Methadone, otherwise known as a maintenance treatment to prevent opioid withdrawal and help reduce drug cravings. It was first developed in the 1960s, as a long-acting synthetic opioid painkiller, helping individuals who suffer from opioid addiction. While it can be a very effective measure in treating opiate addiction, it too can be addictive itself. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Deaths from opioids (including semisynthetic opioids, natural opioids, and methadone) have increased more than 300% in the last 20 years.
- Methadone is responsible for nearly one in four opioid-related deaths
How Methadone Works
Methadone works by changing how the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It also helps to lessen the painful symptoms associated with opiate withdrawal but also blocks the euphoric effects that opiate drugs can give to someone. It’s offered in pill, liquid, and wafer forms and is taken once a day. Pain relief from the dose of methadone will last about four to eight hours. Methadone is part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). It’s the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to prove a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. The length of time one is on Methadone can vary from person to person. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says, the length of methadone treatment should be a minimum of 12 months, while some patients may require treatment for years. It must be stopped gradually to prevent withdrawal.
But, how does methadone make you feel? Methadone acts as a full agonist binding to opiate receptors in the brain, leading to a similar high you feel on opiate drugs. When beginning the treatment, some may experience sedation and other effects that are similar to opioid drugs. As the treatment continues and a stable dose is established, tolerance will be developed. Luckily, methadone treatment does not interfere with thinking. So one can go to work, school, be involved with family, and be normal. But, without a prescription and in high doses it is possible to induce a methadone high. Methadone abusers may reach a state of euphoria, its effects can be similar to those of heroin abuse, but at a lower intensity.
Methadone Symptoms and Withdrawal
Ironically, methadone was created to help those with opiate addictions yet can be addictive as well. With that, methadone withdrawal, also referred to as methadone detox can occur. Methadone withdrawal symptoms can start to appear around 24-36 hours after the drug was last taken. Symptoms of withdrawal include in the first 30 hours may include:
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
These symptoms of methadone are similar to what one may feel like with the flu. But, withdrawal symptoms can become severe for several days. Certain methadone symptoms may peak after about 3 days including:
- Muscle aches/pains
- Severe nausea/vomiting
- Drug cravings
It’s important to note methadone symptoms will be at their worst during the first week, with symptoms lasting even longer than one week. There is a chance of other withdrawal symptoms including; low energy levels, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. Unfortunately, because of the unpleasantness of methadone, there is a high risk of users returning to opiates.
Methadone withdrawal can be a difficult and long-road. It’s important not to attempt to do this type of treatment on your own. Let a doctor know if you have any troubles or methadone symptoms above. They will help you treat them and connect you with support groups to help make your commitment to getting better, easier. Treatments like buprenorphine, naloxone, and clonidine can be used to shorten the withdrawal process and relieve symptoms. You should talk with Far Addiction Rehab to find out if methadone is right for you. We are highly qualified in finding you the right treatment. While there are many benefits there are also risks associated with this type of treatment, we will help to decide the best road of recovery that suits you individually.
Methadone Overdose Signs
When used at a high amount, methadone can result in an overdose. It often happens without a prescription. It’s important to recognize signs and symptoms of a methadone overdose:
- Constricted pupils
- Discoloration in nails and fingertips
- Loss of Consciousness
- Respiratory depression
- Nausea and vomiting
It’s important to prevent relapse when taking methadone. Once you are no longer on it, it’s critical not to return to opiates or opioids ever again. If you are recovering from opioid misuse you are at a higher risk of death than an average person.
Long-Term Side Effects
Like the risk with opiates, methadone can have long-term side effects. It can cause damage to the nerves, liver, and the brain. In a study published by Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior in 2011, researchers tested lab rats with methadone for three weeks, monitoring their reactions to new objects in their cages. When rats were exposed to methadone, they were distracted and disinterested in the new object. This was unsurprising, but what did surprise researchers was when the rats became sober, they still had that same lower attention span. Researchers conclude from the experiment that methadone has a long-lasting impact on the rat’s brain functions, which they believe can occur in humans on methadone. Other long-term health impacts include:
- Cardiovascular issues, often as a result of injecting methadone and potentially leading to collapsed veins, arteriosclerosis, etc.
- Respiratory issues as a result of chronically reduced respiration rates
- Menstrual cycle changes in women or sexual dysfunction in men
- Issues with judgment, more engagement in risky behaviors, and a lack of personal hygiene
- Changes in the brain that are associated with learning and memory
- The development of an opiate use disorder
If a person on methadone treatment combines the use of methadone with other substances like alcohol or drugs, serious reactions can occur. It can result in depressed breathing, unconsciousness, coma, and in some cases even death.
The Positives of Methadone
It’s not all bad though. Methadone was created to help people overcome opiate addictions. The goal was always to help one return to a ‘normal life’ from addiction, and in many cases, it did just that. Harvard Medical School found that approximately 25% of persons admitted to a methadone maintenance program will become abstinent from methadone over time if they choose to have themselves weaned off. While another 25% will continue to use methadone and the remainder will stop using methadone and resume its use when they enter another substance abuse treatment program. There is also a large number of studies that support the effectiveness of methadone on reducing opioid use. Patients on methadone had 33% fewer opioid-positive drug tests and were 4.4 times more likely to stay in treatment compared to controls. That’s according to research done for the article, Methadone maintenance therapy versus no opioid replacement therapy for opioid dependence. Some of the other benefits of Methadone treatment include:
- Methadone greatly minimizes cravings.
- It’s affordable, only approximately a few dollars a day.
- It is a legal, schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act.
- It is safe if used as directed.
- There is no risk of arrest or imprisonment while using Methadone.
- Methadone users can greatly reduce their risk of HIV, HEP C, and other STDS or diseases associated with intravenous drug usage.
- The daily routine of visiting a clinic for the dosage helps people get back on track with a normal/productive schedule.
- Regular contact with healthcare professionals helps monitor other well-being, which can improve health overall.
It’s also safe for pregnant women or if you are breastfeeding. Methadone’s ability to prevent withdrawal symptoms can actually help women who experience withdrawal from drugs. Withdrawal can cause the uterus to contract and may bring miscarriage or premature birth. But, methadone can combat this with women helping to better manage their addiction without risk to the mother or the baby. Methadone does not cause birth defects, babies may go through withdrawal after birth, but in no way does that mean the baby is addicted, withdrawal can begin a few days after birth or two to four weeks.
Treatment Options: Rehab
Methadone is treatment itself, however if one becomes addicted to methadone, there are ways to treat this. One option is rehab, there are inpatient and outpatient options available with thousands across the United States. Inpatient recovery programs are a residential treatment. It requires patients to check themselves in for as long as 28 days to 6-months. There is 24-hour medical and emotional support along with treatment plans like methadone. An outpatient recovery program is less restrictive, allowing you to focus on getting better while having time for life in general. It requires 10 to 12 hours a week visiting a local treatment center. Sessions will focus on drug abuse education, individual and group counseling, and more. Outpatient programs typically last three to six months. If you or a loved one are suffering from methadone addiction or any other opiate type addiction contact, Find Addiction Rehabs for help locating the right one near you. If you are concerned a loved one has an opiate addiction here is a list of common signs/methadone symptoms to look for:
- The inability to control opioid use
- Uncontrollable cravings
- Drowsiness/constant fatigue
- Weight loss
- Frequent flu-like symptoms
- Lack of hygiene and quality of life
- Changes in daily habits like exercise
- Isolation from loved ones
- Stealing from family, friends, or businesses
- Sudden Financial issues
Treatment Options: Methadone
If you are looking into Methadone as a treatment towards an opiate addiction by law only, a SAMHSA-certified treatment program (OTP) can dispense methadone. The treatment has to be taken under the supervision of a practitioner. After progress and proven compliance with medication dosage, patients may be allowed to take methadone at home. An OTP facility can also provide a range of services to help combat addiction. Along with the methadone treatment, there are counseling services. Methadone is a MAT (medication-assisted treatment). On top of the medicine itself, MAT will provide a comprehensive, individually tailored program and behavioral therapy to help patients. Using methadone approach has shown:
- Improve patient survival
- Increase retention in treatment
- Decrease opiate use and other criminal activity
- Increase patients’ ability to gain/maintain employment
- Improve birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are pregnant
It’s important to note, if this is your first time using methadone for treatment when you visit the clinic for the first time you will most likely not receive medication. You will go through a screening, talk to a doctor or counselor about the nature of your problem. From then, a plan will be set up for your methadone treatment. We made a list of tips for you to follow to achieve the best treatment results:
- Never use more than the amount that is prescribed to you.
- If a dose is missed or feels it’s not working, do NOT take an extra dose.
- Do not consume alcohol or other drugs while on methadone.
- Be cautious when driving or operating machinery while on methadone.
- Store methadone at room temperature and away from light.
- Have it safely stored away and keep away from children and pets.
- Call 911 if too much methadone is taken.
- Do not share your methadone.
- Dispose of any unused methadone safely, talk to your MAT practitioner for guidance.
Overall, methadone can be a safe and effective treatment for those with an opiate, opioid, or other drug addictions like heroin. Methadone withdrawal symptoms can be tough and feel like you are on the brink of death, but just know you are not. Plus, the pain can be managed with the help of a doctor or programs designed to overcome addictions. Just keep doing the treatment, go to counseling, or start if you haven’t. Keep an eye on methadone symptoms and eventually, addiction or opiate use disorder can become a thing of the past. Again, if you need help finding treatment, reach out to us at Find Addictions Rehab, we can put you in touch with a methadone clinic near you, all you have to do is take that first step.