Methadone: Road to Recovery or Path to Addiction?
Methadone maintenance is necessary for some people to kick the soul-sucking habit of opiate addiction. For those dependent upon substances like heroin, morphine, oxycodone and the like, methadone can be a viable option. Fighting cravings and drug withdrawal symptoms often leads heroin addicts back down the slippery slope toward relapse. Methadone can help.
For more information on methadone maintenance, or for help finding a clinic in your area, call 800-530-0431Who Answers?.
How Methadone Works
People who have teetered into the dangerous world of opiate addiction experience severe physical cravings when trying to quit. Methadone works by reducing cravings and minimizing “dope sickness” to aid in coming off harmful opiates.
By administering a methadone maintenance schedule, the euphoric and analgesic effects of methadone are gradually reduced leaving only the positive effect of reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Also, patients taking methadone who inject heroin, experience a blocking of the euphoric high.
How Can I Get Methadone?
Methadone is prescribed by a doctor. During the 60’s and 70’s, when heroin rose in popularity becoming a nationwide epidemic, methadone clinics were developed to help treat this large population of people. Criteria during this phase of ongoing research was more stringent to qualify for methadone programs, however, it is estimated the approximately 151,000 addicts were treated using methadone maintenance treatment in New York, alone. Today, the first step to entering a methadone maintenance program is to talk to your doctor to find specialists who work in this area of medicine.
What to Expect
Upon finding a methadone maintenance program, a patient will be referred for an intake evaluation. Clinicians work to assess the level of addiction for each patient. Staff members will determine which therapy options are best for each individual patient. Some of these options are:
- Inpatient rehabilitation with outpatient methadone maintenance follow-up
- Outpatient long term methadone maintenance
- Inpatient treatment with short term methadone therapy for detoxification
- Outpatient treatment with short term methadone therapy (not as common)
How Long Term Methadone Maintenance Works
For addicts who have been using hard core opiates like heroin for longer than four years, recovery can be extremely challenging. Doctors usually begin with a prescription of 20 to 30 mg of methadone for the first dose and increase the dose by 5 to 10 mg. until they reach an optimal dosage between 80 and 120 mg. At these levels, patients experience relief from cravings, withdrawal side effects and blocking of narcotics “high”.
Are There Side Effects?
Methadone users can experience some side effects when beginning the maintenance program. Close medical monitoring is important to lesson and treat these side effects. Some of these may include:
- Irregular Breathing
Can I Ever Stop Taking Methadone?
For serious addicts, chronic relapse is the greatest barrier to recovery. Studies have shown that longer term maintenance schedules using methadone are more successful than shorter detox programs. Although, methadone has been used both ways to treat opiate addiction. Stopping methadone needs to be a collaborative effort between the patient and medical professionals to insure a return to heroin or other opiates is not an inevitability.
Am I Trading One Addiction for Another?
The problem of trading opiate addiction for methadone addiction is one that research has pondered again and again. However, studies show significant gains in quality of life for addicts combatting their illness with long-term methadone maintenance versus those attempting shorter detox programs. Stopping powerful opiate addiction in its tracks needs to be thought of as a marathon rather than a sprint. Addicts need ongoing support for a long time for the brain to reestablish itself after long-term opiate addiction.
If you’re interested in starting a methadone maintenance program but are unsure where to begin, call our addiction experts at 800-530-0431Who Answers?.
CESAR (2016). Methadone. Center for Substance Abuse Research. The University of Maryland. Retrieved from: http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/methadone.asp
Joseph, H., Stancliff, S. & Langrod, J. (2000). Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT): A review of historical and clinical issues. The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine. 67 (5-6): 347-364. Retrieved from: http://www.drugpolicy.org/docUploads/meth347.pdf
SAMHSA (2015). Methadone. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from: http://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/methadone