If you or someone you love is suffering from drug addiction, you’re not alone! In fact, the Surgeon General predicted that one in seven Americans will deal with substance addiction during some point in their lives. When this addiction becomes severe, it’s often impossible to stop without facing serious consequences, including going through withdrawals. These withdrawals are more than just unpleasant, in some cases, they can be dangerous or even life-threatening. Many treatment centers now use medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help people with addictions get through the most severe withdrawal symptoms so they can safely begin their journey to recovery. What is medically assisted treatment and how does it help? Read on to learn more!
Medically Assisted Treatment: The Basics
This treatment method is commonly used for those suffering from withdrawals associated with opiate and alcohol addiction. MAT combines behavioral therapy, counseling, and FDA-approved medications to provide patients with holistic treatment. It’s often recommended when the addiction is so severe that an unassisted outpatient detox would be dangerous.
Big-Picture Benefits of MAT
MAT has been shown to bring many benefits for those in recovery, including:
- Improving patient survival rates
- Increases the chances of staying in treatment
- Decreases incidence of criminal activities and opiate use among people with substance abuse disorders
- Increases a recovering addict’s ability to find and keep employment
In pregnant women with substance abuse disorders, MAT has been shown to improve birth outcomes and it’s also been shown to reduce a person’s risk of contracting hepatitis C and HIV by reducing the chances of relapse.
How MAT Helps Patients Going Through Withdrawals
When a person takes opioids, the drugs bind to the opioid receptors in their brain. This causes a sense of euphoria and an altered perception of pain. When opioid use continues, eventually it disrupts the brain’s ability to produce “feel good” chemicals, like serotonin. After some time, it’s difficult to feel happy or even “normal” when there aren’t drugs in the system. The drugs that are used for MAT approach this problem in a couple of different ways. First, they may work to block the effects of opioids. Secondly, they may produce similar effects in the brain and body, but without creating feelings of euphoria. When taken as recommended, this helps to lessen withdrawal symptoms without fostering addiction.
Drugs Used for Medically Assisted Therapy
There are many different types of drugs used in MAT. They each have different effects that help ease withdrawals in different ways. The following are some of the most common.
This is perhaps one of the most well-known drugs used to help with withdrawals. This drug works by changing the way the body and the brain respond to pain, but it doesn’t create the extreme feelings of euphoria that comes with opioid use. The effects of methadone are similar to opioids but are much milder. This drug is primarily used to reduce cravings and the pain that comes with withdrawal symptoms. However, since the effect is similar, there’s a high chance that users can also become addicted to this drug. Although methadone is meant to help users through withdrawal, many people end up taking it for years.
This drug is more commonly known by the brand names Suboxone and Subutex. It’s a “partial opioid” that binds to the brain’s opioid receptors but isn’t a “perfect fit.” This allows it to satisfy the body’s craving for opioids without the strong feelings of euphoria. This drug doesn’t pose a high potential for addiction, and most users keep using it until their body doesn’t need as much to function, then slowly wean themselves off. However, sometimes the drug is abused when a prescription is given without sufficient supervision. This drug works best when prescribed only when needed and is used as part of an inpatient program. This supervision can help reduce the chances of a relapse.
Working in a completely different way, Naloxone is a “full opioid antagonist.” it blocks the effects of opioids at the receptor sites. It’s most well-known for it’s effectiveness for quickly reversing drug overdoses. This is often used in situations where someone undergoing treatment have the potential to relapse and overdose. Although they may be closely monitored while participating in an in-patient program, the drug may be given to the patient or the family to use in an emergency.
This medication is used to treat both opioid and alcohol addiction. It works by blocking opioid receptors and reducing cravings. Since it doesn’t create any type of euphoria, there’s less of a potential for abuse. Patients may take an oral tablet each day while in an inpatient MAT program or may receive an injection that will last for a month.
For individuals struggling with alcohol addiction, disulfiram is often an effective treatment option. This drug works by creating extremely unpleasant effects if a user drinks alcohol while taking the medication. This often includes heart palpitations, tachycardia, sweating, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, anxiety, and more. This treatment requires a high level of commitment. Otherwise, the patient can just decide to stop taking the pills and start drinking again. However, when a patient is truly committed, it’s a highly effective way to recover from alcohol dependence.
Withdrawal is Hard Don’t Do it Alone
There’s no doubt that going through withdrawals is difficult, and doing it without proper supervision can also be dangerous. However, you don’t have to go through it alone! Contact us today to learn more about how we can help!