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Medication Assisted Recovery

Medication assisted treatment (MAT), as defined by the SAMHSA/HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions, is the use of pharmacological medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a "whole patient" approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.

two lane road with recovery stenciled on the pavement

The IHS addresses changing attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions to ensure comprehensive, culturally appropriate health services are available and accessible to patients diagnosed with opioid use disorder (OUD). OUD is a chronic disease and evidence demonstrates that treatment is effective and recovery is possible. MAT at IHS facilities is a comprehensive evidence-based approach to recovery that combines pharmacological interventions with substance abuse counseling, social and holistic services that are supportive of cultural practices and beliefs. When MAT is prescribed at appropriate doses for OUD it has proven to be safe and effective in relieving withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings, increasing retention in treatment, decreasing illicit opioid use, and improving patient survival.

To ensure increased access to MAT, IHS released the Special General Memorandum 2019-01. All IHS federal facilities will identify OUD treatment resources in their local areas and create an action plan, no later than December 11, 2019, to provide or coordinate patient access to MAT, increasing access to culturally appropriate prevention, treatment and recovery support services.


Find Help is available.

Visit Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  to find a substance use disorder treatment center near you, or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Opioid use disorder is a chronic disease and is treatable. The goals are to support recovery and prevent relapse with medication and psychosocial therapy. Medication in support of recovery is one part of a comprehensive approach toward achieving long-term recovery.

In 2016, the United States Department of Health and Human Services released the Surgeon General's Report "Facing Addiction in America" Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  [PDF - 2 MB] to improve awareness surrounding substance use disorders, reduce the stigma and negative attitudes related to substance use disorders, and increase understanding of effective programs and expanding health care programs to provide care for those with substance use disorders. The comprehensive report provides information and tools from patients, communities, and policy makers to healthcare providers and researchers.

In September 2018, Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, U.S. Surgeon General, along with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), released "Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Spotlight on Opioids." Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  The Spotlight on Opioids is a condensed document with opioid-relevant content from the 2016 Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, updated prevalence statistics, and progress to address the opioid epidemic.

Everyone has a role to play to stem the opioid crisis. The Surgeon General also released a digital postcard Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  highlighting 5 tangible actions that all Americans can take to raise awareness, prevent opioid misuse and reduce overdose deaths. The actions include:

  • Talk about opioid misuse - have a conversation about preventing drug misuse and overdose.
  • Be safe - only take opioid medications as prescribed, make sure to store medication in a secure place, and dispose of unused medication properly.
  • Understand pain and talk with your healthcare provider - treatments other than opioids can be effective in managing pain.
  • Understand that addiction is a chronic disease - with the right treatment and support, people do recover.
  • Be prepared - get and learn how to use naloxone, an opioid overdose reversing drug.

To learn more about the Surgeon General's Spotlight on Opioids and Digital Postcard, visit Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving 


Healing Tool: Guide for addressing behavioral health goals in Native communities Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  [PDF - 1.6 MB] - Addiction Technology Transfer Network (ATTC) resource with talking points for talking to or meeting with tribal leaders, elders, community members, and others about substance use disorders (SUD), medication assisted treatment (MAT), and other behavioral health issues.


Indian Health Service has created a recovery card [PDF - 595 KB] for IHS, tribal, and urban health facilities and programs. This customizable recovery card allows for the addition of specific, community-based resources to connect people to substance use treatment and recovery services.

For information on how to customize your community recovery card, please follow the guidance below:

  1. Download the recovery card [PDF - 595 KB]
  2. Open in Adobe
  3. Click on the "Edit PDF" tool in the right pane
  4. Add new text above "insert resources/contact info here"
  5. Save your edited PDF: Name your file and click the "Save" button
  6. Set printer settings to "print on both sides" and "flip on the short edge" on 5x7 card stock.
  7. Print and share.

Guiding Principles of Recovery (SAMHSA)

There are many pathways to recovery and each should be self-directed and empowering. Recovery is not a silo, it is does not stand alone, rather it is holistic and involves a community of individuals, peers and family offering a supportive environment. SAMHSA's ten Guiding Principles of Recovery Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  are:

  • Recovery emerges from hope
  • Recovery is person-driven
  • Recovery occurs via many pathways
  • Recovery is holistic
  • Recovery is supported by peers and allies
  • Recovery is supported through relationship and social networks
  • Recovery is culturally-based and influenced
  • Recovery is supported by addressing trauma
  • Recovery involves individual, family and community strengths and responsibility
  • Recovery is based on respect