First introduced in the 1930s as an analgesic replacement for morphine, methadone’s use as an opiate addiction treatment wasn’t discovered until the 1950s. Since that time, methadone has become a standard line of treatment for helping addicts overcome the effects of opiate addiction.
MMT, short for methadone maintenance treatment, offers people recovering from long-term opiate addiction a means for coping with the withdrawal and drug cravings effects that make it so difficult for a person to live drug-free. According to the National Institute of Justice, MMT works as a long-acting synthetic opioid analgesic, which makes for an effective opiate replacement therapy.
As one of the most heavily regulated treatment medications on the market, comprehensive guidelines and procedures surround MMT use. In a nutshell, here are 10 quick tips about MMT for anyone considering this line of treatment.
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MMT is a Treatment Not a Cure
The premise behind MMT stems from the cross-tolerance effect that all opiates share. Once a person develops a tolerance for other opiates, such as heroin or prescription pain pills, any type of opiate can satisfy the brain’s need for the drug.
Methadone, also classified as an opiate, acts on the same cell receptor sites as other addictive opiate drugs. While methadone does offer considerable relief from opiate addiction aftereffects, it by no means cures the addiction. MMT rather makes it possible for a person to overcome these aftereffects and maintain continued abstinence.
Relief from Withdrawal & Cravings Effects
Persistent withdrawal and drug cravings effects account for why so many in recovery end up resuming drug use soon after completing treatment. These effects result from the brain chemical imbalances brought on by long-term opiate abuse.
Methadone interacts with cell receptor sites in much the same way as addictive opiates, which enables the brain to better regulate bodily processes. In the process, a person starts to feel normal again, making it possible for him or her to resume a normal life in terms of working a job and being part of a family.
Methadone Does Not Produce a “High” Effect
As a long-acting opioid analgesic, methadone’s effects can last anywhere from 24 to 36 hours per dose. With other short-acting opiates, such as heroin the drug’s effects may only last from three to six hours, which accounts for why addicts have to keep dosing throughout the day.
Rather than produce a “high,” methadone does just enough to relieve uncomfortable withdrawal and cravings effects, according to the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health. This mechanism of action makes for a considerably less addictive substance than heroin or prescription pain pills.
Improved Functional Capacity
Opiate addiction warps overall brain function making it all but impossible for a person to function effectively in daily life. Having to constantly “feed” an addiction in terms of financing and maintaining an ongoing drug supply takes on a lifestyle of its own that’s anything but conducive to normalcy.
The physical and mental relief afforded through MMT enables those in recovery to fully engage in the treatment process while taking the steps needed to rebuild their lives.
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Dosage Levels Matter
Methadone’s therapeutic effectiveness hinges on finding the optimum dosage level for any one person. Doctor’s determine your dosage level based on –
- Tolerance level
- Length of time using opiates
- Current medical condition
Too low a dosage leaves a person open to uncomfortable aftereffects. Too high a dose results in heavy sedation. For these reasons, it’s important to keep your doctor informed of any undesirable symptoms or problems along the way.
Ideally, the right dosage level relieves withdrawal and drug cravings effects for a minimum of 24 hours. On average, dosage amounts range anywhere from 80 to 120 milligrams per day depending on a person’s treatment needs.
While methadone does a good job at addressing the physical aftereffects of addiction, the actual addiction problem stems from the destructive thinking and behavioral patterns that develop as a result of drug abuse.
Most every MMT programs requires patients to take part in psychosocial treatment as a condition of receiving daily doses of methadone. Psychosocial treatment interventions may take the form of –
- Group therapy
- Drug education counseling
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Support group work
- Vocational training
- Family therapy (as needed)
- Treatment for Co-Occurring Conditions
Widespread brain chemical imbalances tend to disrupt and/or impair a person’s psychological make-up to the point where full-blown disorders can take root. As a result, many people in recovery struggle with depression and anxiety disorders in addition to an addiction problem, also known as dual diagnosis conditions.
When this is the case, it’s essential to address symptoms of psychological distress in order to prevent disorder symptoms from aggravating addiction behaviors. For those affected, MMT programs implement an integrated treatment approach specifically designed to treat dual diagnosis conditions.
Methadone Abuse Risks
In spite of its use as an addiction treatment drug, methadone’s classification as an opiate can make for yet another drug of abuse. The likelihood of abuse increases exponentially for people who continue to experience withdrawal and drug cravings effects.
Participation in psychosocial treatment sessions also works to help those in recovery maintain drug-free lifestyles. Someone who’s merely going through motions in this area risks succumbing to the psychological aftereffects of addiction and engaging in drug-using behaviors.
Over time, the brain comes to depend on methadone’s effects to maintain an ongoing chemical equilibrium. For this reason, someone wanting to stop methadone treatment will need to go through a tapering phase rather than stopping MMT treatment altogether.
The tapering phase works to minimize withdrawal symptoms as the brain restores chemical levels back to normal. While effective, patients may still experience mild withdrawal symptoms along the way.
We can help you find the right methadone treatment center for you. Call 800-530-0431 toll free to find help today.
As most people entering MMT treatment have a chronic or long-term history of opiate addiction, it’s important to remain in treatment until a person feels he or she is able to maintain abstinence without the drug’s support.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people who remain in MMT for a minimum of 12 months have a much better chance at long-term abstinence than those who stay for shorter durations.