It can be heart-wrenching to watch a loved one’s life undergo the ravages of opiate addiction. According to the American Family Physician site, as many as 500,000 to one million Americans suffer with opiate addictions within any given year. Opiate addictions, whether with prescription drugs or heroin, take a toll on the body and mind like no other type of addiction.
While several different treatment options are out there for the taking, methadone maintenance has a long history as an effective treatment for opiate addictions. Once your loved one is ready to enter treatment, understanding how methadone works can go a long way towards knowing what type of treatment programs will work best. Choosing methadone maintenance for a loved one can be the first step towards helping him or her live a drug-free life.
Methadone as a treatment was first used in Germany as a substitute drug for morphine. During the early 1960’s, methadone came to be used as a medical treatment for heroin addiction in response to the post-World War II heroin epidemic that took over New York in 1964. Since that time, methadone has been used to treat all forms of opiate addiction, both prescription drug and heroin.
Methadone works by mimicking the effects of opiates without producing a “high” effect. In the process, methadone maintenance actually blocks the effects of any other type of opiate drug, which prevents a person from getting “high” should a relapse episode occur. Methadone also helps to reduce cravings while eliminating withdrawal effects recovering addicts often experience.
Methadone maintenance can be used as a short-term and long-term treatment approach for opiate addictions. Short-term treatment can run anywhere from one to two years. Long-term methadone maintenance treatment can run for as long as twenty years. The severity of the addiction typically determines which type of approach is best suited.
Methadone maintenance treatments can be administered through methadone clinics or through an authorized general practice physician. Along with methadone treatment, clinic facilities offer a range of counseling and rehabilitative services, such as medical care and vocational assistance. Treatment offered through a physician works well for people located in rural areas where methadone clinics aren’t available.
At the start, the goal of methadone maintenance is to find the right dosage amount. The right dosage amount will be enough to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms without inducing a “high” effect. Later on, dosage amounts can be adjusted based on the presence or absence of withdrawal symptoms.
Methadone’s classification as an opiate drug places it under a controlled substance category. As all controlled substances fall under federal regulation, certain eligibility requirements apply for anyone entering a methadone maintenance program. In order to be eligible, applicants must have at least a one year history of opiate dependence and be 18 years old or older.
Federal regulation does allow an exception for 16 to 18 year olds with a documented history of at least two unsuccessful attempts at detoxification. Applicants in this age range must also have parental consent to qualify.
Considering the difficulties most recovering opiate addicts face, methadone maintenance treatment offers a viable treatment option for a loved one wanting to live life without the need for drugs.