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Medication-Assisted Programming

Medication-Assisted Programming for Addiction

With the prevalence of addiction only continuing to increase over the last few decades, scientists have spent countless hours researching new methods to treat addiction. One of the most promising has been medication-assisted treatment, or MAT. An MAT program utilizes medication for drug addiction to help treat the symptoms of withdrawal and drug cravings and to speed up the detox process. In some cases, MAT works to make detox safer by preventing some life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that people can experience.

What is Withdrawal and Detox?

When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, this means that their brain is used to having these substances in their system. It also means that you will crave drugs or alcohol in order to rebalance the chemicals in your brain and make you feel better. When you are addicted and stop using drugs or drinking, you will experience a number of unpleasant side effects. These side effects, called withdrawal, can be physical or psychological. The process of going through withdrawal in order to get all of the drugs or alcohol out of your system is called detox, and it is often the first step in an addiction treatment program. Medication for drug addiction is used during MAT detox treatment in order to make withdrawal symptoms easier to deal with. The two most common MAT detox programs in the U.S. today are for alcohol and heroin addictions.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The withdrawal symptoms for an alcohol addiction can affect you both physically and mentally. They can last for a few weeks, or up to a few months if your addiction is extremely severe or if your withdrawal symptoms are not properly treated. The most common alcohol detox symptoms are:

  • Depression or Thoughts of Suicide
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Migraines
  • Mood Swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Severe Insomnia or Nightmares
  • Tremors

People with very long-term and severe alcohol addictions are also at risk of experiencing delirium tremens, or DTs. This is a very serious type of withdrawal that affects about 5 percent of all alcohol addicts who attempt to quit drinking. The symptoms can include severe confusion, delusions, hallucinations, agitation, and seizures, which can be life-threatening.

Alcohol Withdrawal Medications

Medication for alcohol addiction works by reducing withdrawal symptoms, which is especially important for people at risk of experiencing DTs. Without MAT treatment, detox can take an extended period of time and be very difficult to deal with, which makes it far more likely that you will relapse. Common medications for alcohol addiction include:


Also called benzos, this is one of the most commonly used alcohol detox medications. It helps you relax, and also eases anxiety, depression, and other mental health-related side effects of alcohol withdrawal. It is also effective at preventing seizures, which is especially important for people at risk of having DTs.


Naltrexone can also be used as an alcohol detox medication. It does not reduce withdrawal symptoms, but it does reduce cravings and prevent you from getting intoxicated if you do drink. If you do drink while taking naltrexone, you will experience a number of different negative side effects that will make drinking very unpleasant, which can help prevent relapse.


Unlike the two previous heroin detox medication options, clonidine is not a type of opioid. Instead, this medication works to help relieve certain withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, runny nose, and stomach cramps. It does not help reduce heroin cravings.


Another option for heroin detox medications is naltrexone. This medication works to reduce heroin cravings by blocking the opioid receptors in your brain. This means that, if you do relapse and take heroin, you will not get high. You will, however, experience withdrawal symptoms for a short period of time, which can help people from relapsing. And unlike methadone and buprenorphine, naltrexone does not carry a risk of dependency. It is best suited to people who have not been to heroin detox before.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin detox is very rarely life-threatening, but has some of the most unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Medication for drug addiction treatment for heroin addicts helps to significantly reduce these symptoms and make the detox process more comfortable. The most common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle Aches
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness?
  • Runny Nose
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Vomiting

Heroin Withdrawal Medications

There are a few different medications for drug addiction available to heroin users in a MAT program. Each is a little different, but some may be used together to boost relief from withdrawal and reduce cravings. The options include:


Methadone is a type of slow-release opioid that does not get a user high, so it is very commonly used as a medication for drug addiction detox. It tricks your brain into thinking that you are still using heroin, which stops withdrawal symptoms. The biggest downside to methadone as a medication for drug addiction is that you must be weaned off of it in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms from reappearing. This process can take months or years depending on the individual. It does, however, help enormously in getting people back on track to a normal, heroin-free life.


This is an even less potent opioid option used as a medication for drug addiction. It has the same effect as methadone, and is also used as a long-term solution to help prevent relapse.


Clonidine is not used to relieve cravings; instead, this medication for drug addiction treatment works to help relieve certain withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, runny nose, and stomach problems.


Naltrexone is used as a medication for drug addiction because it reduces heroin cravings and blocks the opioid receptors in your brain. This means that if you take heroin while on naltrexone, you will not get high. Instead, you will feel intense withdrawal symptoms for a short period of time. This can be very helpful in preventing relapse. It is also non-addictive, and does not require weaning to get off of it when you are ready.

Medication-Assisted Programming in Nashville

When it comes to treating a serious heroin or alcohol addiction, MAT is a very effective option. In combination with other addiction treatments, like behavioral therapy, rehab facilities are able to help you to detox safely with fewer withdrawal symptoms, and find the path to lasting sobriety. At Brentwood Springs Detox in Nashville, Tennessee, we offer medication-assisted programming to those struggling with drug addiction and alcohol addiction. Call us today at (615) 560 7545.