What is Methadone?
Methadone, a Schedule II substance, has a high potential for abuse. It is a legal drug used to treat narcotic addictions to heroin or other opiates. It is a synthetic substance to help ease pain especially those in end-of-life situations. Methadone is produced in pill, oral solution, or injection form. All Schedule II drugs are heavily restricted. Sometimes, those who use Methadone to break a narcotic addiction, simply replace it with a Methadone addiction; but it is indisputable that methadone has helped many Heroin addicts return to living healthy productive lives. Today, there are other drugs that can be successfully used to break opioid addiction without resorting to methadone.
The slow acting action of methadone prevents people from experiencing a quick high. In reality, though methadone has been used to wean people of opiates, there is new evidence that demonstrates negative long-term effects on the brain from the long-term use of methadone. Newer drugs are more effective in weaning people off of opiates and they do not have to be used long-term. They act differently upon the brain’s receptors.
Despite this, increasing numbers of individuals are turning to the illegal use of methadone. While methadone has been used to help those addicted to narcotics, it is highly addictive when not used under a physician’s directions. It comes in white crystalline powder that can be dissolved in liquid. Indeed, it is associated with an increase in the number of overdose deaths.
How Does Methadone Work?
Methadone is a drug that binds to the opioid receptors in the brain and the body known as an agonist. Unlike heroin and other opiates, methadone does not produce a high. It does not maintain high levels of dopamine outside the neurons. When taken, methadone is broken down in the liver into a metabolite form that the body can use. Larger amounts continued to be stored in the liver and slowly released into the blood- stream. Unlike other drugs, it does not cause intoxication or sedation. It successfully provides relief of cravings and withdrawal symptoms. A single dose can help an addict stay free of cravings for 24 hours. However, the body does build a tolerance for methadone and withdrawal symptoms will begin as the dose wears off.
Those who take methadone illegally will not experience the high or the rush of heroin or oxytocin. Instead, they are easily led to increase the dosage to achieve the high. It is easy to overdose on methadone when it is taken to get high.
Signs and Symptoms of Methadone Addiction
The signs of addiction to methadone are similar to other opiates. These include:
- Muscle weakness
- Irregular breathing
- Irregular heart beat
- Skin rashes
- Difficulty urinating
- Severe constipation
- Bleeding gums
Signs and Symptoms of Methadone Withdrawal
A person taking methadone under a physician’s care, who wishes to stop the methadone use, will move through a tapering off process. In this way, the withdrawal symptoms are greatly reduced as are the cravings. A person who suddenly stops taking the drug will go into severe intense withdrawal symptoms. These include:
- Tearing eyes
- Mood changes
- Clammy skin
- Swelling of the extremities
The symptoms of methadone withdrawal can last long after the drug is no longer consumed. Methadone has a long half-life; it remains in the body for long periods of time.
Detox and Treatment for Methadone Addiction
There is no disagreement on detoxing from methadone. The process should be slow and closely monitored. The pain associated with detoxing from methadone can be intense. Opioid detox may not be life threatening, but it is always difficult, painful and psychologically challenging. A detox designed by an addiction physician can help ease the pain and discomfort. Such a detox should also remove all drugs not medically needed. To determine what your individual needs may be, an in-depth psycho/bio/social assessment must be carefully conducted. Remember, you do not want to shift addictions from one drug to the next, nor do you want to leave any mental health disorders unattended. Finally, detox is the process of removing toxins from the body. It is NOT treatment. Underlying addictions and mental health disorders that contributed to using remain intact. That means once detox is over, you will more than likely return to using drugs and alcohol.
Treatment Alternatives believes addressing addiction requires attention to the whole person. Everything from childhood trauma to poor decision making must be examined. Ongoing evaluations must be done regularly. Treatment plans must address mental health disorders, physical disorders, medical conditions, and addictive behaviors and thinking. Only comprehensive addiction treatment program that are multidisciplinary in approach can accomplish this. Treatment Alternatives has received the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal. We are proud of that accomplish and continue to offer the finest in substance abuse treatment.
Don’t settle for being a slave to methadone. Don’t settle for being a slave to any drug. Get the help you need and deserve.