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Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-Assisted Treatment for Detox

When a person thinks about going into a detox program for their drug addiction, being told to take new drugs is probably the last thing they think will happen. While it may seem like a strange or even worrisome idea, there are actually a number of different drugs that are commonly used in detox programs.

This approach is called medication-assisted treatment, or MAT.  Medications used during MAT work to help reduce withdrawal symptoms for drugs like cocaine, morphine and alcohol for example, which makes the detox process quicker and easier to handle. MAT can actually make detox safer by preventing potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

What is Withdrawal?

When someone abuses drugs or alcohol on a regular basis, their brain gets used to having these substances in their system. Addiction is a brain disease that causes the brain to crave drugs or alcohol in order to make a person feel normal. The brain forgets how to function without substances in the system, and if a person stops taking them, the body goes into withdrawal. 

Unpleasant and difficult side effects often occur during the withdrawal process, including physical, emotional, and psychological ones. The length and severity of withdrawal symptoms vary, depending on the substances used, how long they were used, and in what amount. 

MAT is primarily used to treat heroin and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Usage of MAT for these addictions helps users navigate the detox process with fewer occurrences of withdrawal symptoms. This makes them more likely to complete the detox process and sustain a longer recovery from their substance use disorders.

Heroin Detox Symptoms

Heroin detox is considered one of the most difficult kinds of detox to go through because of how unpleasant the symptoms can be. Many people who try to stop using heroin on their own relapse because they cannot deal with the withdrawal symptoms. Returning to heroin usage can lead to an overdose because the person’s tolerance level is now reduced. Withdrawal symptoms that often occur during heroin detox include: 

  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Muscle Aches
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Runny Nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach Cramps

Heroin Detox Medications

Heroin detox medications work to help relieve the symptoms of withdrawal. A person who experiences reduced withdrawal symptoms proves more likely to complete detox. There are currently four different heroin detox medications used in rehab facilities today. These include:

Methadone

Methadone is a type of slow-release opioid that is very commonly used as a heroin detox medication. This medication does not cause a person to get high but instead tricks the brain into thinking they have used heroin. This effect prevents withdrawal symptoms from happening and eliminates cravings for heroin. 

People who use methadone as a heroin detox medication will need to take it on a regular basis, and then be slowly weaned off it under a doctor’s care. Depending on how long they have abused heroin, it can take several years to complete this process. The person is able to lead a normal, sober life while taking methadone, regardless of how long they need to use it. 

Buprenorphine

Much like methadone, buprenorphine is a type of opioid, though it is not as potent. It produces low to moderate feelings of euphoria, which tricks the brain into thinking it has used heroin. This effect helps prevent withdrawal symptoms and can be used as a long-term solution to help prevent relapse. People who take buprenorphine as a heroin detox medication will eventually need medical supervision to taper off usage of the drug. 

Clonidine

Clonidine does not help reduce heroin cravings but instead relieves withdrawal symptoms, making the detox process easier. Withdrawal symptoms it helps with include anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, runny nose, and stomach cramps. Using clonidine can help reduce the amount of time a person spends in detox.

Naltrexone

Another option for heroin detox medications is naltrexone. This medication works to reduce heroin cravings by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain. This means that if a person does use heroin again, naltrexone blocks the ability for them to get high. They will experience withdrawal symptoms for a short period of time, which can help keep them from using heroin again. Naltrexone does not carry a risk of dependency and is best suited for people who have not been to heroin detox before.

Alcohol Detox Symptoms

Alcohol detox can affect not only a person’s physical health but also their mental health. Many people experience very serious mood issues and can even have psychotic episodes during this time. The most common alcohol detox symptoms are:

  • Panic attacks
  • Migraines
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Delirium Tremens (DTs)
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe Insomnia or Nightmares
  • Depression or Thoughts of Suicide
  • Psychosis

Alcohol Detox Medications

Alcohol detox medications work by reducing withdrawal symptoms. People with very serious alcohol addictions often find that the decision about whether or not to take alcohol detox medications can be a matter of life and death. This is because they are at risk of experiencing serious medical symptoms during detox, like seizures and delirium tremens, which MAT can help avoid. The options for alcohol detox medications include:

Benzodiazepines

Also called benzos, this is the most commonly used alcohol detox medication. It helps people to relax and eases anxiety, depression, and other mental health-related side effects of alcohol withdrawal. It is also effective at preventing seizures.

Naltrexone

Naltrexone does not reduce withdrawal symptoms or cravings for alcohol, but it does work to prevent a person from feeling intoxicated if they drink alcohol again. Drinking will also cause them to experience a number of negative side effects that will make drinking very unpleasant. This can help people in recovery to stay sober.

Clonidine

Clonidine relieves withdrawal symptoms related to alcohol detox. These symptoms can include muscle aches, sweating, runny nose, stomach cramps, anxiety, and agitation.  

Medication-Assisted Treatment in Nashville

Many people with a drug or alcohol addiction are tempted to try and detox at home, which often proves ineffective and dangerous. We have many different tools at hand, including medication-assisted treatment, to help you detox safely with fewer withdrawal symptoms. Using MAT gives you a much better chance of staying sober and experiencing less discomfort as you progress through detox and into the next treatment steps.

Contact Detox Nashville if you’re near the Hendersonville, Gallatin, or Nashville areas today and our admissions coordinators will be happy to answer any questions you have. 

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