Medication-Assisted Treatment or Detox: How To Choose

Medication-assisted treatment or detox is an important question to answer when considering your options for recovery. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an effective and proven rehabilitation technique with excellent outcomes for sobriety and healthy living. It is standard procedure to complete a full detoxification program before starting rehabilitation. Drug detoxification, or detox for short, is when a person stops using a substance to cleanse their body of a drug and its metabolites. It can take a few days or a couple of weeks, and it’s primarily focused on denying the addict any chance to use the drug while managing withdrawal symptoms.

Detox is often the first step in addiction treatment before rehabilitation programs, and while it can be an effective way to rid the body of drugs, it is not always the best option. Medication-assisted treatment may be a better approach for many people struggling with addiction. Every person’s addiction is different, and any sobriety plan must consider the addiction’s severity and circumstances.

People have different amounts of time and resources available. Many have classes full-time, jobs they must attend, or family members at home they are responsible for taking care of. Context is critical to individualization, and every drug recovery plan will differ. At MAT Care Clinics, we understand that detox may not work in every situation and that alternatives are preferable in certain situations. This truism is why we’ve compiled a list of everything you need to know about MAT and detox, their upsides and downsides, to help you decide between medication-assisted treatment or detox.

1. What is MAT?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a therapeutic practice that hopes to make quitting drugs less daunting. Overseen by a doctor and other medical professionals, and frequently in conjunction with other conventional behavioral therapies, specific prescriptions help an addict cope with going drug-free and fight the pangs of addiction. It is the opposite of “going cold turkey,” meaning stopping drug use suddenly and staying without them.

The advantage of MAT bears out in the statistics. Quitting drugs is difficult and, for some particularly addictive ones, requires immense willpower better spent on keeping life’s affairs in order. Relapse is a common thing precisely because of the difficulty of staying sober. There is also withdrawal, a painful process that is particularly harsh with opioids and potentially deadly with alcohol.

MAT undercuts the difficulties of quitting because the drugs prescribed by professionals during rehabilitation work as agonists or antagonists. An agonist is a substance that works similarly to an addictive drug, albeit in a less addictive and subtler fashion. An antagonist has the opposite effect; it blocks the pleasurable effects of a drug, so it’s no longer enjoyable.

Some common drugs prescribed during MAT are:

  • Suboxone: Used for opioid addiction, it is a partial agonist and antagonist, producing a mild euphoria but reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Sublocade: A monthly injection for opioid addiction that is also a partial agonist and antagonist. It is best for addicts who abuse prescription drugs since it is an injection delivered by a medical professional.
  • Naltrexone: An agonist that blocks the pleasurable effects of opioid addiction. It reduces cravings and helps fight relapse.
  • Vivitrol: A monthly injection that blocks the pleasurable effects of opioid use. It is also helpful in reducing heavy drinking.

When prescribed, administered, and overseen by medical professionals, MAT can serve as an incredible ladder to sobriety. It can also be paired with other therapies if time and resources allow.

2. What is Detox?

Drug detoxification aims to manage the physical and mental symptoms that occur when someone stops using drugs or alcohol after a period of dependence.

Drug detox occurs in various settings, including inpatient facilities, outpatient clinics, or at home, depending on the severity of the addiction and the individual’s medical needs. The process typically involves medical supervision, as withdrawal symptoms can be severe and potentially life-threatening in some cases, alcohol abuse being an example. This surveillance also keeps the addict from running for drugs when the withdrawal symptoms worsen.

The exact process of drug detox can vary depending on the type of drug and the individual’s medical history but generally involves a combination of medication, therapy, and support to help manage withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse.

The length of drug detox can vary, including the type of drug, the amount and frequency of use, the individual’s medical history, and any co-occurring mental health or medical conditions. Drug detox can generally last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. The most acute phase of withdrawal symptoms typically lasts around 3-7 days, though opioids and benzodiazepine withdrawal may last for months.

3. MAT or Detox?

There are several reasons why one would choose to begin the recovery process with medication-assisted treatment and skip a detox.

  • Management of withdrawal symptoms: Detoxification can be difficult and uncomfortable. Some people may be afraid of the withdrawal symptoms that can occur. Some may not have the time to be constrained in a room, under watch, while suffering severe side effects like vomiting.
  • Chronic or severe addiction: For people with chronic or severe addiction, detoxification alone may not be enough to overcome the addiction. MAT can provide ongoing support and help to manage the addiction over the long term.
  • Co-occurring mental health issues: People with co-occurring mental health issues that could flare up by detoxifying may benefit from starting MAT immediately.
  • Individual circumstances: Not everyone may have the support they need to complete detoxification. It’s important to recognize specific contexts dictate individualized treatment. There are jobs to maintain, classes to attend, and family members to watch over. A person’s livelihood should not be threatened by their recovery, lest they end up in a worse place than they started. MAT offers an opportunity to continue with the rhythm of daily living while giving those in recovery an important tool against addiction.

MAT Care Clinics and Medication-Assisted Treatment

At MAT Care Clinics, our experienced medical staff specializes in pharmacological solutions for treating addiction. We care about restoring you to full and are always ready to advise you on your options and any challenge you might face. If medication-assisted treatment is right for you, we can recommend other behavioral therapies and programs to help you recover.

Call (833) 622-0628 or contact us through our website to begin your journey toward a healthy and sober life.

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