Methadone has been used for the better part of a century to treat opiate addiction in the United States, but it can still be abused. Over the last several decades, methadone’s increasing availability has made it an even greater threat. An individualized treatment approach may help people struggling with methadone addiction.
What Is Methadone?
Methadone is a fully-synthetic opioid approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be used in the treatment of opioid addiction and dependence. Methadone works by changing how the brain and nervous system respond to the symptoms of opiate withdrawal.
Methadone is prescribed in a pill, liquid or wafer to help minimize craving for opiates like heroin or opium. Methadone mimics the effects of naturally-derived opiates and tricks the brain into believing that you’re actually using the opiate instead of the synthetic opioid. Today, methadone is commonly prescribed as a painkiller for moderate to severe pain.
Like heroin, methadone slows your body functions to dangerously low levels. Opioids change your brain chemistry and repeated use can make the drug seem like more of a necessity. A high dose of methadone makes a person feel sleepy, but too high of a dose may result in a coma.
The effects of methadone are often similar to those of heroin and may include:
- feeling of detachment
- relief from anxiety
- reduction of physical and psychological pain
What makes methadone different from heroin?
Methadone is a long-acting opioid, which means that it stays in the body much longer than short-acting, natural opiates (heroin) and semi-synthetic opioids (oxycodone/hydrocodone). The half-life of methadone is anywhere from 24 to 55 hours, whereas the half-life of heroin is only three to eight minutes. A person may unintentionally take a lethal dose of methadone without realizing it’s still in their system.
Signs And Symptoms Of Methadone Opioid Addiction
Methadone is a Schedule II controlled substance, so despite its legitimate medical purpose, it has a high potential for abuse and may lead to drug dependence. Methadone isn’t abused quite as much like illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine or ecstasy but it can be just as dangerous.
To abuse, methadone means to use the drug in any way not intended by the prescribing doctor. Methadone abuse can be anything from using a friend’s prescription for the pain of using methadone purchased on the street to get high. A person suffering from an opioid use disorder may use methadone regardless of the negative effects it has on their life.
A person suffering from a methadone addiction may experience intense cravings, irritability, anxiety and other withdrawal symptoms when they stop using methadone or are unable to go to a methadone clinic.
The physical signs and symptoms of methadone abuse are similar to those of heroin and may include:
- sleeping problems
- difficulty breathing
- muscle pain/aches
Health Dangers Of Methadone Opioid Abuse
The array of approved methadone uses has increased the drug’s availability to the public and heavily contributes to the nation’s growing opioid epidemic. Methadone is as potent, addictive and dangerous as the drugs it was initially used to replace.
Individuals who use methadone to overcome heroin are at a higher risk of abuse because of their prior history of opioid dependence. Abusing methadone may result in increased tolerance, which means that a person needs more of the drug to get the same results. What many people don’t realize is that one 10-milligram tablet of methadone can stay in the system for up to five days.
Taking a second dose of methadone within 12 hours of the first dose increases the risk of overdose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of methadone overdose skyrocketed 600 percent from 784 deaths in 1999 to 5,406 deaths in 2006.
Methadone Withdrawal Effects And Detoxification Treatment
Despite its primary role of reducing the withdrawal symptoms of other opioids, methadone can cause withdrawal symptoms of its own. Long-acting opioids like methadone stay in the body much longer than short-acting opioids, like oxycodone or hydrocodone, which increases the risk of developing dependence to the drug.
When a person stops using methadone, their body and mind experience symptoms until the drug is back in their system; this is known as methadone withdrawal. Methadone withdrawals can be severe enough to cause a relapse, and may include some (or all) of the following symptoms:
- intense methadone cravings
- agitation, restlessness, and anxiety
- a runny nose
- chills and hot flashes
- increased tearing or watery eyes
- muscle aches or joint pain
Methadone withdrawal symptoms are intense and a person withdrawing from methadone should never attempt to manage the process without the supervision of a professional. In medical detox, individuals are given a chance to overcome the physical addiction to methadone.
Methadone Addiction Patient Treatment and Medications
Methadone addiction can transform a person into a complete stranger but what they need is not neglect, avoidance or distance. Addiction is a disease, and those suffering from it are sick.
At Vertava Health, we believe that addiction stems from mental, physical and spiritual factors, so those are the main areas of focus at our treatment centers. Methadone addiction can impact a person of any race, gender or religion, from every walk of life.
Vertava Health focuses on providing care based on individual need and strives to help remove the stigma associated with addiction. Behavioral treatment programs focus on the core values of a balanced life, which include health, family, self-improvement, spirituality, social life, and work and finances.
Call Vertava Health to learn about the addiction treatment programs we provide.