Methadone is a drug that is similar to morphine but has longer effects. It is a drug that assists in managing withdrawal symptoms and helps addicts overcome their dependence on heroin and morphine. However, just like heroin and morphine, it is highly addictive. Many addicts find that they have traded one addiction for another, successfully quitting heroin only to become dependent on methadone. Other heroin users become dependent on both.
If a loved one is struggling with this addiction, it is critical that they seek help. Just like heroin, it is extremely dangerous when abused; an overdose can cause serious damage to the body and may even result in death. Without a supervised rehabilitation program, successfully overcoming addiction can be next to impossible.
How Methadone Works
Methadone is an opiate drug that activates the opioid receptors in the brain. It alters how the brain responds to pain by blocking brain receptors that were previously activated by opiate drugs like heroin. By acting like heroin, this drug tricks the brain into believing that heroin is present in the body. This helps to suppress withdrawal symptoms for 24-36 hours. Some rehabilitation centers and doctors prescribe this medication for long-term opioid maintenance therapy. However, when abused, methadone is highly addictive in its own right.
Abusing methadone is dangerous because doing so furthers the cycle of addictions. Addicts believe they are getting “healthy” by overcoming their heroin addiction, but they fall victim to methadone, which can cause similar health problems. Methadone can interact with other medications, illegal drugs and alcohol, causing severe damage to the liver and kidneys. Many addicts suffer from co-existing addictions, including heroin, morphine, or prescription painkillers. A combination of these drugs can lead to overdose and death.
Methadone was originally designed to help free addicts from their cycle of drug addiction. However, thanks to a high risk for abuse, for some addicts this drug only creates further problems. Physical side effects of abuse are similar to the effects suffered by heroin addicts. These include:
- Dizziness and lightheaded
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decreased libido, premature ejaculation, inability to orgasm
- Loss of appetite
Emotional side effects of abuse include:
- Increased anxiety
- Mood swings
- Psychological dependence
Abusing methadone in conjunction with heart and blood medications, such as MAOIs, may cause an unsafe drop in breathing rate. Individuals must stop taking methadone for at least 7-10 days before starting to take certain heart medications. Overdose can result in seizures, brain damage, coma, and death.
Symptoms of Methadone Abuse
Doctors prescribe this medication to help clients overcome their heroin addictions, as well as addictions to some prescription painkillers. However, the possibility for methadone abuse and addiction is high. Methadone gives drug users temporary freedom from their addiction. However, by creating a physical and psychological response similar to heroin, many addicts find themselves abusing this drug. Methadone addicts use the drug contrary to the manner in which it was prescribed. Symptoms of possible addiction include:
- “Doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions
- Taking higher than prescribed doses in order to get high
- Combining methadone with heroin for an intense high
- Using this drug with alcohol can cause serious damage to the liver and kidneys
- Needing to take higher than prescribed doses in order to manage heroin withdrawal symptoms because the body has built up a tolerance
How to Help Someone Beat Addiction
If someone you love is addicted, going “cold turkey” is extremely difficult, both physically and psychologically. A supervised detox program can help manage a gradual reduction in methadone use. Typically, users decrease intake by 5mg per week. A daily maintenance dosage is usually around 40 mg; addicts may be using up to 100mg per day. Consequently, withdrawal and medical detox can be a slow process. However, this gradual withdrawal is essential to avoiding serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.
Not Every Rehab is the Same
Not every residential treatment center has a detox department staffed with medical professionals who can supervise the administration and withdrawal of methadone. When selecting a rehabilitation center for addiction, ask potential centers if a medical professional will be available to supervise the detox process.
A comprehensive rehabilitation program is essential to address both the physical problems of dependency as well as the psychological issues underpinning addiction. Many methadone addicts suffer from underlying problems, such as depression or anxiety, which must also be addressed in order to help addicts successfully overcome their addiction. If the addict replaced a heroin addiction with an addiction to methadone, there may also be feelings of failure and hopelessness associated with this new addiction.
Overcoming the Addiction
Overcoming any addiction is a slow process; addicts learn to live day-by-day and focus on the present. Many treatment facilities provide a structured environment for addicts to safely detox, address the problems underlying their addiction, and gain the life skills necessary for successful sobriety. Contact us today to find the right program for your addiction recovery.