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Methadone Addiction Treatment

Methadone is a prescribed medication that people use for pain relief. However, methadone addiction occurs when people overuse the medication. What are the side effects and warning signs and where do people go to get treatment for methadone addiction?

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What Is Methadone?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid agonist sold under the brand names Methadose and Dolophine. It is administered by doctors to manage chronic pain and opioid addiction.

Methadone was first synthesized in the late 1930s by the German chemists Gustav Ehrhart and Max Bockmühl. In 1947, the drug was approved in the US for use as an analgesic. When drug use soared in the 1960s, doctors began using methadone to treat opioid addiction.

Methadone is a Schedule II drug, available only by prescription or under a doctor’s supervision.

What Does Methadone Do?

Methadone is administered to wean patients off hardcore drugs like heroin and other opioids. People who enter drug rehab programs often achieve sobriety with the help of methadone treatment.

Methadone is prescribed by doctors for use as a daily pain reliever and anti-addiction medication. A user’s first dose can have noticeable effects but the full effects often don’t take hold until the fifth day. Methadone-based detox takes anywhere from one to six months.

A single dose of methadone can relieve pain for up to six hours. In long-term users, the effects last anywhere from eight hours to three days.

Methadone is usually taken orally. Intravenous use is rare.

Methadone Treatment

Methadone works by binding to the same opioid receptors as opioid drugs like heroin and fentanyl, but without causing the euphoric sensations that make those drugs addictive. Instead, it merely regulates pain signals between the brain and body.

In drug detox programs, methadone can only be used for short periods. American treatment centers that use methadone to treat opioid addiction must be certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Side Effects of Methadone Addiction

Methadone has similar side effects as other opioids, such as dizziness and fatigue. However, methadone lacks the euphoric effects that render hard opioids addictive. Some of the effects that users may experience include:

  • Sedation – As an opioid, methadone is a depressant drug. As such, it can cause fatigue.
  • Flushing – Redness in the face and other areas.
  • Perspiration – Methadone may make the user more sensitive to heat.
  • Dizziness – Methadone can make users slightly nauseous, muddled and dizzy.
  • Weakness – A methadone user generally won’t be at his/her optimal physical strength when the drug is in effect.
  • Insomnia – The drowsiness caused by methadone can cause users to nap mid-day and throw off their sleeping schedules. This can cause insomnia and make it difficult to fall asleep at the right hours or get fully rested for the following day.
  • Dry mouth – Users should drink more water when methadone takes effect.
  • Low blood pressure – Depressant drugs slow the heart. For this reason, methadone should only be used for treatment therapy on a short-term basis.
  • Headache – Opioids can slow breathing and the flow of oxygen to the brain.
  • Arrhythmia – An abnormal heart rate is a more serious side effect of methadone use. Arrhythmia could result if depressant opioids are mixed with stimulants.
  • Breathing problems – Another serious issue. Methadone use can cause respiratory problems such as hypoventilation, light-headedness and fainting.
  • Memory loss – Fatigue and light-headedness can cause memory loss.
  • Mood shifts – Opioids cause shifts in mood, rendering users mellow.
  • Blurred vision – This relates to symptoms of fatigue and light-headedness.
  • Decreased libido – Depressant drugs that cause fatigue can drain sexual energy from the user, rendering the individual with no desire or ability to perform sexually while methadone is in effect.

Other side effects of methadone include itching, swollen extremities, urinary problems, irregular menstruation and constipation.

Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

Methadone addiction takes hold when people abuse the drug and develop tolerance. This renders the drug ineffective at normal doses. To repeat the effect, the user increases his/her methadone use. Once an addicted user goes off methadone, withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Eye symptoms – Tearing, dilated pupils.
  • Photophobia – Sensitivity to light.
  • Hyperventilation – Irregular breathing (too deep, too fast).
  • Nose issues – Sneezing, runny nose.
  • Painful symptoms – Pain sensitivity in the joints, legs, arms, hands and/or fingers.
  • Fever symptoms – Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
  • Cognitive issues – Delirium, nervousness, paranoia, delusions, anxiety, panic.
  • Depression – Hopelessness, despair, suicidal ideation.
  • Hallucinations – Auditory, visual, imaginary perception of odor.

To minimize withdrawal symptoms, recovering methadone users should only undergo detox in a drug treatment center.

Undergoing Methadone Maintenance Treatment

People who take too much methadone for drug addiction or pain relief tend to render the drug ineffective. Once addiction takes hold, it’s best to find a treatment provider with the following program options:

  • Medical detox – The first step in methadone addiction treatment is detox, where the patient stops using the medication and rules out any future use. To prevent withdrawal symptoms that could cause a relapse, detox should only be done under the supervision of a treatment center.
  • Inpatient treatment – The next step in the recovery process is inpatient treatment, where the patient stays at a treatment center for 30-90 days. For methadone addiction, the same programs are used when treating heroin addiction: support groups, counseling, wellness activities, healthy meals, 12-step treatment, education.
  • Outpatient treatment – Most treatment centers also offer outpatient programs, which cover the same material as inpatient treatment. This difference is that outpatients live at home and come to the center during the day (morning, afternoon or evening, 9-40 hours per week). This is a good option for people with less severe addiction and work obligations.
  • Physical therapy – In addition to medication-assisted treatment, opioid recovery usually involves physical therapy, where patients learn of new, healthier ways to overcome painkillers and reduce body pain. This may involve stretching, yoga, massage and other physical activity.

To overcome methadone addiction, it’s best to find a comprehensive treatment plan with physical therapy designed to treat mild or severe pain.

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

Prevent Methadone Overdose: Get Treatment

When people take methadone safely under a doctor’s supervision, there usually is no problem. It’s a different matter when methadone use turns to abuse and spirals into addiction. If someone you know struggles with methadone addiction, contact a methadone center and ask about their treatment programs.

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