their daily functioning.


Commonly prescribed to treat pain, opioids include heroin and medications such as hydrocodone, OxyContin, and Vicodin. When someone takes opioids in high doses, their heart rate and breathing becomes depressed. An opioid overdose may stop the heart and breathing altogether, leading to death. Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. But, these substances cause severe physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms that often require medically aided assistance to discontinue.


Sedative substances slow activity in the brain and body. Sedatives are prescribed by a doctor to induce calm or sleep. When used inappropriately, sedatives dangerously slow breathing and heart rate. They also interfere with memory and decision-making. Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam, diazepam, and clonazepam are all sedatives.


Stimulant medications (like Adderall), as well as cocaine and methamphetamine, disrupt normal communication between brain cells. Stimulants flood the brain with dopamine, contributing to their highly addictive nature. Dopamine, or “the pleasure center” prevents the user from recognizing their damaging effects. Stimulants often induce hostility and paranoia.

Synthetic Drugs

These substances are created using man-made materials, and often contain ingredients unknown to users. Ecstasy, LSD, and bath salts are synthetic drugs. Due to the rate at which these substances are created and introduced, symptoms of synthetic drug use is difficult to define and the results are often unpredictable.


Inhalants are those substances consumed through inhalation, to momentarily slow brain activity. They starve the body of oxygen and force the heart to beat irregularly and faster. Users can lose their sense of hearing or smell. Chronic inhalant use can lead to muscle wasting. Long term use gradually damages lungs and the immune system. Household substances such as cleaning fluids and paint thinner are often used as inhalants. Whippets and whipped cream canisters are used most often by teens while amyl nitrate and nitrous oxide are common to all ages.


Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Mary DeBoer, LPN Gursharn S. Dosanjh, MD and Amy Bukala, FNP-BC

In response to the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) protocols have been developed to serve as an adjunct to evidence-based addiction treatment. Our MAT program also incorporates 12-step methodology, whole-body wellness and the vital role of the family in its approach to treatment. MAT helps clients get through the discomfort of opioid withdrawal and it helps to reduce drug cravings.

Addiction is a chronic brain disease. A client who takes medication under the advice of Sanford House medical staff is like any other patient who takes medication to treat a disease. Recovery from addiction is a process and the medications give our clients the time to work on recovery without unnecessary discomfort.


Medication Assisted Treatment – Medications

Extended-Release Naltrexone (Vivitrol)

Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist. In other words, it prevents opioids from attaching to receptors in the brain so you cannot get “high”. Vivitrol is given as an injection monthly. It it non-addictive and reduces the chance of relapse, quells cravings and helps clients stay in treatment and recovery.

Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone)

This medication activates the opioid receptors the same way heroin does, but with lesser effect. This medication is effective in reducing cravings or relapse, It also has been proven effective with recovery retention and group therapy attendance.

Psychiatric Illnesses

Not all, but many clients who struggle with substance use disorders also have co-occurring psychiatric illnesses. This means they may experience the effects of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. as well as drug or alcohol addiction. Sanford House is a certified Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment Center and we have implemented GeneSight testing for our psychiatric clients. Sanford medical staff perform a simple test (a sample is collected from the inner cheek with a cotton swab) to determine which psychiatric medications will work best with each client’s genetic make-up.

Genetic testing empowers medical staff with the exact information they need to prescribe the best medication. By examining DNA. this test lets medical staff know which medications may not work for each client.This eradicates time consuming and frustrating trial and error.


For more information on Medication-Assisted Treatment