What is Methadone? Methadone is a synthetic opioid painkiller, most commonly used to treat people who suffer from an addiction to opioids, such as prescription opioid painkillers or heroin. When used as prescribed by a doctor, methadone can be a useful tool in treating opiate addiction. However, it is also highly addictive itself, as it is also an opiate. Methadone is a Schedule II controlled substance, so despite its legitimate medical use, it has a high potential for abuse and can easily lead to methadone addiction. Methadone addiction and abuse don’t occur quite as often as with other drugs like heroin, cocaine or ecstasy, but it can be just as dangerous.
Methadone has also been prescribed for many years as a painkiller for those in severe pain, in particular because of its low cost compared to many other prescription painkillers. Methadone clinics have opened across the nation to try to combat the current opioid crisis. This has increased the exposure of methadone both to those who have struggled previously with opiate addictions and to those who have not. This exposure has contributed to the rapid rise in methadone addiction facing our nation today. Here we will discuss the signs of methadone addiction, the signs of withdrawal and possible treatment options as well.
How Does Methadone Work?
Methadone works to change how the nervous system and brain respond to the symptoms of an opiate withdrawal. It mimics the effects of naturally-derived opiates, causing the brain to believe it is actually using the opiate instead of a synthetic opioid. Just like heroin, methadone slows body functions to extremely low levels. Methadone is typically prescribed as a pill, liquid or wafer to counteract the cravings for heroin, opium or other prescription opioids. Elevated doses of methadone typically makes a person feel sleepy, but too high of a dose may result in a coma. The effects of methadone are similar to those of heroin and typically include warmth, euphoria, relief from anxiety and pain and feelings of detachment.
Signs of Addiction and Symptoms of Withdrawal
Methadone may work in a similar fashion to heroin with similar effects, but it has a marked difference. 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). Typically, methadone remains in the body for 1-3 days, working to block the euphoric effects of other opiates and to lessen the painful symptoms of withdrawal. Unfortunately, the half-life of methadone is between 24-55 hours (compared to only 3-8 minutes for heroin), which makes it much more likely that a person could unintentionally ingest a lethal dose of methadone, not realizing it was still in their system.
Methadone abuse occurs when an individual uses the drug outside of its intended purposes or as prescribed by a doctor. Abuse may include using a friend or family member’s prescription for pain or purchasing methadone on the street for a high. Most people addicted to methadone continue to use methadone despite the negative effects it has on their life. Individuals suffering from a methadone addiction typically experience intense cravings for the drug, anxiety, irritability and other similar withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug.
The physical symptoms and signs of a methadone addiction are similar to heroin and withdrawal symptoms typically include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle pain/aches
- Runny nose
- Chills and hot flashes
- Severe cravings for methadone
Methadone is a powerful drug that has the potential to be as addictive and as dangerous as the drugs it was initially intended to replace. People who use methadone to beat a heroin addiction are at a significantly higher risk of abuse due to their prior history of opioid dependence. Methadone abuse results in an increased tolerance, meaning the person continually needs more to achieve the same results. Because methadone stays in the body longer than most opioid drugs, it’s withdrawal symptoms can be especially powerful. Withdrawals can often be severe enough to cause a relapse. Methadone withdrawals are severe and intense. Those attempting to quit the drug should never do so without medical supervision.
Methadone Addiction Treatment
According to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, in 2009, methadone contributed to one in three prescription painkiller deaths, making it a true crisis. A methadone addiction can turn an individual into a completely different person, making it difficult to address the need for treatment. Addiction is a disease, and those suffering from it need support and qualified medical treatment. Whether an individual began abusing methadone recreationally or started using the medication as part of an opioid addiction treatment regimen, treatment for methadone addiction requires both medical detox and comprehensive therapy. If you or a loved one is struggling with a methadone addiction, contact Blu By the Sea today. We are a professional and experienced treatment facility located in Destin, Florida.