Updated on 01/17/23

When starting any treatment program, the first major step to a sober life may be detoxification. To successfully overcome a substance use disorder, it is imperative to rid the body of all drugs, alcohol and toxins to be able to successfully achieve sobriety. Once an individual stops using drugs and alcohol, they may be at risk for physical withdrawal symptoms, as the body learns how to function without the substance again. Withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Headaches

These withdrawal symptoms can be severe and last a long time or be minimal and last a short while. The length of time and specific treatment plan will depend on the individual and severity of the substance abuse, but there is much research-based evidence and support to keep individuals safe and taken care of throughout the detox phase.

Detoxification is different for everyone and it is important that each person is treated based on their individual needs and experience. However, most detox phases last roughly between five and 14 days, and during this time individuals are placed into a quiet and restful area to create an easeful space for this process. During detox, individuals are assessed and monitored by doctors and medical professionals to ensure the health and safety of the person during detox. 

Sometimes during detox, and perhaps even further onward into treatment, doctors will use medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for substance use disorders. Medications can aid in the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms to make a smoother, safer and more pleasant transition into sobriety. 

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

Medication-assisted treatment is using the assistance of medications during the detox and treatment process. According to SAMHSA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. 

MAT has been proven to be effective in treating most substance abuse disorders that may invoke severe physical withdrawal symptoms such as alcohol use disorder, opioid substance use disorders and benzodiazepine use disorder. Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat these disorders, and for some people struggling with addiction, MAT can also help sustain recovery. According to SAMHSA, MAT is primarily used for the treatment of addiction to opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers that contain opiates. The prescribed medication operates to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieve physiological cravings, and normalize body functions without the negative and euphoric effects of the substance used.

What Medications Are Used in MAT?

Medications and all MAT treatment programs are clinically driven and tailored to the individual needs of each person. All medications are FDA-approved and specifically for withdrawal symptoms from an alcohol or substance use disorder. According to SAMHSA, acamprosate, disulfiram and naltrexone are the most common medications used to treat alcohol use disorder. They do not provide a cure for the disorder but are most effective in people who participate in a MAT program. Buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone are used to treat opioid use disorders to short-acting opioids such as heroin, morphine and codeine, as well as semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Some MAT programs continue for months, years or possibly a lifetime depending on the person and their substance use disorder. Some medications, such as suboxone and Vivitrol, may be given for long-term use. In fact, approximately half of the patients at Pinelands who are treated with medication-assisted detox are discharged on Vivitrol. The intention of a MAT program is to help transition into sobriety comfortably and without severe withdrawal symptoms. Specific medications are tailored to the drug of abuse and administered until the patient is no longer at risk of withdrawal.

Treatment after Detoxification

Detoxification may be the first part of treatment for some people, but the next vital stage is to ensure the safety and resilience of one’s sobriety going forward. There are many options for on-going treatment programs including (but not limited to) in-patient rehabilitation programs or out-patient intensive programs. After detoxification it is imperative that we do not undermine the severity of our addiction, as substance abuse treatment is a physical, mental and emotional process; and detox is just pinpointing the physical aspect. To ensure a strong and safe recovery journey, we must begin by finding the right therapeutic treatments that are best for our individual needs. This may include an on-going MAT program, continued residential in-patient treatment, one-on-one therapy, 12-step programs, enrichment practices or experiential therapies. There is no one way to recovery, and it is important to note that every person will receive treatment differently and the purpose of each recovery center is to find what works best for each individual.

At Pinelands, we know how scary the recovery process can seem at times. Especially the idea of detoxification and withdrawal symptoms. You are not alone in your fear or experience. At Pinelands, we want to help individuals get through detox and into sobriety safely and with ease. If you or a loved one is dealing with a substance use disorder, or needing to go into detox, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or to schedule an appointment. We are here for you and your process. Call us today at (877) 557-5372.