What is Methadone?
Methadone is a powerful narcotic and can be very addictive. Methadone is typically prescribed to those with chronic pain from injuries and aids addicts in withdrawing from opiates, such as heroin. When using methadone for detox, one addiction commonly becomes replaced by another addiction.
Methadone is used to reduce cravings and to block the euphoric feeling that opiate addicts get from being high. Some addicts see methadone as an alternative to heroin. Although methadone is used to block euphoric feelings, some users prefer the high of methadone and heroin combined.
The combination of the two can be deadly. Increased tolerance and dependence occur quickly with methadone addiction. Withdrawal often occurs with methadone, even if being used to detox off of another opiate.
Detoxification symptoms from heroin and methadone are similar. But some experts believe that these detoxification symptoms are worse than that of heroin.
Withdrawing from methadone includes the following detoxification symptoms:
- Suicide Ideation
- Prolonged Insomnia
In some cases, addicts need to go through two detoxifications. The first detox from an opiate such as heroin and then an additional detox period off of methadone. Methadone addicts can experience withdrawal symptoms for up six months. It is one of the most challenging drugs to detox from because of the long length of withdrawal symptoms.
What Is Methadone Used For?
Methadone is primarily used to treat opiate addiction. It is intended to work by blocking the opiate receptors so that opiate drugs do not produce a high. Methadone is a long lasting opiate, and therefore useful to be dispensed daily in highly regulated detoxification and maintenance programs.
Some patients are tapered quickly off of methadone, but many others are put on long-term methadone maintenance. Many users who have been on methadone maintenance find themselves extremely dependent on the drug. In many cases a heroin addiction is simply replaced with an addiction to methadone.
Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms from methadone are considered to be less severe but longer lasting when compared to short acting opiates. Many consider withdrawal from methadone to be more difficult than withdrawal from other opiates because symptoms can last for several weeks. The level of withdrawal symptoms depends on the dosage and how long the drug has been taken. Longer methadone use and higher doses typically mean more severe withdrawal symptoms.
Methadone withdrawal symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Dilated pupils
- Tearing of eyes
- Excessive perspiration
- Abdominal cramps
- Body aches
How Common Is Methadone Addiction?
Methadone abuse has become fairly common, as legitimate sources of methadone have been diverted into street sales. Many addicts get methadone through clinics and doctors and then sell them to supplement their drug use. Sometimes methadone is prescribed for chronic pain and is then sold on the streets.
Whether methadone is obtained legally or illegally, it has a very high potential for abuse. Some methadone abusers take it in combination with heroin. Methadone is supposed to block other opiates from producing a high but many users report it to have little or no blocking effect.
Signs of Methadone Abuse
Some warning signs of methadone addiction include taking more than the recommended dose, obtaining the drug illegally through street sales and the use of methadone in combination with other drugs. If a person begins to use methadone in order to get high, they are likely to be on the path to addiction. Addiction symptoms include:
- An obsession with the drug
- Withdrawal symptoms
- An increasing tolerance
Tolerance to the methadone “high” may develop in about two weeks. Then a user must increase their dose in order to keep achieving a high. This begins the cycle of substance addiction: progressively increasing doses in order to keep up with progressively increasing tolerance.
Methadone Abuse Treatment
The best option for methadone addicts is inpatient methadone treatment. A medically supervised drug detox center makes managing withdrawal symptoms much easier. The longer a methadone addict is in treatment, the greater their chances are for success.
It is important for those who are on methadone maintenance to ask themselves how long they want to be taking methadone and if they would be able to stop taking it and remain drug free. Besides, there are several medications that can be used during the treatment:
- L-alpha-acetylmethadol (LAAM): Experts recommend this medication to patients with drug addiction. If used in the long run, several side-effects such as high blood pressure, rash, and nausea may appear.
- Buprenorphine: It was the first FDA-approved medication to treat substance addiction. It requires patients to visit the hospital to get the doses; some may also take the prescribed dosages to homes. Besides, this prescribed medication is less likely to get abused by patients.
Psychiatric Medication: These medications help the patient overcome several psychological side-effects (anxiety, depression, etc.) that may arise during the recovery procedure. Such medicine proves more useful when combined with therapy sessions.