What Is Methadone?
Methadone is a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is best-known for its use in helping people overcome or manage their addiction to heroin, morphine, or other opioid pain medications. Available in liquid, tablet, powder, and wafer form, methadone is highly regulated and requires a prescription and, usually, a doctor’s supervision.
Methadone provides pain relief by altering how the brain and nervous system respond to the body’s pain signals. It also blocks the high associated with drugs like heroin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, and other opioids, which is why it is used in the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) of addiction.
Even though methadone is used to help people combat addiction to powerful opioids, it can still be abused. The two most common forms of abuse are taking methadone in dosages higher than prescribed, or combining its use with other substances, like alcohol or benzodiazepines.
Methadone Maintenance Treatment
Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) for people struggling with heroin addiction rose to prominence in the early 1970s. While the effects of methadone are very similar to heroin, they are not as intense and last for a longer period of time. As a result, people taking methadone don’t experience cravings for heroin. They also don’t experience the withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin, which decreases the likelihood of relapse.
Despite the benefits of methadone as a treatment option, use of the drug is not without risk. Methadone is highly addictive and very difficult to withdraw from, making many people terrified to stop using it. This leads to long-term use, which increases the body’s tolerance to the drug, meaning a person will have to keep taking larger doses of methadone to get the same effect.
Other drugs, such as Suboxone, have proven to be much safer as a medication-assisted treatment. Like methadone, Suboxone—a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone—helps reduce the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. But the euphoric effects of Suboxone are much lower. In addition, the risk of overdosing on Suboxone is significantly less.
Signs And Symptoms Of Methadone Abuse
The physical and mental side effects of methadone abuse are similar to those produced by other opiate drugs, including:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constricted pupils
- Increased pain
- Slowed breathing
- Lack of appetite
- Mood swings
- Unusual sleep schedules
Other signs that a person might be abusing methadone include things like trying to obtain multiple prescriptions from different sources; skipping scheduled doses so they can take higher doses later on; and seeking to obtain methadone from alternative sources.
Dangers Of Methadone Abuse
When used as prescribed, methadone can be a useful tool in fighting an opioid addiction. But if it’s abused—by snorting, smoking, injecting—it can be dangerous. These methods can introduce impurities into a person’s sinuses, lungs, or arteries, all of which can lead to serious complications. Using methadone in these ways, or by taking it in higher doses than prescribed, also produces a much more intense high that wears off quicker. This euphoric high can make a person want to use more frequently and become even more dependent on the drug. This, in turn, can lead to overdose.
Signs Of A Methadone Overdose
Although the discernible effects of methadone are relatively short-lived, the drug stays in the body’s system much longer than other opioids. This increases the risk of an overdose for a person who is abusing methadone. A person may decide to take more and more of the drug in an effort to get high, causing the methadone level in their body to rise to dangerous levels. Overdosing on methadone can cause coma, brain damage, or even death.
Signs of a methadone overdose can include:
- Decreased heart rate
- Slowed breathing
- Confusion and disorientation
- Muscle weakness
- Cold, clammy skin
- Severe drowsiness
- Constricted pupils
- Loss of consciousness
Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms
If a person has become physically dependent on methadone, their body will not be able to function properly without it. If they don’t get the amount of methadone they are used to, or if they suddenly stop using it altogether, their body will go into withdrawal.
Symptoms of methadone withdrawal include:
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
- Watery eyes and runny nose
- Agitation and irritability
- Difficulty sleeping
- Frequent yawning
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
Because it minimizes withdrawal symptoms, the most effective, safest, and comfortable first course of treatment for methadone addiction is usually a medical detox.
Medically-Supervised Methadone Detoxification
Methadone is an incredibly challenging drug to detox from. Because it’s a long-acting opioid, withdrawal symptoms can linger for weeks or even months. This is a frequent cause of relapse for people who try to detox on their own and is the best reason why a medically supervised detox program is the best approach.
Doctors can ease the pain and symptoms of withdrawal and make you as comfortable as possible during the process. They also frequently employ medication-assisted treatment, which involves the use of other drugs—like buprenorphine, naloxone, and Suboxone—to help alleviate symptoms.
This method of detoxification is much safer than alternative methods like Rapid Opiate Detox. Often touted as a quick and painless way to detox, rapid detox programs involve sedating patients with general anesthesia while administering an opiate blocker to help start the detoxing process. These programs have been widely proven to be unsafe and can cause serious health problems, including the aggravation of mental health issues and, in some cases, death.
It should be noted that most treatment facilities will not admit you for detox from methadone unless you take less than 60mg a day, which is the standard dosage in most methadone maintenance treatment programs.
Treatment For A Methadone Addiction
In addition to the chemical aspect of addiction, there are other areas of the disease that need to be treated, too. The detox process is just the beginning of a successful treatment program. Things like behavioral counseling and therapy, evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, and a long-term plan for follow-up care are also essential.
A successful program provides the patient with the tools, techniques, and skills they need to help them cope with everyday life and remain sober after leaving treatment.
Find A Methadone Addiction Treatment Program Today
If you need more information about methadone addiction, detox, rehab, or how insurance coverage works when it comes to addiction treatment, you can find your answers at OpioidTreatment.net. Our expert treatment specialists can provide you with a confidential assessment and help you get the individualized treatment you need and deserve, so contact them today.