Methadone is one of a small variety of drugs approved to treat opioid addiction and dependence. If a patient has an addiction to morphine, heroin or a prescription painkiller, then methadone may be authorized to manage the addiction. There are a few reasons why methadone is considered to be an invaluable tool in opioid recovery.
While heroin has a half-life of only 30 minutes, methadone has a half-life of 22 hours. When heroin addicts reach the half-life of their dose, they tend to experience extreme highs and overwhelming lows. With Methadone, the swings are far less severe and the drug itself is much less stronger compared to heroin. Because of this, methadone has proved useful in managing the withdrawal symptoms of heroin as well as other opioids. The process of medically managing opioid addiction with this type of addiction medicine is called methadone maintenance therapy, which usually happens at a methadone clinic. However, methadone can also be abused.
The physical signs of methadone abuse are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constricted pupils
- Increased pain
- Slowed breathing
It’s important to remember that although methadone is used for medical management of opiate addiction, it also has the potential to be abused on its own, which can lead to a new addiction. The signs that someone might be addicted to methadone are:
- Attempting to obtain more prescriptions than necessary, which is also called “doctor shopping.”
- More frequent use, in higher doses than prescribed. Although clinics usually require patients to take the drug under supervision, some users might be allowed to use outside, which can lead to abuse and addiction.
- Skipping regular doses in order to “stockpile” pills so that a higher dose can be taken later
- Going to alternative sources to obtain drugs. This may include associates or even friends who have access to the drug. This can also include using other opioids alongside methadone like oxycontin or morphine.
- Allowing methadone use to interfere with other aspects of life like work or relationships.
Methadone has tough regulations and must be used while in the presence of an experienced medical practitioner during addiction treatment. People who are in need of methadone have to make daily trips to a licensed methadone clinic to get their dose. Over time, as they show their ability to stay sober and maintain their daily dosage, they will be given “take-homes,” which are doses that they are allowed to take home in order to make fewer trips to the clinic. The benefits of using methadone are:
- Decreases cravings for drugs
- Alleviates the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal
- Has a much longer half-life, lasting between 24 to 36 hours
- Doesn’t give user euphoric effects.
Although there are numerous benefits to using methadone as a treatment option, there are also disadvantages such as:
- Because it’s a Schedule II drug, it presents a risk of abuse.
- The side effects are similar to other opioids and include respiratory depression, excessive sweating, constipation, sexual dysfunction, nausea, itchy skin, and constipation.
Methadone is a man-made opioid that is usually prescribed for moderate to severe pain. It can also be used to treat opiate addiction, especially heroin addiction. Methadone works by helping the patient stabilize by acting on opioid receptors in the brain that trigger withdrawal symptoms.
Methadone is a Schedule II drug, meaning that it has a legitimate legal use in treatment but still has a high probability of users developing a dependence on it. Additional Schedule II drugs include morphine, hydrocodone and others.
Legal Uses of Methadone
Because methadone is used to lessen the cravings that come with addiction as well as withdrawal symptoms, it isn’t regulated as heavily as other drugs that might be similar would be. Nevertheless, it is still a powerful opiate that can create dependence in the user. People who start using this drug to beat their addiction to heroin are at higher risk of addiction because of their previous history of opioid dependency.
Addiction to Methadone
Although many people don’t like the topic of methadone, many people who use it see it as a necessary aid in helping addicts break their abuse. Because it is, in fact, an opiate, though, there is always a chance of addiction occurring. Many people who become addicted to methadone do so because they are trying to ease their pain. As they begin to develop a tolerance, they will need larger and larger doses.
Methadone When Mixed With Other Drugs
Methadone is a depressant, and because of this, it can cause negative reactions when mixed with other drugs. People who struggle with methadone addiction are commonly alcoholics as well. These two substances mixed together pose a dangerous combination as they can lower blood pressure to unsafe levels and create respiratory depression.
It is never a good idea to use this drug with another substance, even herbal remedies (especially St. John’s Wort). If you or someone close to you is suffering from a methadone addiction or an addiction to another substance, you need to get help now.
Statistics of Methadone Abuse
- Deaths from poisoning involving methadone went from 790 to 5,420 from 1999 and 2006.
- In 2008, 750,000 methadone prescriptions were given to patients who needed pain relief.
- From 2000 to 2001, the number of people who abused methadone along with another opiate and got treatment went from 28,235 to 36,265.
- Methadone is the cause of a third of the total opiate pain reliever-related overdose deaths.
How to Overcome a Methadone Addiction
Like with any other opiate, methadone can be a very challenging drug to kick. Even though it doesn’t have reputation for being as powerful as some of the other more potent drugs, it still holds significant withdrawal symptoms and can be difficult to quit. If you need more information on the risks and benefits of methadone, our team of drug detox specialists are available 24/7 to answer your questions.