Substance use disorder is notoriously hard to treat. Research has shown that most patients treated for alcohol use disorder or opioid use disorder relapse within one year. One major problem is that treatment quality and accessibility varies. Medically assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. It is clinically proven to treat substance dependence and set patients on a positive recovery trajectory. Yet, access to this type of treatment is minimal, and many patients do not know it is an option. Learn how medically assisted treatment for substance use disorder could help you or a loved one.
What Is Medically Assisted Treatment?
Medically assisted treatment is an evidence-based approach to treating substance use disorder. Originally used to treat opioid use disorder, medically assisted detox is now available for alcohol use disorder as well.
To understand how this effective treatment works, it is helpful to know why substance dependence develops.
Substance Use Disorder
When you take a drug like opioids, it binds to specific receptors throughout your body. It also crosses into your brain and triggers “feel good” chemicals to be released. The first time you take drugs or drink alcohol, you may have a powerful reaction. Over time, chronic substance use dulls that response. You may find that you need to drink more or use more drugs to get the same effect. This phenomenon is called tolerance, and it happens because your cell’s receptors get used to having drug molecules around.
You may also notice that you develop uncomfortable symptoms when it has been a while since you drank or used opioids. These symptoms are known as withdrawal. Withdrawal occurs when your body is off balance and trying to reset itself. Your body becomes so used to having the substance around that it no longer knows how to cope in a drug-free state. As a result, you may experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, sweating, diarrhea, and other symptoms. Withdrawal is uncomfortable, and it can even be dangerous. In severe cases, patients develop strokes, seizures, or even die during withdrawal.
Medically Assisted Detoxification
Medically assisted treatment is a way to undergo a withdrawal in a safe medical setting. Rather than going “cold turkey” and sending your body into immediate and uncontrollable withdrawal, medically assisted treatment offers a safer and more comfortable way to detox.
It all starts with a team of medical professionals performing a thorough physical evaluation to understand your medical needs, substance use history, psychological state, and other relevant factors. They will develop an individualized protocol to help you through the withdrawal process. This detox protocol includes around-the-clock monitoring and medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. The goal is to make you safe while feeling supported and as comfortable as possible during withdrawal.
Difference between Medically Assisted Treatment and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Patients are often confused by the difference between “medication”- assisted treatment (MAT) and “medically” assisted treatment for substance abuse. Despite their similar names, these approaches are very different. Medically assisted detox refers to undergoing detoxification in a medically supported environment to become opioid-free, as described above. In contrast, medication-assisted treatment refers to using medications, often opioids themselves, to control use.
Medication-assisted treatment includes the use of buprenorphine, methadone, and suboxone to treat opioid addiction. These medications are opioid agonists, meaning that they bind to opioid receptors in the brain and body; therefore, patients remain opioid-dependent. However, they have a weaker euphoric response than prescription painkillers or heroin. That means they have less potential for abuse.
In most cases, the goal of MAT medications is to prevent a person from going through withdrawal. They are often taken over a long period and sometimes indefinitely.
Although the Food and Drug Administration approves the medication-assisted treatment, many addiction specialists disagree with this approach. Basically, medication-assisted treatment swaps one opioid for another rather than helping someone get free of opioids altogether.
Medications for Alcohol Abuse
Although those suffering from alcohol abuse also benefit from medically assisted detoxification, the drugs used to curb cravings are not replacement drugs as with opioids. Alcohol patients usually get prescribed medications like naltrexone, disulfiram, or acamprosate. Some of these medications cause uncomfortable side effects when mixed with alcohol. For example, disulfiram disrupts your body’s ability to break down alcohol. If you drink while taking disulfiram, you will become very ill. As a result, adherence to these medications is low. One study found that less than 50% of patients took these medications as prescribed.
Regardless of what detox you choose, it is essential to know that detox does not treat the root causes of substance use disorder. Trauma, depression, anxiety, and other mental health symptoms often underlie the urge to drink or use drugs. Patients must maintain a drug-free state to be emotionally and psychologically present to address addiction’s root causes.
Medically Assisted Treatment Pros and Cons
When it comes to effective treatments for substance use disorder, there is a reason why there is a strong recommendation for medically assisted treatment.
Consider the following advantages:
- Continuous monitoring of patients’ health needs to ensure medical safety.
- Fear of withdrawal is not a deterrent to treatment. If you ask individuals what is preventing them from seeking treatment, fear of withdrawal is often a significant factor. Many people are worried about going through withdrawal in an outpatient detox center, where medical resources are inadequate.
- Medical specialists are widely available in a hospital for a consultation or if an unexpected health event occurs.
- The success rate of completing detox is much higher than other alternative treatments. Medical doctors are the best-trained professionals to manage opioid or alcohol withdrawal symptoms. A hospital setting under highly trained staff supervision is the best environment to achieve an opioid- or alcohol-free state.
- Treatment is discreet and compassionate. Addiction is a source of stigma and shame, which prevents many people from seeking treatment. Medically assisted detoxification, like the Waismann Method, takes place in a full-service hospital with private rooms. Admission to the hospital as if they came in for any other medical conditions and detoxed in a private, safe environment free from judgment.
- It improves the quality of post-detox care. Patients who undergo medically assisted detox can recover physically, mentally, and spiritually; once a person is in an opioid-free state, they are better able to be emotionally present for the next stage of recovery. Participating in a supportive aftercare program allows individuals to address the root causes of substance abuse. The root of the issues might include untreated mental health needs, past trauma, or a social environment that keeps them stuck in unhealthy patterns. By being emotionally present, a person can more effectively engage in therapy after detox.
Not having the medical care you need can be dangerous, particularly for people with alcohol use disorder. Alcohol withdrawal can lead to seizures, stroke, or other health complications. Medical professionals can offer medications to prevent complications while making withdrawal symptoms more manageable.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to medically assisted treatment, as with all medical procedures. Medically assisted treatment works best when patients are ready and willing to undergo detox. It is less effective for people who are not yet prepared to become opioid-free or alcohol-free. For these individuals, an option like medication-assisted treatment could be an acceptable option. However, medication-assisted treatment is much more effective as a temporary step toward recovery, not as a permanent solution.
Waismann Method Medically Assisted Detox Treatment
Wondering if there is medically assisted treatment near me? Waismann Method® offers a caring, compassionate environment in which to undergo detoxification from opioids or alcohol. We have been providing rapid detox and medically assisted treatment programs for substance use disorder since 1998. Our team has a wealth of experience, enabling you or your loved one to get the best available care.
At Waismann Method®, our goal is to heal our patients and free them from opioid dependence so they can start the path to a healthier lifestyle. We use the latest scientific methods to treat opioid and alcohol dependence. As a result, nearly 100% of our patients have achieved successful detox.
After completing detoxification, our patients enter our exclusive Domus Retreat. This short term recovery center provides a safe haven and post-detox care as people regain strength to start the healing process physically and mentally. Combining individualized treatment protocols, successful medical detoxification, and supportive recovery care sets the Waismann Method apart as a safe, effective, and compassionate treatment option for substance use disorder.