We often hear of methadone clinics opening to help treat drug addiction, but many people wonder: “What is methadone and why is it used?” The simple answer is that methadone is a drug that helps people get over their addiction from other drugs. The method by which it works requires a more complex answer.
What is Methadone?
Methadone belongs to the group of drugs known as “opioids.” This group also includes heroin, oxycodone, codeine, and morphine. The drug is used in powder, liquid, and tablet form. All opioids interact with receptors on the nerve cells in a person’s body and brain.
Doctors prescribe opioids to relieve acute pain. In addition to being effective painkillers, the drugs also produce a sense of euphoria. This quality is what often leads to misuse and addiction. The fact that methadone, an opioid drug, is used to treat addiction to other opioid drugs such as heroin or prescription painkillers makes it an even more confusing drug to many people. Many have very real concerns that the process is simply substituting one addiction for another.
While methadone produces a similar effect to other opioids like heroin, it causes a milder effect. This prevents the addict from going through withdrawal during the addiction treatment. Sometimes methadone treatment is referred to as “replacement therapy.” The methadone replaces stronger drugs with a milder one that helps control their symptoms.
Some common side-effects of short-term use include:
Methadone is commonly used with a treatment program to help patients addicted to heroin and other opioids through the detox phase. When the addiction is to methadone, methadone may be tapered off gradually, or a different opioid may be used.
Withdrawal from opioid drugs often causes excessive tear formation, runny nose, aching muscles, muscle and abdominal cramps, nausea, and malaise. These symptoms can progress to much more dangerous and life-threatening ones. Drug cravings are often prominent even after the physical symptoms of withdrawal subside.
Once they become stable, they may be permitted to take the drug at home between program visits. Depending on the cause of the addiction, a person may require months to years of treatment. Once treatment is complete, the doctor reduces the drug gradually to prevent symptoms of withdrawal.
People are often concerned when a “drug clinic” moves into their neighborhood. Failing to understand “what is methadone?” and why the clinic is providing it to patients makes them feel they are at risk.
Many medical professionals are more concerned about meeting the needs of the patient. Methadone is not a cure for addiction. It is merely a tool that helps patients manage their symptoms better during recovery. It provides the comfort and stability needed during long-term treatment.
A key factor in the successful use of methadone treatment is medical supervision. The potential for addiction to the drug and for dangerous side-effects makes it imperative that the patient uses the drug according to the prescriber’s instructions.
Detox: The First Step
Detoxification is always the first step in addiction treatment and recovery. This is the process of getting the addictive substance out of their body and reaching physical stability. During the initial step of addiction treatment, the person no longer takes the substance of use. The toxins are flushed from the body, resulting in the accumulation of symptoms known as “withdrawal syndrome.”
Opioid addiction is an epidemic in the United States today. The highly addictive nature of these drugs, combined with the euphoric sensations they produce, has led to extensive drug misuse. Some addictions result from drug misuse while others begin with prescription drugs for pain treatment.
In either case, the addiction occurs with repeated use that causes changes in the behavior of neurons in the brain. Once addicted, their brain can only function normally when the drug is present. Once the drug is taken away, the brain must adjust to a sudden change in levels of biochemicals it produces. This is what causes the symptoms associated with withdrawal syndrome.
Every addiction treatment plan begins with detox. It isn’t until the person has the drug flushed from their bodies that they can begin to work through the physical and mental issues that caused the addiction in the first place.
The detox phase is the one that presents the greatest physical danger to the patient. This is when medical supervision is the most important. An experienced and devoted medical team will work to keep the patient safe and as comfortable as possible throughout the detox process. Methadone can help make withdrawal a more comfortable process for the individual.
Residential vs Outpatient Treatment
The setting makes a world of difference to the person trying to overcome addiction. The recovery begins with detoxification during which time their safety is at risk. Depending on the substance, the person may have any of a broad range of symptoms including everything from appetite changes to strong drug cravings to seizure or coma.
Recovering from addiction is not just a matter of willpower. It’s the process of taking something away from your body that it has come to depend on. Before you can live your life without drug cravings, all of the substance must be eliminated from your body. It’s always best to have supervision during detox in case any complications arise.
In addition, during outpatient treatment, the person remains in the same setting and with the same people who were part of their addictive lifestyle. Sending the person home with methadone only adds to the potential complications. It puts the responsibility of taking the right dosage at the right time into the hands of the person who may not realize the dangers involved. Some tips recommended for home use of methadone include:
It is easy to see that the responsibility of taking methadone on your own is a huge undertaking. Although outpatient treatment is the only option available to some patients, residential treatment offers a number of advantages.
In residential treatment, trained caregivers provide the appropriate dosage of methadone and any other drugs used in your treatment program. Experienced medical personnel will oversee your treatment and be available in case of complications.
Every drug causes different effects and each person responds differently to methadone treatment. Symptoms are often mild. If you develop rare symptoms that are life-threatening, you want to know someone is there to get your back.
More people have a successful recovery when they receive treatment in a residential facility. It places them in a peaceful setting among others in the same situation as them. If self-help is the only option for you, then you need a treatment facility that works with you and provides support.
What Is Methadone Used For? Misuse vs Addiction
Methadone is one of the opioids being misused in this country, sometimes by children as young as twelve years of age. Some users misuse the drug for purposes other than those prescribed. People often buy synthetic methadone for use as a recreational drug in order to achieve the euphoric feeling it produces.
Misuse simply means using the drug differently than prescribed. Methadone use or misuse might include taking prescription methadone in a larger dosage or more frequently than prescribed. The person might want to increase the pleasant feeling they get from the drug. The signs of methadone abuse are the same as those experienced with its use during detox including nausea and vomiting, constipation, and increased pain.
Addiction occurs with repeated use of the drug that leads to changes in the brain. Potentially, unsupervised use of methadone during detox can result in misuse of the drug. Signs of methadone addiction include using the drug in higher quantities and/or more frequently. People often seek out multiple doctors to get more prescriptions for the drug.
Sometimes methadone addicts “stockpile” their doses and take them together in a single dose later on. Those who become addicted through prescription use will look for alternate sources, including other people who use methadone or other opioids. Methadone addiction often causes the person to give top priority to their drug use while neglecting every other aspect of their lives.
What Are Methadone Treatment’s Known Risks?
Methadone treatment is often an effective method of making patients more comfortable during the detoxification process. Even so, it is not right for everyone. Those with the following conditions may not be good candidates for methadone treatment. Tell your doctor if you have:
You should also tell your doctor if you take sedatives or any drug that makes you sleepy or slows breathing. Methadone can also react with drugs used to change serotonin levels such as antidepressants or other narcotics. In order to use the methadone safely and effectively, tell your doctor everything that could make the use of methadone dangerous for you.
Choosing an Addiction Treatment Center
As explained here, methadone treatment is primarily used for additional safety and comfort during the detox process. The first step in opioid addiction recovery is always detoxification of the addictive substance from the body.
The most important factor in choosing a detox center is experience. The doctor and the entire staff need to have training and hands-on experience treating people with the same issues as you. Often, a treatment center’s website provides a great deal of information. You can learn about the staff, the services offered, and the general attitude of the facility.
Many people choose outpatient treatment because they don’t feel they can afford a residential program. Talk with the facility of choice about the types of insurance they accept. Many insurance policies cover the cost of addiction treatment today.
If you make the choice to enter into residential treatment, make the setting of the facility a part of your decision. A peaceful setting away from the noise and responsibilities of everyday life can make the detox process an easier one for your needs.
If you go to a facility that deals primarily in detoxification, ask what they offer as support throughout the rest of the recovery process. Once you make the decision to overcome your addiction, you need a clear plan to help you get to the end of your personal road to recovery.
Contact Pemarro Recovery Center for experienced detox services in a peaceful country setting. Our facility is located in the tranquil foothills of Ramona, California. Our clients benefit from the expert supervision of one of the foremost addiction treatment specialists in the country. Our competent, qualified team offers compassionate care to make your detox experience as comfortable, safe, and pleasurable as possible.