There is a reason that methadone is included in the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. This inarguably useful medication saves lives every day from overdoses and the snares of heroin addiction.
However, because methadone is also an opioid, some are left wondering if taking methadone to eradicate a heroin addiction doesn’t simply reinforce an opioid addiction.
Yes, you are essentially taking one opioid to replace another. However, this article is designed to help you understand why this approach works to overcome a heroin addiction.
We at Asheville Detox are ready to educate you about methadone and answer any questions that you might have.
How Does Methadone Work?
A synthetic opioid agonist, methadone works to eliminate painful opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduce drug cravings. It works by acting on opioid receptors in the brain, which are the same receptors that heroin and other opioid pain medications trigger.
However, the difference is that methadone works slower than other opioids and in someone who is dependent on opioids, it doesn’t produce euphoric sensations. Methadone actually changes how your nervous system and brain respond to pain. Available in either a liquid, pill or wafer form, methadone is taken only once a day. You can expect the pain relief aspect of it to last around 4-8 hours.
Why Is Methadone an Effective Form of Treatment?
Although methadone is an opioid, it is administered under strict medical supervision. It is safer than taking heroin, which is usually injected. This can lead individuals to contract HIV when needles are shared. In addition to this, people who use heroin often engage in criminal activity in order to have money to continue their heroin habit. When patients are on methadone, there is no need to do this.
When opioid users no longer need to seek out heroin because they are taking methadone, there is no need for them to inject drugs. Methadone maintenance treatment has proven to significantly reduce the death rate that is related to opioid dependence.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women can even safely take methadone. This is important because when a pregnant woman goes through opioid withdrawals, her uterus contracts, which may cause her to have a miscarriage or premature birth. When the woman takes methadone, this stops this scenario from happening.
How long someone stays on methadone varies from person to person. However, 12 months is generally the minimum. For some people, it will take years before they will be able to stop taking methadone.
Does Taking Methadone Reinforce an Opioid Addiction?
Because methadone is an opioid, logically you may wonder if you aren’t just replacing one addiction for another. Even though methadone can stop you from using heroin or other opioids, are you essentially reinforcing an addiction to opioids by taking methadone?
The answer is that it all depends on how you look at it. Yes, you are taking an opioid to get rid of an addiction to a more dangerous opioid. However, the difference is that with the help of a physician, you always have a goal in mind of a time when you will be able to let go of the methadone as well. It just won’t happen before you are truly ready.
Can methadone treatment reinforce an opioid addiction? Not likely. Instead, methadone provides a safe alternative for a heroin user.
How Can an Individual Receive Methadone?
In order for you to take methadone, you must obtain a prescription under the supervision of a physician. After time has passed, and you have shown that you are making progress and taking the correct dosage, you may be allowed to take methadone at home. However, the law dictates that methadone can only be given out through an opioid treatment program that has been certified by SAMHSA.
Side Effects of Methadone
While taking methadone, you may experience a few of the following side effects:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Dry mouth
Should you experience any of these more serious side effects, tell your doctor right away:
- Sleep apnea
- Hallucinations or confusion
- Abdominal pain
- Trouble urinating
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Severe drowsiness
- Trouble breathing
Taking Methadone Safely
With that being said, methadone can become addictive, if abused. For this reason, it must be used exactly as directed. This is especially important for those who take their dosage at home as opposed to under medical supervision. Your doctor tailors your dosage specifically to your needs, so it should never be shared with anyone else. Taking too much methadone can cause an accidental overdose.
Since other medications can interact with methadone, be sure to share with your doctor any prescriptions you are taking, as well as your complete medical history. For the best treatment results, follow these tips:
- Take your methadone at the same time each day, and never take more than what was prescribed for you. Don’t take an extra dose if you feel it’s not working.
- Don’t drink alcohol while taking methadone.
- When you are taking methadone, be careful driving or operating machinery.
- If you take too much methadone or are concerned about an overdose, call 911.
- Keep methadone out of reach of children.
- Methadone should be stored at room temperature in a dark place.
- Any unused methadone should be flushed down the toilet.
Get Help Today From Asheville Detox
Are you addicted to heroin or other dangerous opioids? If so, we at Asheville Detox hope that you have learned how combined with therapy, methadone can help free you of your addiction. Methadone treatment is a safe alternative for having to hustle on the streets to find heroin and risking your health by sharing needles. Make a decision at this moment to just let it go.
With our help, you won’t have to suffer through withdrawals. Methadone maintenance treatment will help you feel as comfortable as possible during this challenging time. Contact us today and take your first step toward a more peaceful tomorrow.