A Mini-Guide for Easing Off of Medication-Assisted Treatment

Published On: August 17, 20224.3 min read858 wordsCategories: Detox

Medication-assisted treatment has long been one of the most commonly used and proven-to-be-effective ways to help someone detox from a substance use disorder.

Most of us are familiar with this treatment method because, as its name implies, MAT pairs prescriptions with some form of therapy to help people along their recoveries.

Today we’re going to share with you our best tips for weaning off of medication-assisted treatment.

What is MAT?

Medication-assisted treatment — commonly known as MAT — is when medications are used in addition to counseling and behavioral therapies to help someone recover from a substance use disorder.

MAT provides short or long-term relief for someone who is actively going through opioid or alcohol withdrawals. The medications used for MAT sometimes have the potential to be addictive themselves due to their strength and effectiveness.

When it’s time to begin weaning off of MAT, it’s important to have a plan in place so you can avoid replacing one addiction with another, and set yourself up for the smoothest adjustment into full sobriety.

How to plan for the transition

Regardless of whether you’ve been on MAT for only a few months or much longer, you will most likely experience some level of withdrawal. The severity of discomfort varies per person, but it’s something you want to mentally prepare yourself for, so you can know how to combat them if and when the withdrawal symptoms hit.

Your treatment provider is supposed to fully inform you of any potential side effects of both taking and easing off of medication, but the conversation is not always as thorough or clearly explained to truly give you an idea of what to expect (tip: ask questions!).

Your treatment provider can give you all of the details of the specific medication you’re on, and enable you to prepare yourself for any potential symptoms that may arise. 

In addition, you can reach out to any employer, friends or family (anyone who might be directly effected by your transition) to not only build a support system for yourself, but also help them better understand any challenges or behavioral changes you might be soon experiencing.

It’s okay to taper, and not quit “cold turkey”

In fact, many physicians — especially in reference to certain medications — will advise against quitting MAT cold turkey, due to the potential adverse reactions your body may have.

If you’ve only been on MAT for a few weeks, chances are you’ll experience some minor uncomofortable withdrawals, but nothing extreme. If you’ve been on MAT for several months or longer, however, quitting a substance your body has been relying on for so long can lead your body to go into more severe withdrawals, and even cause you to become temporarily unwell.

In most cases, the safest, healthiest way to shift your body into total sobriety is to taper off of medication-assisted treatment, rather than quit cold turkey.

Be mindful of when you start

Coming off of a medication can be difficult, making it a challenge to manage or be present to other people and situations while you’re going through this experience.

As exciting as it is to be given the news you no longer need to be on MAT, before jumping in, take a day to honestly look at what’s going on in your life right now. If possible, try to plan your start date to be after any big activities, events or changes have happened.

There’s rarely a “perfect” time to begin easing off of a medication, but you might be able to find a time where it might be easier and less stressful.

Create a tapering plan

Exactly how you reduce your medication intake is going to vary based off of why you initially started taking the medication, your individual circumstances, as well as the type of medication. 

Speak with your treatment provider about creating a tapering plan. They will help you create a timeframe and a safe dosage plan to gradually reduce your medication intake, until you are fully weaned off of it.

Be gentle with yourself

We know how ready you are to just be done with all of this, but it is a process, one that’s designed to help you achieve the long-term sobriety you’re working so hard for.

You might find yourself getting frustrated or impatient, and then be tempted to try and rush the process, but that can be dangerous. Instead, take a deep breath, give yourself permission to slow down and “follow the yellow brick road”, and be gentle with yourself along the way.

Reach out for professional help

It can be overwhelming to enter a new phase of recovery (like easing off of MAT) in the midst of everything else in your life, so we’re here to make the transition as easy as possible for you.

Our team at Freedom Detox is passionate about helping you reclaim your healthiest, happiest sober life, and we offer multiple treatment plans to help you do so.

To learn more about how we can help you on your journey to sobriety, call us today at 800-475-2312.

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