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Benefits of Medication Assisted Treatment in Drug Detox

Detoxification, alone, is not a treatment for drug seeking behaviors, nor, is it sufficient in helping addicts to achieve long term abstinence from drugs. It is, however, the first stage of achieving abstinence and prepares the way for other treatment modalities that can help the person control the compulsive behaviors associated with drug addiction and prevent relapse.

Medication assisted treatment in drug detox is an acceptable means of alleviating severe withdrawal symptoms, inducing comfort for treatment retention, and preventing physical or psychological complications that hinder the progress or lead to dangerous consequences.

Managing Withdrawal Symptoms in Drug Detox

While the withdrawal process can be quite unpleasant and painful, it is ordinarily not life threatening. That doesn’t mean that complications won’t arise, either as a result of underlying conditions, or as a result of the distress the person is going through.

Withdrawals from drugs usually present the opposite symptoms of their intoxicating effects and while most psychoactive substances can cause common symptoms of cravings and anxiety over discontinuing their use, different drugs present different symptoms. The symptoms will also vary in intensity and severity by the person’s level of physical or psychological dependence, the duration and patterns of use, co-occurring substance abuse, or underlying health issues.


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Medication helps to manage symptoms of drug detox.

Safety is the first benefit of medication assisted treatment in drug detox. Under careful observation, clinicians must be able to determine whether the use of medication for management of withdrawal symptoms outweighs the risks of not using them.

During the initial assessment, an intake counselor tries to gain an understanding of what can be expected during the detox process including previous withdrawal attempts and the nature of the person’s addiction including their fears, need, and goals toward recovery. Current substance levels, IV use, medical or psychological histories are all helpful in determining the level of medical interventions that may be necessary including the best medications to use for detox treatment.


According to the Institute of Medicine, ” Comfort, the avoidance of seizures (the most common cause of fatalities), screening and treatment of infections and other medical problems, and the achievement of a condition in which withdrawal distress is not evident are and should be the primary goals of detoxification.”

As often occurs, an effective management of withdrawals includes medication assistance to keep the person comfortable to retain them in the treatment through completion as well as ensuring safety throughout the process.

Relief of Cravings and Withdrawal Symptoms

Anxiety, depression, cravings, nausea, pain, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, psychological disorders, and poor physical health are all concerning issues when it comes to withdrawing from drugs.

Over the counter medications can be used to alleviate a few of the withdrawal symptoms to keep the person as comforted as possible. The rest relies on the professional knowledge of those who know what type of medications can be used safely, when, and how helpful they will be.

Benzodiazepines such as lorazepam and clonazepam may be used in cases of severe anxiety, stimulant psychosis, or to prevent seizures which are the most common causes of fatalities in alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Psychotic medications may be used when a person has psychological issues such as schizophrenic type behaviors that pose potential harm to themselves or others.

Physicans may alsoprovide medications that work through the same receptors as the primary drug of dependence, but are safer to use, to reduce cravings and withdrawals during the acute phase of detox. In the case of opioid addictions, methadone or buprenorphine may be used for the length of time necessary to stabilize the person while blocking the effects of other opioids and deterring their abuse.

Improved Health

Drugs of abuse always have an influence on the neurotransmitter activities within the brain and central nervous system that can cause physical as well as psychological disorders from repeat disruptions. Medication assisted treatment in drug detox can help to balance these activities while they are restored to their normal states of functioning.

Drug addiction compromises the person’s physical health through poor eating, sleeping, and hygiene habits, as well as the unhealthy behaviors of the drug abuse itself. Normal physiological processes rely on both physical and psychological good health and if a person is unwell in one area it can drastically affect another.

Using medications to relieve stress, anxiety, depression, cravings, and the myriad of other withdrawal symptoms can result not only in improved health, but, also motivate the person to want to be healthier.


According to the Institute of Medicine (US), “The key to completing detoxification successfully is compliance with the detox protocol: taking medication in prescribed amounts and schedules and avoiding intervening use of the drug on which the client is dependent and any other nonprescribed drugs.”

Medication assistance can help the person stay in recovery and no matter how long it takes to detox from the drugs, these are the beginning components critical in maintaining abstinence for the long term. People who discontinue medication assisted treatment in drug detox prematurely, risk overdose when they relapse using the dosages they had used before treatment because the drug tolerance has been decreased

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