There is still some debate over medication-assisted treatment but for some, it may offer a way to stop substance abuse more easily in the long run. Most of us know what it means to quit something “cold turkey.” It means to stop using something suddenly instead of tapering off. People often attempt to quit smoking cold turkey, but usually fall short of success. Their addiction to nicotine causes overwhelming cravings that make them go right back to smoking. Many start with the intention of having “just one more cigarette” only to end up back where they started.
When it comes to substance abuse, quitting cold turkey is even more challenging and it can be dangerous. Highly addictive drugs and alcohol change the chemistry of your brain. Opioids, in particular, activate the reward centers in your brain. They trigger the release of endorphins that cause a sense of euphoria. With repeated use, your brain slows its production of endorphins and relies on the opioids to create them.
You can also build up a tolerance to the drugs, causing you to need more to get the same euphoric feelings. These situations are what lead to opioid addiction and abuse. When left on prescription opioids for too long, people often begin taking the drugs more frequently and/or in larger doses than recommended. Abuse of prescription drugs leads to the need to obtain drugs elsewhere. This scenario plays a large role in the opioid crisis occurring in this country today.
When you become physically dependent on any substance, stopping it all at once can have a serious impact on your health. It is especially dangerous when you try stopping opioids cold turkey. The severity of withdrawal symptoms makes it more difficult to successfully detox the chemicals from your body.
Some types of addiction carry a serious risk because of the way the addictive substance works. In addition to opioids, stopping your use of alcohol or benzodiazepines after a long and/or heavy use can result in extreme withdrawal symptoms. Although the idea of quitting cold turkey sounds appealing to some people, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) offers a safer and more comfortable method of drug detox.
By quitting cold turkey, you can avoid the drug entirely instead of showing restraint as you taper off. Some people believe it’s easier to fully separate themselves from everything and everyone related to their drug use all at once. They avoid the people, places, and other things that remind them of their addiction. They don’t realize that the drug has already changed the way their brain and their body works. High dependency drugs like those mentioned above can cause a variety of life-threatening medical conditions to occur if they are suddenly stopped.
Normally, people experience mild to painful withdrawal symptoms depending on the substance of addiction and the individual. Sweating, headaches, and insomnia are just some of the symptoms you might normally have. When stopping alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids, the withdrawal symptoms are normally more severe. Each type of addiction also has a specific range of symptoms associated with them that are also more dangerous.
– Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms often include heart palpitations, hallucinations, seizures, and delirium tremens (DTs or shakes). These symptoms are usually worse in people who have drunk heavily and/or for a long time. The longer and more heavily they drink, the more severe the symptoms are. The most serious symptoms can result in death.
– Benzodiazepines Withdrawal Symptoms
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can cause anxiety and panic attacks, depression, insomnia, confusion, and irritability. The psychological effects of withdrawal are the most life-threatening. They can lead to thoughts and attempts at suicide.
– Opiate/Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
Opioid withdrawal symptoms are often very uncomfortable. They include muscle aches, anxiety, excessive sweating, digestive upset and diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, and high blood pressure. While these symptoms alone don’t cause death, using quick detox methods makes withdrawal more dangerous.
Addiction to more than one substance also increases the risk of complications with the withdrawal process. The focus of medication-assisted treatment for addiction is to diminish the severity of detox.
What Is Medication-assisted Treatment (MAT)?
Many people falsely believe that medication-assisted treatment only substitutes one substance for another. In spite of being an excellent tool for substance abuse, it is highly misunderstood. As an Evidence-Based Therapy (EBT), it is based on objective, scientific evidence that proves its effectiveness. It isn’t just a matter of opinion: It’s been proven to work time and time again.
Failing to understand how MAT works has made it a controversial topic for some time. Many people with opioid use disorder believe the myths and negative attitudes surrounding the use of these medications.
Some people fall into the trap of believing that you have to be “weak minded” to require drugs to stop using drugs. Stopping any addictive substance takes more than willpower. It’s a real disease that has a serious impact on how your body works. MAT isn’t a crutch or a sign of weakness. It’s a better alternative to going “cold turkey” and putting your health and well-being at risk.
MAT also makes it less likely that you will overdose or relapse once you complete your treatment. It’s important to take your addiction seriously, even if no one else around you does. Medication-assisted treatment improves your chances of staying in your treatment program. It also reduces the chances that you will start using your drug of choice again after you recover. When that happens, the risks become even greater. Once you have been without the substance for some time, you have less tolerance than you did when you were using it. Your risk of overdose becomes even greater if you go into relapse.
If you have a negative perception of using MAT, talk with your doctor about how these drugs work. They help keep patients healthier, reduce the likelihood of developing drug-related diseases, and make living a long, addiction-free life possible!
In reality, SAMHSA explains that the combination of FDA-approved medications used in a controlled setting and therapy helps the user manage cravings and alleviate withdrawal symptoms effectively. They are more likely to make it through withdrawal without returning to use of the addictive substance. MAT also helps prevent relapse so that the person remains sober for extended periods of time.
A rehab center evaluates your specific needs before determining the right medications for your treatment. Then, they oversee the process so that medical assistance is available to ensure your safety. Some of the most commonly prescribed drugs used in MAT are:
- Suboxone – Suboxone works by binding to the opioid receptors in the user’s brain. This satisfies their craving for opioids and suppresses their withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. This medication is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone.
- Methadone – Methadone changes the nervous system and the brain’s response to pain. It blocks the euphoric effects of opiates or opioids.
- Naltrexone– This is another drug that works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. It also works with addictions to alcohol by reducing a patient’s urge or desire to drink.
- Buprenorphine– Buprenorphine binds to the opioid receptors in the brain without a perfect fit so that it doesn’t produce the effects of reduced respiration, decreased pain, and euphoria caused by opioids.
- Naloxone– Another drug that binds to opioid receptors in the brain so that opioid drugs can’t. Naloxone is also used to temporarily reverse an opioid overdose.
- Disulfiram– Disulfiram is used during alcohol detox to interfere with the way the body metabolizes alcoholic drinks. It interferes with the way the enzymes in the liver work. It produces unpleasant side effects when you drink alcohol such as low blood pressure, palpitations, and nausea. These symptoms often dissuade people from drinking alcohol.
- Acamprosate– This is another drug used in medication-assisted treatment for alcoholism. Acamprosate works differently than disulfiram and other drugs in that it reacts with neurotransmitters in the brain. This helps to modulate and normalize the brain’s activity. Most of the time, acamprosate is used in combination with other medications and therapies.
All the drugs used in MAT aren’t administered in the same way. Methadone must be performed in a highly structured clinic. Buprenorphine, on the other hand, is the first medication of its kind available as a prescription or directly from the healthcare provider.
The drugs used for MAT are FDA-approved, safe, and cost-effective. They reduce the risk of overdose, increase the retention rates in substance abuse rehab, and improve social functioning. The successful, long-term treatment of drug abuse reduces the spread of HIV and hepatitis, along with other social diseases.
How Effective Is MAT for Addiction?
MAT has become the treatment of choice for opioid and alcohol abuse disorders. Previously, cold turkey methods followed by 12-step programs and abstinence were common treatment practices. MAT broadens the scope of treatment and recovery options for more personalized treatments that work better for longer. Without the fear of dangerous withdrawal symptoms, more people feel comfortable turning to substance abuse treatment centers.
Protocol for Entering Medication-Assisted Treatment
MAT is used with therapy to treat alcohol and substance use disorders. The FDA-approved medications play a role in a “whole-patient” approach to treatment. The medications help decrease withdrawal symptoms while therapy addresses the psychological components of your addiction. Once you enter a treatment facility, the providers follow a protocol that determines if MAT is a good option for you.
According to SAMHSA, you qualify for MAT if…
- You have an official diagnosis of an addiction to certain substances
- You are willing to comply with the prescribing instructions
- You are fully aware of alternative options
- You lack physical health issues the medication would exacerbate
You may not qualify for MAT if you have…
- A history of medication misuse
- Co-occurring substance addiction
- A severe health condition, such as a heart or lung condition
The rehab center begins by applying the MAT protocol to your situation. They perform an evaluation process to diagnose your substance use disorder, assess the severity of your addiction, and determine if there are any co-occurring mental and physical health issues. The goal of the treatment facility is to provide you with an effective treatment plan that minimizes your risks as much as possible while addressing every facet of your addiction.
The Biggest Challenges of MAT
The need for combining MAT with counseling can’t be over-emphasized. MAT medications are very important, but they aren’t meant as a standalone treatment. Therapy allows you to learn the causes of your addiction and the triggers that could lead to a relapse. It addresses other mental and physical conditions that need treatment for a healthier future overall.
It’s also essential to have medical oversight any time drugs are used during the detox process. MAT treatment works best in an inpatient, residential program where medical professionals are available 24/7. This ensures the right drugs are used in the right amounts. Medical professionals can monitor your progress and ensure no problems arise that might put your wellbeing at risk. If left to manage the dosing on your own, you might be tempted to use more of the drug than prescribed. When you undergo treatment on-site, you always have medical professionals available to help with your symptoms and manage your pain.
These drugs behave differently than the addictive drug so they don’t act as a substitute. They help control the symptoms of withdrawal and decrease the cravings that lead to relapse. Not only do they help in the initial process of detox, but they also continue to support your recovery in the future.
Does the Satori Recovery Center Offer Medication-assisted treatment?
Yes, Satori implements suboxone, Subutex, and Vivitrol into our substance abuse programs. The addition of naloxone to suboxone causes unpleasant side effects. It prevents patients from abusing the drug like they might with buprenorphine if it is taken alone.
We also combine relapse prevention programs, medications, and evidence-based behavioral therapies into our addiction treatment programs to make them more effective.
Medications help our guests remain substance-free while you undergo behavioral therapies to address underlying psychological issues. These issues are what led you to drug dependence. This therapeutic combination is at the core of medication-assisted treatment.
Satori Recovery Center offers a range of treatment options that make our rehab program successful for a range of needs. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options. We implement medication-assisted treatment into our addiction rehab program to make your recovery more comfortable, safer, and longer lasting.