The Importance of Medically-Assisted Treatment

For many people suffering from addiction, particularly drugs, and alcohol, admitting they need treatment often is a hard pill to swallow. However, when this life-saving decision is made, the first step of this comprehensive process is called detoxification, or formerly known as Medically-Assisted Treatment (MAT). It is important to note that detox is not a replacement for treatment, but a crucial first stage of the recovery process.

When someone is addicted to prescription painkillers such as opioids, or other drugs such as alcohol, the brain and body become negatively affected by these substances when abused. When someone has substance abuse issues, their body reacts differently. 

With every dose or drink, the body becomes dependent or tolerant of the chosen substance. While addiction is a disease, just like cancer and diabetes, there is no cure, and therefore, requires professional help to treat it.  

Here at Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare in Prescott Valley, AZ, we believe in saving people’s lives through Medically-Assisted Treatment (MAT). MAT aims to make detoxification safer and more manageable, and most importantly, lower the rate of relapse and deaths due to overdose.  

The First Step: Detoxification 

Medical detoxification is a process of eliminating and removing the addictive substance from the body. Done in an inpatient or outpatient rehab setting, the purpose of detox is to prepare an individual for recovery, and most importantly, help patients overcome physical dependency. 

For those who have substance abuse, their systems have already been accustomed to functioning with drugs and alcohol. In other words, their organs and brain have figured out ways to accommodate and flush these chemicals from the body. The process of detoxification is used to reverse that dependency. However, once this addictive substance has been removed through this process of detoxification, the body doesn’t adjust as quickly. 

What to Expect During Detox

Everyone and their addiction stories are different, and therefore, treatment options will vary, as each individual has different and specific needs and issues that need to be tended to. How long a person spends in a rehabilitation program depends on the frequency of use, underlying medical conditions, the use of single or multiple substances, and how long has the abuse been occurring.  During the comprehensive intake process, addiction specialists will get to know each patient, including their entire medical history and lifestyle, to fully understand the reasoning behind their addiction, including why and how.

A psychological evaluation is also performed to assess a person’s mental state and history. Oftentimes, people with substance abuse may have also developed a mental disorder, such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. 

Mental health disorders often go undiagnosed which is not beneficial as mental health is a major risk factor and reasoning behind someone’s addiction problems. Evidence shows that people with substance abuse often have a mental disorder, and therefore, abuse drugs and alcohol to rid themselves of their symptoms or suffer from addiction because they have an undiagnosed underlying issue. When substance abuse and a mental disorder occur simultaneously, this is known as dual-diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. 

The detox process helps specialists get a full overview of a person’s life with addiction, making it easier to create an extensive treatment plan tailored to their specific needs. At Granite Mountain, we believe in treating the “whole” person.  Both substance abuse and mental disorders are treated separately, with the hopes of increasing the success rate of one’s recovery. 

Withdrawal 

Oftentimes, people who want to get help, but don’t know where to start, tend to begin by trying to self-detox, which ends up making matters worse, because it often is not done with the proper methods. Treatment for addiction, especially to drugs and alcohol is not an easy feat by any means, and therefore, requires professional help. Attempting to do it yourself can further health complications, especially during withdrawal.

In other words, while detox is seen as a beneficial process, it also comes with its downfalls. As mentioned above, during detox, substances, commonly drugs and alcohol, are abruptly being forced out of the body more unconventionally, and therefore, due to the body not being used to it, severe unpleasant physical side effects known as withdrawal symptoms occur as a result. These symptoms range from mild to severe, including: 

  • Sweats
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Stomach Pain / Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Lightheaded / Dizziness
  • Headaches

While withdrawal is known to be a necessary, but often brutal part of the detoxification process, it is necessary to prevent complications and manage these symptoms that follow the cessation of drugs and alcohol. 

Patients seeking to detox should not only seek professional treatment but should also be not afraid to talk about their mental health, and what they are feeling during this difficult process. This is easier said than done, as most people do not know that mental health is a crucial part of one’s health, especially during rehabilitation. 

Not only does receiving treatment and detoxing affect a person physically but also psychologically. The physical discomfort of withdrawal can be severe and in some instances, the anguish that is caused to one’s mental being can be too much for some people, resulting in the following: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia / Sleeplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Intense cravings 
  • Desire to relapse and use again

So, if you are experiencing mental anguish due to withdrawal, both medical and mental therapeutic support can significantly increase the chances of a successful recovery and reduce the risk of relapse and even death.

What is Medically-Assisted Treatment? 

It is important to note that detoxification is not a cure for addiction and substance abuse. That is why, after the detox process is complete in hopes to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, it is often recommended that people continued to be monitored and treated.

Aside from therapy and counseling, medications play a major part in the success of treatment for those with substance use disorders (SUD). A major part of addiction is attributed to a person craving their substance of choice. 

When specialists create a treatment plan to commonly treat opioid use disorder (OUD), alcohol use disorder (AUD), and drug addiction, they often factor in how to reduce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, but also how to tell a person’s brain and body that they will no longer be dependent on and crave these substances. This use of medications within treatment is called Medically-Assisted Treatment (MAT). Question is, what exactly is medically-assisted treatment? 

MAT is very similar to detoxification, as it aims to flush these addictive substances from the body. Although, instead of ridding the body of toxicity to mainly reduce withdrawal symptoms through medication, medically-assisted treatment combines the use of both medication, counseling, and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders. 

People are not commonly addicted to drugs and alcohol, but to opioids too. The abuse of prescription painkillers is on the rise and continues to be a widespread epidemic not only in the United States but worldwide. There are three medications commonly used during MAT to treat substance abuse. These anti-craving medications include: 

  • Methadone: This narcotic is used to treat severe pain. Those with addiction, especially opioid dependence. Used during drug addiction detoxification and maintenance programs,  methadone is taken orally or injected to block the pleasurable effects (euphoria) that these drugs cause. 
  • Naltrexone: For those who are addicted to opioids, such as heroin, and oxycodone, Naltrexone is either taken in pill form or injected. This drug works by blocking opioid receptor sites, and as a result, it reverses the toxic effects of an overdose. 
  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is a medication used during MAT that is a more potent and longer-lasting analgesic than morphine. It works by diminishing the effects of physical dependence on opioids, such as withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

As with any disease, the best way to diminish the number of people impacted by drug and alcohol abuse is through education and prevention. 

Benefits of Medically-Assisted Treatment

If a person practices abstinence but ends up relapsing after some time has passed, they are also at high risk of overdosing, because their body is not used to absorbing the same dosage or amount of drug. 

Research has proven that there is always a high risk of relapse during treatment for those suffering from addiction. However, for those receiving treatment with the help of medications, the risk, and probability of relapse greatly decreases. Additional benefits of medically-assisted treatment include: 

  • Expert symptom relief
  • Clean and safe
  • Professional medical help
  • A supportive and therapeutic environment
  • Increases abstinence from opioids 
  • Increases treatment retention 
  • Improves social functioning
  • Reduces the risk of overdose
  • Reduces withdrawal symptoms

Life After Treatment

The treatment journey for those suffering from addiction, especially substance use disorders, is never over. The saying “Once an addict, always an addict” rings true. While in treatment and after one leaves the facility to go to another one or home, it is just another phase in the process. 

As supportive as friends and family may be, trained professionals are the best option to treat addiction, and help with the unique physical and mental after-effects addiction sufferers may experience during or after detox. 

The importance of medical supervision during the beginning of treatment especially, can’t be stressed enough. Medically-assisted treatment (MAT) is known as the safest and best step individual suffering from addiction can take, in hopes to have any chance at recovering, and most importantly, saving their life. 

If you or someone you know requires detox, many facilities can provide the best possible detox options, including medically-assisted treatment.

By using medically-assisted treatment methods during recovery, as a means of opioid detox, during one’s recovery, this will reduce one’s risk of overdose, relapse, and most importantly, death. This support while in treatment is crucial, as these programs provide a source of comfort while adjusting to sober living.

Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare Can Help

Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare located in Prescott Valley, AZ, believes in the use of medically-assisted treatment. This method is best suited for our patients needing treatment for substance abuse, including addiction to alcohol and drugs such as opioids. Our mission is to help our patients throughout all stages of their recovery process, and beyond. 

Through MAT, we aim to achieve long-term sobriety, by treating our patients as a “whole” from beginning to end. In other words, we believe in patient-centered care and treating all aspects of addiction to end substance dependency and the control addiction has over people’s lives. 

By using this evidence-based treatment method involving medications in addition to therapy, has been proven to drastically reduce one’s risk of overdose, relapse, and most importantly, has saved lives. Most importantly, we provide the necessary resources to effectively teach someone how to cope and adjust to their newfound healthy lifestyle and maintain sobriety.  

Know you are not alone, and help is available! If you are ready to take back control over your life and become sober, contact us today at (877) 389-0412.

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Article Reviewed by Rob Heinrich, LPC

Rob Heinrich, LPCRob is our Clinical Director and brings years of various expertise to Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare. He graduated with a Masters in Counseling in 1992 from Denver Seminary and has decades of hands-on experience with providing treatment for substance abuse and eating disorders. Rob oversees the entire clinical team and treatment programming for our clients. He is also an active group therapist in our outpatient program.

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