Methadone clinics are facilities that treat opioid addiction and, more often than not, it is “used by and associated with the treatment of heroin addicts,” according to CESAR. This is because, in many situations, methadone is the best treatment for long term heroin abuse. Methadone clinics treat heroin addiction, but first and foremost, they must treat individuals who are either going through or about to go through withdrawal. Understanding how methadone clinics do this can help you understand the entire process of heroin addiction treatment.
Methadone as Withdrawal Treatment for Heroin
For the most part, individuals who are on heroin need long term maintenance as opposed to detox. Detox is a short form of medically-assisted withdrawal which usually lasts about a week or so; the goal is to get the individual off the drug and to manage their withdrawal symptoms as the substance is tapered off.
However, in the case of heroin, this is not always possible. Heroin addiction can be extremely intense and those who attend detox sometimes do not then attend addiction treatment which is not, in itself, an effective treatment for the heroin addiction syndrome. While many individuals may want to choose detox because it seems like the quicker option, methadone maintenance treatment (which is provided by methadone clinics) is actually the better treatment for both heroin withdrawal and heroin addiction in the long term.
Benefits of Methadone for Heroin Withdrawal
Harvard Medical School states, “Addicts who switch from illicit opiates to methadone avoid the highs and lows and the medical risks of intravenous injection and the criminal behavior that supports it.” Methadone also provides these benefits while treating heroin withdrawal:
- Craving relief
- Withdrawal symptom relief
- No cause of euphoria (with the correct dosage)
- Taken once a day
- Makes it easier to stop abusing illicit drugs, especially heroin
- Reduced risk of overdose
- Reduced risk of criminal activity
- Improvements in family situations
- Improvements in pregnancy outcomes
- Reduced physical problems
Methadone clinics provide all of these benefits to those who are being treated for heroin withdrawal (and by extension, addiction). Because with methadone clinics, these treatments are done simultaneously over a long period of time through the uses of medication and behavioral therapy.
How Do Methadone Clinics Treat Heroin Withdrawal?
Methadone clinics treat heroin withdrawal by making it so the individual does not need to worry about the issue and can focus better on their life and recovery. According to the CDC, methadone treatment “relieves the craving for opiates that is a major factor in relapse.” This is also one of the most intense withdrawal symptoms caused by heroin dependence. It is reduced by the use of methadone which is one way methadone treats heroin withdrawal.
Another is by minimizing the other withdrawal symptoms caused by heroin abuse. Heroin withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, painful, and cause many individuals to continue using the drug rather than go through the pain of withdrawal. This can be an intense issue for many heroin abusers, and a roadblock for treatment of both heroin withdrawal and addiction.
According to CESAR, “Within a few hours after the last administration of heroin, withdrawal may occur, producing intensely negative effects such as drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, and vomiting.” Methadone minimizes all of these effects, making it much easier for an individual to get through withdrawal. They will not be struggling with the painful effects, and even other issues such as anxiety, depression, and agitation are better controlled by the use of methadone.
Methadone fills the void that quitting heroin leaves in a safe way so that individuals will not be grappling with the full extent of their withdrawal and will, therefore, be able to focus on other aspects of their life and recovery. This is one of methadone’s most essential jobs when it comes to treating heroin withdrawal.
Methadone clinics treat heroin withdrawal by minimizing its symptoms and relieving cravings. But one of the most impressive aspects of this treatment involves how the essential effects are also protected by methadone clinics themselves.
How Do Methadone Clinics Continually Treat Both Heroin Withdrawal and Addiction?
Methadone clinics continue to treat both heroin withdrawal and addiction as long as an individual goes to them. The continued methadone treatment helps with withdrawal symptoms and maintaining the individual while behavioral treatments and group therapy can allow patients to work on their full recoveries.
According to the NIJ, methadone clinics and their treatment help “opioid-addicted patients alleviate withdrawal symptoms, reduce opiate cravings, and bring about a biochemical balance in the body in order to reduce the illicit use of opioids.” But this is not all. Methadone clinics treat withdrawal and addiction in the long term. This benefits the patient by:
- Keeping them from facing their addictions alone
- Helping them if they experience issues (like cravings or triggers) which, without the medication and treatment, would be extremely difficult to fight
- Giving them access to other types of treatment such as resocialization and vocational counseling (CDC)
- Reminding them that their recovery is a long process and a journey that is not over once withdrawal is
What is the End of Methadone Clinic Treatment for Heroin Withdrawal?
According to the NIJ, “Methadone can suppress narcotic withdrawal symptoms for up to 24 to 36 hours for patients.” An individual could be maintained on this treatment for months, even years. In many situations, a patient (along with their doctor) will decide when it is best for them to be slowly tapered off methadone. This could occur a long time after the initial use of methadone.
However, for other individuals, there is no point where they stop taking methadone. For many, it is an indefinite treatment for both heroin addiction and withdrawal. In this case, the use of methadone keeps the individual from relapsing back to heroin and, if relapse occurs, they will continue to take methadone and work through the issue.
Methadone clinics treat heroin withdrawal by minimizing its symptoms and making it easier for patients to live with the issue. But, with the help of methadone, time, and behavioral therapy, it also treats addiction, which makes it extremely beneficial for those who have struggled with heroin abuse for a long time.