Methadone, is a purely synthetic opioid that closely mimics the effect of other opioids such as heroin and morphine. It is commonly used for those with chronic pain, as a cough suppressant, and as a treatment for those withdrawing from heroin or morphine. It has been debated if methadone treatment for opiate addicts is truly effective. Clinical studies have shown that methadone replacement does reduce cravings and negative withdrawal effects, but the adverse side effects may prove to be just as dangerous. Methadone treatment has no defined length, and some may continue using methadone for extended periods of time. Methadone withdrawal symptoms are very similar to that of heroin and other opioids. Methadone is useful both as a treatment for addiction and a painkiller because of its long-lasting effects produced. Methadone can stay in your system for up to thirty-six hours, and because of this, it is usually recommended to be taken only once a day.
Dangers of Methadone as a Painkiller
Although methadone has existed since World War II, it is only in recent years that studies have began to analyze it. Its uses as a painkiller are valuable, as its slow release can relieve pain for longer periods than other opioids. The FDA limits the maximum starting dose of methadone to 30 mg, but some people may even find this dose to be too much. Since methadone is metabolized so slowly, every patient reacts differently. Numerous cases across the country have been reported of a methadone patient overdosing while taking the prescribed amount. Methadone is extremely dangerous when mixed with other drugs, including alcohol. Methadone is most dangerous when used in combination with benzodiazepines. The combination of the opioid and benzodiazepine can stop the heart from beating or the lungs from breathing.
Dangers of Methadone in Opioid Treatment
Methadone is often used to help those suffering from opioid withdrawal. The effect on the brain can take away any withdrawal symptoms. However, methadone use in this manner is not completely safe. Methadone Maintenance Treatment does not have a definite time frame. The goal of methadone use is to curb the addict’s cravings for heroin, and some may use methadone for years. Many clinics allow patients to administer the methadone without supervision after a certain period of time, and for them, this can pose a risk. Larger doses of methadone can cause a heroin-like high. Along with the physical risk of addiction, some patients become addicted to methadone itself. Upon being able to administer it without supervision, they take larger than prescribed doses in order to achieve a high. Heroin addicts, who obviously have a history of substance abuse, are at high risk of developing abusive habits, such as a dependency on methadone.
Alternatives to Methadone
For some people, the dangers of methadone may outweigh the benefits. Although this is certainly not true for everybody, it is important to realize what other options are out there. For opioid withdrawal, several drugs are available that have not had as many negative reported incidents. Subutex is an opioid partial antagonist. It binds to the appropriate receptors in the brain in order to curb withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone is very similar, except it contains the drug naloxone. Along with curbing cravings and minimizing withdrawal effects, Suboxone prevents the user from getting high off opioids during treatment. The other advantage is that because of the naloxone, it is far less susceptible for abuse.