Methadone is a medication given to people who are treated for heroin and other types of addiction. It is a controversial choice, and those who oppose this method point out that addicts are changing one addiction for another. The medication is taken orally when administered to treat addictions, but it can also be injected. Some people continue to use methadone for years after they stop using heroin.
Methadone addicts have a physical addiction to the drug, which is a synthetic opioid. This drug has the same characteristics as other drugs in this class, and is used to replace other medications, such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet and heroin. A person who becomes addicted to methadone may feel that he cannot spend the day without the drug.
What is methadone addiction?
Methadone works in the parts of the brain and spinal cord to block the “ecstasy” caused by the use of opiates (such as heroin). It also helps reduce anxiety and withdrawal symptoms caused by the use of opiates. The action of methadone is similar to other synthetic medications in the morphine (opioids) category. Substances that are derived directly from the opium plant (such as heroin, morphine and codeine) are known as opiates.
Why is it used?
Methadone is commonly used to treat opioid addiction (such as heroin). If taken once a day, methadone relieves opioid withdrawal for 24 to 36 hours, decreasing the chance of relapse.
As a treatment for opioid addiction, methadone reduces the cravings and withdrawal symptoms caused by the consumption of opiates by blocking “ecstasy” and by preventing the intense euphoria of these substances. This effect allows people to avoid physical and psychological ecstasy and anxiety caused by changes in opioid levels in the blood, decreasing the likelihood of relapse. In some cases of opioid addiction, methadone treatment may be necessary for several years or more.
Signs of dependence on methadone
Methadone abuse can take a number of forms. Here are some signs that a user has developed an addiction:
- Lying the doctor about your symptoms to get a higher dose of the drug
- Combine methadone with alcohol or other substances
- Take more of the drug than necessary
- The use of methadone, at the same time with the use of heroin
The causes of methadone dependence
People who use methadone experience effects similar to those of other opiates, although not to the same extent. Methadone works in the pleasure centers of the brain and creates a feeling of well-being. A heroin addict can continue to abuse methadone to avoid withdrawal syndrome in the same way he originally used heroin.
The effects of methadone use
Methadone addicts experience the following symptoms when they take the medication:
The person’s body temperature, heart rate and breathing decrease in intensity. Blood pressure is reduced, too. Your ability to operate a vehicle or heavy machinery may be affected as a result of the drug.
Complications and effects of long-term methadone use
For users who take methadone for a long time, the symptoms of methadone use are:
- Abdominal pain
- Increased sweating
- Irregular menstrual periods
- The decrease in sexual desire
- Skin rash
- Muscle and joint pain
- Dental cavities
When pregnant women use methadone, the fetus is also exposed to the drug. As a result, the baby is born with an addiction to methadone. These women are generally encouraged to choose breastfeeding and not bottle feeding, since methadone is also present in breast milk. After birth, the baby experiences withdrawal symptoms, and this feeding method helps to relieve them.
Other potential risks of methadone use are:
Interactions with other drugs
Deaths due to methadone are usually related to the consumption of methadone along with other drugs such as alcohol.
Because stopping using methadone is notoriously difficult because of the extreme physical dependence it can cause, some individuals who enter into heroin detoxification programs with methadone remain in them for an indefinite period of time for fear of symptoms of abstinence.
The use of methadone involves the risk of abuse; Some individuals supplement their prescribed methadone medication with methadone acquired from other sources. There is also a risk of psychological dependence that greatly contributes to the abuse of this substance.
One of the most dangerous aspects of methadone, such as that of any opioid, is the development of drug tolerance. Tolerance is a factor that is particularly dangerous for people who abuse drugs. In order to achieve the same effects, users must take more and more doses, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to know what dose can be fatal according to each person.
Help and treatment for methadone addiction
Like the process of overcoming heroin abuse, the first step in the treatment for methadone abuse is methadone detoxification. There are two different approaches to free yourself from methadone. The first way is to gradually reduce the dose. This approach does not protect the person who is trying to stop methadone from withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms of methadone are not a pleasant thing, and include:
- Difficulty to sleep
- Increased blood pressure
These symptoms can last between four and six weeks. The other option is the rapid detoxification of methadone under medical supervision in a hospital. With this option, the patient is unconscious while receiving medication to treat withdrawal symptoms.
Methadone recovery and rehabilitation
People who have stopped using methadone need support to continue on the road to recovery. A drug rehabilitation program at a drug rehabilitation center for hospitalized patients that lasts at least 90 days has the best success rate. This approach to methadone treatment helps the addict develop new ways of managing life’s stress and circumstances that can trigger the desire to use the drug again. In most cases, a combination of hospitalization and recovery programs is necessary to help a methadone addict make a successful transition to a new life.