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What Is Medication Assisted Detox and Does It Work for Prescriptions?

No matter how dedicated a person is to recovery, withdrawals make the process extremely difficult. Medication assisted detox is one way for those suffering from addiction to find the relief they need and hope to continue with the detoxification process.

What Is Medication Assisted Treatment?

Medication assisted addiction treatment, or MAT, is a combination of FDA-approved medication, counseling and therapies to treat addictions to alcohol and drugs.


Not every patient is an ideal candidate for MAT. Some factors that determine eligibility include:

  • Medical history
  • Treatment experiences
  • Previous medication compliance

MAT for Mental Health and the Benefits of MAT

MAT is ideal for long-term mental health and a smooth recovery process. Depending on the abused substance, the benefits may vary. Some of the general benefits of MAT are:

  • Reduction of cravings
  • Reduction of withdrawal symptoms
  • Decrease of relapse risk
  • Eliminates need for hospitalization

Types of MAT for Prescription Addiction

Different types of MAT are used to combat different forms of substance abuse. The medications specifically used in MAT to combat prescription addictions are buprenorphine and naltrexone. Buprenorphine is a medication approved by the FDA that blocks other addictive narcotics, while leaving behind reduced symptoms and allowing the patient to deal with other aspects of MAT, such as therapy. The most common consumption of buprenorphine is in the form of Suboxone, a film that dissolves under the tongue.

Naltrexone is a non-addictive, FDA-approved drug that blocks the euphoric effects of painkillers and heroin by blocking opioid receptors. This action reduces cravings to support recovery from prescription medications. Naltrexone is mostly consumed as a daily pill while its counterpart, Vivitrol, is a monthly injection.

Cause of Prescription Addiction

MAT is often used for prescription medication addiction. One of the biggest causes of medication addiction is polypharmacy. Polypharmacy is the practice where multiple psychiatric medications of dubious quality are prescribed at once to deal with a patient’s symptoms. This practice often leads to dependence on opioids and other addictive medications.

Controversy Over Use of MAT

The use of MAT to treat addictions has not gone without some controversy within the healthcare community. Some skeptics have argued that MAT functions as merely a substitute for other prescription drugs. Detractors also worry that MAT can leave individuals open to further addictions. There is also disagreement on whether medical marijuana is a viable option for medication assisted treatment.

Marijuana as MAT

In recent years, the use of marijuana as a means to detox from prescription medication has gained support among healthcare providers, as well as more controversy from advocates of traditional methods of MAT.

Opposition to the use of medicinal cannabis as a form of MAT argues that marijuana essentially acts as a substitute to other drugs and that it can lead to vulnerable patients adopting other addictions. These arguments resemble those of MAT detractors that are concerned with the use of medication to fight medication addiction.

Additionally, opponents of marijuana as a MAT have cited studies that suggest marijuana users are more likely to develop painkiller addictions and are placed in increased risk of IQ loss and psychotic disorders.

The benefits of marijuana for treating medication addiction are mostly the same benefits it is used for in other treatments. Marijuana is generally used to counteract chronic pain and the aftermath of chemotherapy treatments such as nausea and vomiting. When it comes to combating the effects of medication addiction withdrawal, marijuana is reported to have the following benefits:

  • Anxiety relief
  • Appetite gain
  • Reduction of cravings
  • Reduction of chronic pain
  • Relatively affordable

By eliminating the physical and financial anguish from the recovery process, as well as the use of other MAT medications, patients can focus on other aspects of MAT, like counseling and how to embrace a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Marijuana’s Relative Danger to Other Drugs

An additional benefit to marijuana as treatment for prescription addiction is the lack of dangerous side effects in comparison with other drugs. Even if a patient’s use of marijuana continued after MAT, the risks associated with many drugs, such as fatal overdose, hepatitis C, and other complications are less significant.

Legal Status of Marijuana in New York

The support of marijuana use for MAT has grown to the point where the state of New York is allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, specifically to substitute or combat the use of opioids. According to Dr. Howard Zucker, the state-sponsored study showed that marijuana reduces the use of opioids or other addictive medications. The Department of Health will create new regulations to allow patients the option. Currently, New York allows the use of medicinal marijuana for 12 conditions including HIV, arthritis, and cancer.

Resources and Help

For further assistance regarding MAT programs and prescription addictions, please contact Fifth Avenue Psychiatry by calling (212-734-0506), filling out a contact form, or visiting the facility. We understand the challenges of detox – both medically and emotionally – and we can help you or your loved one on the path to recovery.

Samuel Glazer, MD

Samuel Glazer, MD

Samuel Glazer, MD, a psychiatrist nationally known for his work with addicted executives and professionals, began his private practice in 1998. Dr Glazer has been recognized as a Castle Connolly Top Doctor since 2015, and was recently featured in New York Magazine’s Best Doctors issue. He is a Board Certified Psychiatrist and Addiction Psychiatrist, and is a Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

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