How Does MAT Help with Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms?
August 9, 2019
More people are getting sober than ever before, which is not only great for them, but beneficial in breaking down the negative stigma of seeking professional help for a substance use disorder.
Professional addiction treatment for people addicted to powerful substances like opioids, cocaine, prescription drugs, and meth is the most effective form of treating a substance use disorder. Studies have suggested that in-depth therapy (and sometimes medication) is the best treatment approach for this disease.
Depending on the type of substance someone is addicted to, the course of care varies. People who are dependent on opioids tend to participate in therapy as well as incorporate medication into their treatment plan. When both medication and therapy are being used to treat opioid addiction, it is known as Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT.
MAT is one of the most popular approaches to treating opioid addiction in the country. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved certain medications to be used within these programs, all of which are beneficial in different ways.
What Medications are Used in MAT?
The medications used in MAT are designed to help opioid users end their dependence and begin rebuilding a life free of drug abuse. These medications include buprenorphine, naloxone, methadone, and naltrexone. Suboxone, for instance, contains both buprenorphine and naloxone.
Both buprenorphine and methadone are medications that can help ease the severity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Each medication binds to opioid receptors in the brain to keep the body from feeling the shock of opioid withdrawal.
When the body senses that there is no incoming of opioids, it produces withdrawal symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, chills, sweats, fever, runny nose, watery eyes, anxiety, and depression, all of which can last for several days to a week or longer. Because both buprenorphine and methadone are opioid-based, the body doesn’t feel the need to go into full-blown withdrawal, making the period of detox easier to manage.
Naltrexone is different from buprenorphine and methadone, as it is not a medication that manages withdrawal symptoms. Instead, naltrexone (which can either be taken orally or intravenously) works to prevent cravings from occurring. This medication is not magical—it cannot completely erase cravings and the feelings that come with them—but it can make them easier to handle.
If a person is going to include naltrexone into his or her MAT, he or she must be fully detoxed from opioids prior to starting, as doing so while still experiencing these symptoms can just trigger them more.
These medications are not only effective in curbing cravings and decreasing the strength of withdrawal symptoms, they also do a great service to those in recovery by helping to treat post-acute withdrawal symptoms.
How Can MAT Help with Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms?
Most withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid use disorder last anywhere from a few days to a week or more. This time can be extremely upsetting and painful, though it is usually over quickly.
Unfortunately, many people continue to struggle with some withdrawal symptoms long after the initial detox period is over. These symptoms are known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS).
PAWS are triggered by a number of different factors. Typically, they are tied to changes that have occurred in the brain during the time one spent abusing addictive substances. It is also possible that PAWS can be caused by previous mental illness and the length and severity of one’s use. While such symptoms vary based on the type of substance that was abused, they often include the following:
- Mood swings
- Pervasive sadness
- Problems concentrating
- Difficulty with cognitive skills such as memory recall or problem solving
- Feeling in a “fog”
- Lack of energy
- Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
- Powerful cravings
MAT can significantly reduce these symptoms, especially if they occur after detox has been completed. A few ways in which MAT can address PAWS include the following:
- Reduce cravings. All medications approved for use in opioid addiction treatment programs can dramatically reduce the presence of cravings. This is a huge benefit, as many people who do not utilize MAT often give in to their cravings and end up back at square one again.
- Address mental illness. MAT works to minimize the physical impacts of ending opioid use so that individuals can focus on the psychological aspects that need attention. While medications work to handle the physical parts of recovery, therapy can work to address any mental illnesses in a client that were either never previously addressed or have been caused by the opioid abuse.
- Decrease psychological symptoms. Some medications, like methadone and buprenorphine, can help minimize withdrawal symptoms from the outset. This therapy can continue past the stage of detox to help continue to reduce PAWS. MAT does not completely erase these symptoms, but, with the presence of medication, it can work to ease remaining symptoms.
Just because someone is participating in MAT does not mean that he or she cannot experience PAWS. To put it simply, when enrolled in MAT and when these symptoms develop, a client has greater chances of overcoming these symptoms because of the assistance that is received through this treatment.
Get Professional Addiction Treatment at JourneyPure Franklin Right Now
If you are struggling with a substance use disorder and do not know where to go or what to do, reach out to us at JourneyPure Franklin now. We can help you get started on the road to recovery.
Michelle Rosenker is a content writer for JourneyPure where she gets to exercise her journalistic skills by working with different addiction treatment centers nationwide. She has 10 years of experience in the field of addiction treatment and mental health and has written content for some of the country’s most prominent treatment centers and behavioral hospitals. Through her writing, Michelle is proud to continually raise awareness about the disease of addiction and share hope for the future. She lives next to the ocean in Massachusetts with her husband, two young children, and faithful dog.