What Is Methadone?
Methadone is a long-acting synthetic opioid that is used as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for addiction to opioids such as heroin and prescription painkillers such as oxycontin. MAT involves the use of FDA-approved medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a comprehensive approach to treating substance use disorders.
Methadone has been used for MAT since the 1970s. Research has shown that it effectively reduces drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms, stabilizes brain chemistry, and restores normal function in people with opioid addiction.
How Methadone Works as an Opiate Addiction Treatment
The use of methadone for opiate addiction treatment falls under a category of MAT called substitution therapy. This type of therapy involves prescribing another opiate to help a person struggling with addiction manage many of the physical effects of withdrawing from the use of the original opiate.
Methadone works by binding to the same brain receptors as other opioids, such as heroin and morphine. This means that an individual undergoing methadone treatment won’t experience overwhelming withdrawal symptoms or cravings after stopping the drug they are addicted to. Without facing a constant battle against urges that could result in relapse, they are able to build a stronger foundation for their recovery.
Methadone is taken orally, typically once a day, but it can also be injected. Because it is a long-acting opioid, it can remain in the body for up to 56 hours. However, the standard single dose of methadone typically lasts between 24 and 36 hours. Methadone can be an effective treatment for opioid addiction, but it is important to note that it is a potent medication and should be used with caution under the close supervision of a medical professional.
How Effective Is Methadone in Treating Opioid Addiction?
Numerous studies have shown that methadone is an effective treatment for opioid addiction, and it can help people to achieve long-term recovery. However, it works best when used in conjunction with other treatment options.
It is important to note that methadone is only effective when it is used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes behavioral therapy and other support services. At the same time, these services are often most effective when the person is undergoing methadone treatment.
Methadone treatment affects each person differently. However, most people undergoing methadone treatment can expect the following benefits:
• Reduced use of alcohol or other drugs
• Improved participation in mental health therapy and other areas of addiction treatment
• Increased engagement in family affairs, work, education, and healthy social opportunities
• Better quality of life and greater odds of staying sober long-term
Who Can Benefit From Methadone Treatment for Opioid Addiction?
The people who can most benefit from methadone treatment are those struggling with addiction to opioids such as heroin, morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl, or hydromorphone. If an individual feels that their opioid use is preventing them from being able to hold down a job, keep up with schoolwork, or engage with loved ones, they may especially benefit from methadone treatment.
When taken as prescribed, methadone can help people to maintain sobriety and lead productive lives. However, methadone is not right for everyone. The decision to start methadone treatment should be made in consultation with a qualified medical professional. Some of the factors that need to be considered include the severity of the addiction, the presence of other medical conditions, and the individual’s ability to adhere to the treatment plan.
In general, methadone treatment is most successful when it is part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and support groups. With proper care, people who are struggling with opioid addiction can benefit from methadone treatment and regain control of their lives.
Who Can Prescribe Methadone, and How Do You Get It?
State law dictates how an individual can access methadone treatment. In most cases, methadone is prescribed by a physician who specializes in addiction treatment.
You may need to visit a specialized clinic if you live in a state that requires daily methadone clinic visits. If you live in a state that allows take-home doses of methadone, you will receive a small supply each time you fill your prescription. You may also be required to abide by strict rules to ensure compliance with your treatment program.
To get methadone, you will have an initial evaluation with a prescribing physician. During this visit, the physician will gather information about your medical history and current addiction. If they determine that methadone is appropriate for you, they will write a prescription and provide instructions on how to fill it.
In some cases, you may be able to get methadone at the same facility where you receive addiction treatment services. This is an excellent option for many people as they can access all the resources needed for their recovery in one place.
What to Expect During Methadone Treatment
If you’re considering methadone as a treatment for opioid addiction, there are a few things that you should know. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that methadone is a very potent medication. It is often prescribed in very small doses, and it must be carefully monitored by a medical professional. Methadone can also have significant side effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, and nausea.
Because of these potential risks, it’s important to speak with your doctor or a certified addiction specialist before starting methadone treatment. They will be able to assess your situation and determine whether or not methadone is right for you.
Methadone treatment is typically started at a low dose and increased gradually over time. The goal of treatment is to find the lowest effective dose that prevents withdrawal symptoms and controls cravings. Treatment can last for weeks, months, or even years. In some cases, people may stay on methadone for the rest of their lives.
Methadone treatment is safe and effective when it is used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and other support services. If you are considering methadone treatment, your doctor can offer further insight into what you can expect.
What Are the Side Effects of Methadone?
Methadone is not without its risks. It is a potent medication, and it can be dangerous if it is not used correctly.
Because it binds to the same brain receptors as opioids, methadone can lead to dependency and addiction if someone uses more methadone than prescribed. As a result, there is always a risk that a person will simply swap one addiction for another.
Additionally, methadone is also a long-acting medication, which means that it remains in the body for a longer period of time than other opioids. This can make it more difficult to stop taking methadone and can increase the risk of overdose.
Some of the most common side effects of methadone include drowsiness, constipation, and dry mouth. Methadone can also cause slowed breathing, low blood pressure, and confusion. If an overdose occurs, it can lead to coma or death.
If you are taking methadone, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects and to seek medical help if you experience any serious symptoms. If you are concerned about the potential side effects of the medication, your doctor can help you weigh the pros and cons of using methadone to determine if it is right for you.
Are There Any Alternatives to Methadone for Treating Opioid Addiction?
There are other medications that can be used to treat opioid addiction. Each option comes with its own set of advantages and risks.
Buprenorphine is another medication that is commonly used, and it works in a similar way to methadone. Naltrexone is another option that works by blocking the effects of opioids rather than mimicking them.
What Are the Benefits of Using Methadone Over Other Treatments?
One benefit of methadone is that it is long-acting. This means that it can stay in the body for a long time and provide continuous relief from withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, methadone is relatively accessible to many people. It is covered by many insurance plans, and there are many treatment centers that offer methadone maintenance.
Because of its safety and efficacy, methadone is often the first-line treatment for opioid addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to opioids, talk to your doctor about whether methadone treatment may be right for you.
How Long Should Someone Be on Methadone for Opioid Addiction Treatment?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question as the length of treatment will vary depending on the individual’s situation. However, many experts agree that methadone should be used for at least 12 months. This allows sufficient time for the individual to stabilize their use of methadone and make any necessary lifestyle changes. After 12 months, a gradual reduction in dose can then be initiated if appropriate.
Harvard Medical School reports that around 25% of people in methadone maintenance programs will eventually abstain from the medication if they decide to wean themselves off of it while an additional 25% of people will continue to use it. The remaining 50% will stop methadone and continue using it when they begin substance abuse treatment with another program.
The goal of treatment is for the individual to be able to stop taking methadone altogether. But this will only be possible if they have first achieved a period of stability on the medication. Therefore, methadone should be seen as a tool to help people achieve their long-term goals rather than a treatment that is only meant to last for a few weeks or months.
While you are taking methadone, it is crucial that you continue to attend your Narcotics Anonymous or other 12-step meetings, group therapy, and individual therapy. Methadone can help you curb the physical aspects of a substance use disorder, but you must understand what compelled you to use in the first place, or there is a much greater chance that you will relapse.
What to Do If You’re Considering Methadone for Opioid Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, you may be considering methadone as a treatment option. If you’re interested in pursuing this treatment option, your first step should be to talk to your doctor. They can help you understand the risks and benefits of methadone treatment and make a referral to a certified clinic.
Once you’re enrolled in a treatment program, you will likely need to take daily doses of methadone for several months or even years. During this time, you will also receive counseling and other support services to help you through the recovery process.
If you’re committed to recovery, methadone can be an effective tool in helping you achieve your goals. But it’s important to remember that it’s only one part of a larger treatment plan. If you think methadone might be right for you, talk to your doctor today.