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Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-Assisted Treatment for Addiction

One of the most promising ways to treat addiction involves the use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT programs use medication for alcohol and drug addiction to help treat the symptoms of withdrawal and cravings and to speed up the detox process. MAT works to make detox safer in many cases by preventing some of the life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that people can experience.

What Are Withdrawal and Detox?

When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it means that their brain has come to rely on having these substances in their system. When a person is addicted and stops using drugs or drinking, they will experience cravings to start using again in order to rebalance the chemicals in their brain. They will also experience a number of unpleasant side effects, called withdrawal symptoms, that can be physical or psychological in nature. 

The process of going through withdrawal in order to get all of the drugs or alcohol out of a person’s system is called detox, and it is often the first step in an addiction treatment program. Medication for addiction is used during MAT detox treatment in order to reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms. The two most common MAT detox programs in the U.S. today are used to treat alcohol and heroin addictions.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The withdrawal symptoms of 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
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Migraines
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia 
  • 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 five percent of all those addicted to alcohol when they 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. Detox can take an extended period of time and be very difficult to deal with when MAT is not a part of the treatment plan, which makes it far more likely that a person will relapse. Common medications for alcohol addiction include:


One of the most commonly used types of alcohol detox medications is benzodiazepines. They ease anxiety, depression, and other mental health-related side effects of alcohol withdrawal. They also prove effective at preventing seizures, which is especially important for people at risk of having DTs.


Naltrexone does not reduce withdrawal symptoms, but it does reduce cravings and prevents a person from getting intoxicated if they do drink. Drinking alcohol while taking naltrexone causes a person to experience a number of negative side effects that will make drinking very unpleasant. This often discourages them from drinking again and can help prevent relapse.


This medication works to help relieve withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, runny nose, and stomach cramps.

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 several medications for drug addiction available to heroin users in a MAT program. They offer varying benefits and some may be used together to boost relief from withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. The options include:


Methadone is a type of slow-release opioid that is commonly used as a medication for drug addiction detox. While not actually getting a person high, it tricks their brain into thinking that they are still using heroin, which stops the withdrawal symptoms. The biggest downside to methadone is that the person must be weaned off it in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms from reappearing. This process can take months or years, depending on the individual. 


This medication is used to treat opioid addiction. It has the same effect as methadone and is also used as a long-term solution to help prevent relapse. Buprenorphine produces low to moderate feelings of euphoria that help trick the body into feeling it is using heroin. 


Clonidine helps relieve heroin addiction withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, runny nose, and stomach problems. Usage of this medication can help reduce the amount of time spent in detox.


Naltrexone reduces heroin cravings and blocks the opioid receptors in the brain. A person who takes heroin while on naltrexone will not get high. They will experience withdrawal symptoms for a short period of time, making them more likely to avoid using heroin again. Naltrexone is non-addictive and does not require weaning to get off it when a person stops taking it.

Medication-Assisted Programming in Nashville

When it comes to treating heroin or alcohol addiction, MAT is a very effective option. We combine MAT with other proven addiction treatments, like behavioral therapy, in order to help you detox safely with fewer withdrawal symptoms. Contact Brentwood Springs Detox in Nashville and find out how our MAT program can help you find the path to lasting sobriety. Call us today at 615-560-7545.