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Medical Detox vs. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

One of the biggest roadblocks to entering addiction treatment is the fear of experiencing withdrawal symptoms, as they can be painful and cause medical complications. Another common roadblock is dealing with cravings in sobriety, which can last days to months due to changes in the brain and long-term drug and alcohol abuse. Detox and medication-assisted treatment help minimize risk while creating a comfortable environment for recovery.  

Detox programs are designed to make the first stage of treatment, withdrawal, as comfortable as possible with around-the-clock care. Once the detox phase is complete, clients find medication-assisted treatment (MAT) beneficial to their recovery. 

At Laguna Shores Recovery, we offer both medical detox and medication-assisted treatment programs. There are many similarities and differences between these two programs, but both are essential for a successful recovery.  

What Is Medical Detox?

Medical detox is a process intended to create a fresh start by clearing the brain and body of all substances. The detox process is designed to manage acute intoxication and withdrawal symptoms. The most common types of medically supervised detoxes are for alcohol and opiate-related addictions.

Detox is not a standalone treatment for substance abuse but rather the first step. The detox process has three essential parts, including:

  1. Evaluation: This is where individuals undergo a comprehensive medical, psychological, and social assessment to gather a full picture of the severity of the addiction and to gain insight into what treatment looks like for them moving forward.
  2. Stabilization: In this part, individuals go through a medically supervised detox from substances before beginning the next phase of their treatment.
  3. Continuing treatment: Lastly, individuals continue their journey through recovery — most often in a residential treatment program — where they participate in therapies that align with their recovery needs.

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs use FDA-approved medications, along with counseling and behavioral therapies in order to provide a “whole person” approach for the treatment of substance use disorders (SUD). These medications are used to treat opioid addiction and alcohol dependence by relieving the withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings that manifest due to chemical imbalances in the brain. Medication-assisted treatment programs aim to keep the body and brain chemically balanced so the person can successfully complete their recovery plan. 

Medical Detox and Medication-Assisted Treatment Differences

Medical detox and medication-assisted treatment programs are different, although they have similarities; the main distinguishers are when they are used in the treatment process and for what purposes. Regardless, both are necessary components for adequate, comprehensive, and holistic addiction treatment. Medical detox is often utilized at the beginning of treatment before medication-assisted treatment can begin. For example, medical detox is used at the start of treatment to help individuals: 

  • Clear toxic substances from the brain and body prior to beginning treatment
  • Restore the body back to its natural state
  • Prepare the mind for residential treatment

In comparison, medication-assisted treatment is used:

  • During inpatient rehab and/or outpatient substance abuse treatment to help make the symptoms, cravings, and urge to use drugs associated with substance use treatment more tolerable
  • To block the euphoric effects of alcohol and/or opioids, making substances seem less appealing, making abstinence from opioids and alcohol more easeful and controllable
  • For controlling cravings and urges to use substances, especially right after detox from substances and at the beginning of treatment
  • As a supportive treatment alongside counseling, behavioral therapies, and other components of substance abuse treatment
  • Alongside medical, vocational, educational, and other assessments and treatment services

Medical Detox and Medication-Assisted Treatment Similarities

The main similarity between medical detox and medication-assisted treatment is that they both use FDA-approved medications. These medications are all in the category of opioid dependence medications, which are medications that help manage withdrawal symptoms such as jitters, anxiety, muscle cramps, and diarrhea while detoxing from opioids, alcohol, and other substances. 

Going through detox is part of addiction treatment, and the first step before any further treatment can be facilitated. This is often the most uncomfortable and intolerable part of addiction treatment, which can be a roadblock to individuals from getting the appropriate treatment they need. 

More specifically, the medications used in both medical detox and medication-assisted treatment components of substance abuse treatment are: 

  • Buprenorphine: used to suppress and reduce cravings
  • Naloxone: blocks the effects of opioid drugs, including pain relief or feelings of euphoria that can result from opioid abuse
  • Suboxone: used to treat opiate addictions
  • Benzodiazepines: controls withdrawal symptoms
  • Disulfiram: treats chronic alcoholism
  • Acamprosate: for people in recovery who have stopped and want to prevent future drinking
  • Naltrexone: treats alcohol dependency by blocking the euphoric feelings of intoxication that people who misuse alcohol seek
  • Alcohol Dependence Medications are used to regulate the severity of common alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, anxiety, stomach pain, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, seizures, and hallucinations.

Find the Help You Need

If you or a loved one are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, the first step in recovery is making the choice to detox. There are many rehab treatment centers that offer both detox and medication-assisted treatment, like our rehab center at Laguna Shores Recovery. These programs make healing possible and comfortable so clients can get their lives back through long-lasting recovery. 

Drug addiction doesn’t have to be the center of your life forever. To take the first step towards getting your life back and experiencing healing through recovery, call Laguna Shores Recovery today at (866) 229-9923 to learn more about our treatment options.