Medical Detox vs. MAT Treatment

Medical Detox vs. MAT Treatment - The Difference and Similarities

Are you or a loved one suffering from substance use disorder? Getting help for this disorder can be empowering and yet also very challenging.

In most cases, users hesitate in taking steps to work on their addiction problems because they are afraid of any withdrawal symptoms and cravings that they’ll experience. It is truly an overwhelming experience which is why it is essential to ensure you make the right decisions for yourself and understand every step involved in your treatment, including details of medical detox vs. MAT treatment.

Since the brain functions differently due to addiction, it needs to go through a detox that will help in managing the withdrawal symptoms and then progress towards controlling and managing cravings. These can last for a long time.

Patients are often confused about medical detox and MAT treatment. For starters, the first thing to understand is that medical detox helps in the early stages of intervention, while MAT treatment can be utilized during other phases and also focuses on cravings.

Let’s continue and discuss medical treatment vs. MAT treatment and how they are different or similar to each other.

Medical Detox vs. MAT Treatment

Let’s tackle the individual treatments to gain a better understanding of both medical detox vs. MAT treatment:

Medical Detox

Medical detoxification is the first step toward rewiring the brain. It cleanses the body and mind of the patient. It is essential to remember that this is not a standalone treatment and is part of a complete process. Many people make the mistake of trying a self-detox which may lead to more substance use because of unsupervised detoxification.

Here is how the process unfolds:

Evaluation – In order to develop a plan, a complete evaluation takes place, which helps determine the physical and psychological health of the patient. This step helps evaluate the needs of the patient and the intensity required to carry out the treatment.

Stabilization – During this step, the patient is given support through the involvement of their family and friends. They are given complete details of the process of detoxification. Typically, healthcare professionals use medical assistance in order to restore balance to the individual’s body.

Cultivating Readiness – Medical detox aims to initiate substance use disorder treatment, and the patient is advised to explore further recovery plans like in-patient services or intensive hospitalization. There are several options available that the patient or their family should choose based on the recommendation of professionals and the patient’s need. Furthermore, medical detox does not deal with the underlying psychological issues that led to substance use, which is why it is essential to progress towards further treatment.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

In contrast, MAT is a broader treatment program that deals with restoring the chemical imbalance due to substance use and then progresses with further treatment based on counseling and behavior therapies. During this process, healthcare professionals use controlled medication to treat opioid addiction and alcohol dependence. In MAT, two separate treatment programs are also offered to deal effectively with substance use disorder.

The two programs are the opiate treatment program and the alcohol dependence treatment program. Both programs are offered as per the need of the person.


Even people think that medical detox and MAT are both similar programs. In reality, they are not the same because they have different purposes and are used during different phases of treatment.

Medical detox takes place in the initial stage, while MAT is a more extended treatment that also focuses on recovery, unlike medical detox.

The purpose of medical detox is to:

  • Cleanse the body and brain of the intoxication
  • Restore the natural balance in the body
  • Advice and prepare for further treatment

In comparison, the purpose of MAT is:

  • Manage the withdrawal effects of opioids and alcohol
  • Managing cravings for substance use
  • Working alongside counseling and therapies to manage the complete recovery of the individual

Now let’s analyze the similarities in medical detox vs. MAT treatment


The main similarity between the two is that both use medication that has been approved by the FDA. A number of different medicines are used in order to manage detoxification. Most individuals have substance use disorder for a long time until their family intervenes or they finally take the decision to get treatment.

Over time, their brain’s chemistry becomes highly unstable and totally dependent upon the substance. Thus, when they finally stop substance use, they go through withdrawal symptoms which is a very challenging period.

In order to calm the individual and make this process more comfortable for them, the healthcare professionals administer medicines that are FDA approved. Keeping their substance use in mind, the professionals use controlled medication that helps with their withdrawal symptoms and detoxification.

Furthermore, there are several withdrawal symptoms that are common during both processes such as:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irregular breathing
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in breathing
  • Depression
  • Low tolerance

All symptoms are dependent on how long the substance use disorder lasted and which substance was used. Furthermore, it also depends on the willingness of the individual. Often some patients handle withdrawal symptoms very well due to their willingness to get treatment and work on their recovery in order to bring balance to their body and life.


When an individual is going through substance use disorder, they are not suffering alone. Their friends and family are on the same boat as them and have spent countless sleepless nights thinking about the well-being of their loved ones. Of course, not all individuals are fortunate enough to get treatment for their disorder. Hence if you are lucky enough to get this opportunity, it is essential to understand how it works and what you will be going through during the process. This will help prepare your mind and work towards recovery.

Additionally, you must remember that medical detox and MAT are two different treatments that are a part of the detoxification process at different stages. They are both used for treatment and recovery but in different ways. Your healthcare provider will give you complete detail about the plan they will follow after your evaluation is completed.