Methadone, created by German doctors during WWII, is part of the category called opioids used to treat chronic and severe pain, often with other opioids. Sold under the brand name Dolophine, methadone is also used for opioid maintenance therapy, to help taper with opioid dependence and pain.
Methadone should be prescribed by a doctor and is usually taken by mouth. The frequency and dose given often depend on:
- The severity of your disease
- The number of opioids you were initially taking
- How much methadone you are currently taking
- If you are pregnant
- If you are physically dependent on methadone
- How long you have been using methadone or other opioids
- If you are addicted or abusing other substances
Typically, you might start with a lower dose, such as 20 mg a day, slowly building up to a higher dose to increase its efficacy. It’s important to note that people who inject the drug are often exposed to HIV and other diseases.
Approved for use in the U.S. in 1947, methadone is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. Methadone can be used as a long-term maintenance therapy or in shorter time periods for detoxification without withdrawal symptoms. Research actually found that methadone was effective in reducing heroin use as measured by urine/hair analysis.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF METHADONE USE?
Methadone is a synthetic opioid, which affects the central nervous system by attaching to the mu-opioid receptors in the brain.
Despite whatever benefits methadone has been approved for, the drug has a high risk for abuse. Methadone addiction will not occur immediately, but if you are using the drug to combat the symptoms of other opioids, such as heroin, you are more than likely predisposed to addiction, heightening your chances of developing dependence and addiction to methadone.
Side effects of methadone are similar to that of other opioids and commonly include dizziness, sleepiness, sweating, and vomiting.
Side Effects From Short-Term Use Include:
- Heavy sweating
- Itchy skin
- Sexual problems
- Slow breathing
Other Side Effects Can Seem A Bit More Serious Like The Following:
- Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
- Feeling lightheaded or faint
- Swollen lips, tongue, throat, or face
Prolonged use of methadone can lead to respiratory issues, can change a woman’s menstrual cycle, and can cause complications in pregnancy.
HOW DOES METHADONE AFFECT THE BRAIN?
Methadone works by attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain and activating them. This means, an individual who takes a higher dose of methadone can experience euphoric side effects and feel high, especially if they are using other drugs with methadone. The more someone uses methadone, the more they become dependent on it and eventually their brain may start to rely on the pain relief it brings.
Methadone impacts the neurotransmitters in the brain subsequently altering the communication between nerve cells. This affects the way the brain controls basic functions like emotions, motor skills, speech, and thought processing.
The brain’s structure is completely changed because of the altered communication patterns between nerve cells. So, the continuous influx of pleasure will trick the brain into believing it doesn’t need to produce the chemicals found in the reward system of the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin.
Therefore, the more extensive your methadone addiction is, the longer it will take your brain to fully restore itself and begin to once again produce these chemicals.
Although the concept of methadone maintenance therapy has proved beneficial to some, according to an article in The Washington Post, people believe “the state should stop treating heroin abuse with opiate-based drugs such as methadone and suboxone, which ease withdrawal symptoms.”
“The treatment they’re trying to push most is another opiate. You can’t treat an opiate with something opiate-based. It’s going to be an epidemic of people on suboxone,” the article continued.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF METHADONE ADDICTION?
It actually may be difficult to see immediate signs of methadone use due to the drug’s long half-life (22 hours). However, even if methadone is taken as prescribed, eventually the physical effects can be noticeable including:
- Constricted pupils
Other Side Effects After Prolonged Use Of Methadone Include:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Weight gain
- Sore tongue
- Vision problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Problems falling or staying asleep
If you think you’re experiencing any of these effects or believe your loved one is, don’t waste time, and call a Maryland House Detox immediately to speak with a medical professional about your treatment options.
TREATING METHADONE ADDICTION
Bouncing back from methadone addiction may be tough but not impossible—the individual does have to put in the work.
Detoxification is generally the first step in methadone addiction treatment. The detoxification process will help you get rid of the substance from your body. It’s crucial to complete this step in a medical facility, as medical professionals will ensure you detox from methadone is a safe environment and will coach you how to deal with the nasty withdrawal symptoms that will shock your system.
Most detox programs involve a tapering method to ease the withdrawal symptoms with approved medications. Although each person is different, the average methadone addiction detox period can take anywhere from five to 14 days. However, it’s imperative to understand that even after the drug is physically removed from the body, the substance’s effects can linger psychological for days or months later.
Addiction treatment doesn’t end at detox. Rather, many medical experts suggest entering a residential program after successfully completing a detox program. Not only will this type of program help you continue your treatment without any long breaks in between, but a residential or inpatient program will help you cope with the obstacles of addiction. People suffering from addiction can also be exposed to various avenues of addiction treatment like individual and group therapy sessions, relapse prevention plans, and other long-term programs.
Residential programs usually last between 30-90 days and help you focus on the issues behind your addiction. Why did you feel the need to use? What triggers you? You can help get your answers here.
It’s also important to note that outpatient programs are another alternative for residential programs if faced with financial or other obligations. Though less intensive than inpatient programs, the same issues and programs will be available to you without disrupting your schedule too terribly. Outpatient programs can be from four to 12 weeks, but the weekly group sessions will be significantly lower.
Regardless of the type of program you use, you will be responsible for passing drug screens and living in a safe environment that won’t lead you back to the same path.
Although you may complete the formal addiction treatment program, treatment never really ends. You can have access to 12-step programs and other support groups to ensure you are surrounded by a comfortable group of people who understand what you are going through.
HOW DANGEROUS IS METHADONE ADDICTION?
Methadone addiction can lead to overdose because of its properties and when taken in larger doses than recommended. The risk for overdose increases with polydrug use or using other substances like opioid painkillers, benzodiazepines, or alcohol with methadone. A methadone overdose requires immediate medical attention as it can lead to permanent consequences such as death or coma.
METHADONE ADDICTION STATISTICS
- Methadone is estimated to be responsible for more than 30 percent of all overdose deaths from prescription painkillers.
- More than 115 Americans die from opioid overdose every day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Approximately 20 percent of methadone patients continue the opiate-substitute treatment for more than 10 years.