Medication Assisted Detox


Using medication assisted detox to overcome drug or alcohol dependence.

Most people who go through detox treatment require at least some sort of medication assistance in order to safely navigate their withdrawal symptoms. This can make one’s symptoms less intense as well as less dangerous, and the entire experience of detox is often much less traumatic with the help of medication. Most professional detox centers offer medication assisted detox.

If you are looking for a detox facility near you that offers this form of care, we will be happy to help you.

Just call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) today to find the detox facilities in your area.

What Is Medication Assisted Detox?

Medication assisted detox is a kind of detox program that provides a patient with doctor-prescribed medications during withdrawal. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is meant to manage the physical symptoms of withdrawal, although medications may sometimes be used to manage psychological withdrawal symptoms as well.

Sadly, many people do not understand how necessary medication can be during detox. Some even believe it is the same as swapping one addiction for another. The truth is the withdrawal symptoms associated with some syndromes are life-threatening and require pharmacological treatment, while others can just be needlessly painful. This is why it is so important to seek medication assisted detox for a safe recovery.

How Does Medication Help a Person During Detox?

When a person is going through withdrawal, symptoms can be anywhere from uncomfortable to life-threatening, depending on the severity of the individual’s dependence, the drug of abuse, and other factors. Medications can help ease symptoms as well as protect the individual from any dangerous ones.

In addition, making withdrawal less intense minimizes one’s chance of relapse during this all-important phase of recovery. People who detox at home without the help of medication are much more likely to relapse. This is an extremely dangerous time to do so as well, since many individuals do not realize their tolerance levels have lessened during withdrawal, causing them to overdose if they do return to drug abuse suddenly.

Different drugs of abuse have different withdrawal symptoms, and therefore, different medications may or may not be required for safe treatment.


When a person goes through opioid withdrawal, drugs like methadone or buprenorphine might be used to minimize symptoms and curb cravings. Clonidine is sometimes used to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms as well, although it cannot treat cravings or gastrointestinal issues like nausea and vomiting.

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Several different medication options may be utilized during detox for alcohol withdrawal. When a person undergoes an intense and life-threatening syndrome like delirium tremens, they may need to be sedated for the entirety of their withdrawal. For this, benzodiazepine drugs are used. Acamprosate may be used to treat long-term withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, dysphoria, and restlessness (NIDA).


Most people on benzodiazepines need to be weaned off these drugs slowly, so medications will be administered in smaller and smaller increments during withdrawal. This is because benzodiazepine withdrawal can be highly dangerous and cause hallucinations, delirium, and other intense symptoms.


Heroin withdrawal is often treated with methadone like prescription opioids. The individual may be maintained or weaned off the drug during detox. According to the NIDA, those addicted to heroin or opioids are more like to stay in treatment and avoid relapse when they use maintenance medications.


Currently, there are no medications expressly approved to treat marijuana withdrawal, but certain drugs like zolpidem, gabapentin, and others may be used to treat the insomnia commonly associated with quitting the drug.


Cocaine, amphetamines, and other stimulants all can have dangerous and unpredictable withdrawal symptoms. Often, patients experience a form of drug-induced psychosis early on in withdrawal, especially those addicted to meth, amphetamines, and cocaine. This may need to be treated with antipsychotic medications. Also, many individuals in detox for stimulant abuse need the help of antidepressants because of the severe depressive symptoms associated with withdrawal (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs).

In addition, a person going through detox may need to be treated for co-occurring mental disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. These issues can be treated with medications and behavioral therapy interventions. It can be helpful to begin these treatment regimens during detox so the individual will be comfortable with them during rehab. However, doctors who prescribe multiple medications during detox must ensure that none counteract poorly with the others.

Maintenance vs. Tapering

Especially in the case of opioid withdrawal, patients and their doctors must decide together whether the individual should stay maintained on drugs like buprenorphine or methadone or be tapered them off in medically assisted withdrawal. Some individuals choose to stay on these medications for years, which can be helpful during recovery. This is a beneficial option for those with heroin addictions or other severe, long-term opioid addictions. Others may not want to stay on one of these medications and may choose for their dosage to be tapered off slowly.

Certain other withdrawal syndromes require tapering as well. For example, benzodiazepine addicts will need to be tapered off the drug or a similar drug during withdrawal because of the intense and dangerous symptoms the detox syndrome can produce. The important thing to remember is each individual is different and will require a different dosage, regimen, and timeline during medication assisted detox.

What Happens After Medication Assisted Detox?

After you finish your detox treatment, you will need to attend rehab. This is necessary because detox is not a recovery program for addiction when used on its own. As stated previously, many individuals may need to stay on a medication, like methadone or antidepressants, after their official detox program has ended, while others may be weaned off the medications used during the program.

Find Safe, Medical Detox Centers Today

Detox centers that offer medication as well as safe, well-rounded care are available near you. We can help you find a program for your withdrawal, including the facilities that will accept your insurance plan. Call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) today to begin your journey of recovery.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: What Science Says- 8: Medical Detoxification.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Heroin- What Are the Treatments for Heroin Use Disorder?
  4. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs-Adapted or excerpted from: The Textbook of Substance Abuse Treatment, second edition. Editors: Marc Galanter, MD and Herbert D Kleber, MD. (n.d.). Treatment of Acute Intoxication and Withdrawal from Drug of Abuse- Stimulants (Cocaine and Amphetamines). 
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