Methadone Addiction

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It’s hard to imagine that a medication designed to treat withdrawal symptoms from a drug or alcohol addiction could become a problem itself. Methadone is a drug that is frequently used to ease the severity of drug withdrawal symptoms that occur during the detoxification process. Some people say that methadone is like replacing one drug with another. Whether or not methadone is be valuable to a person’s recovery all depends on the person’s resolve and how they choose to take their medication. While methadone can be utilized as a positive resource to fight addiction, the drug can easily be misused which can lead to an addiction itself. Individuals who develop an addiction to methadone gradually rely more and more on the drug to rid themselves of any kind of ache and pain, such as something as simple as a headache. By taking methadone in such a way, this builds up a tolerance and a dependency on the drug, ultimately leading to an addiction.
Methadone was first introduced as an alternative to morphine in the mid-1900s by scientists in Germany. Methadone was introduced in the United States in 1947 as a pain reliever, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that research started focusing on its use to deal with addiction to other narcotics. In 1971, the United States Federal Government began regulating the use of methadone for the treatment of addiction to heroin, and in 2001, regulations were altered which then allowed health care providers to provide methadone more consistently to individuals managing addictions.

Methadone  helps people addicted to other drugs experience a reduction in withdrawal symptoms for up to 36 hours. Despite the effectiveness in terms of withdrawal symptom reduction, methadone has the potential to become highly addictive. If methadone is not taken as prescribed, an addiction to the drug can form. Due to the fast-acting effects methadone has on relieving pain, users quickly build a tolerance to the drug. This tolerance can lead individuals to take very high, and often lethal, doses in order to maintain the effects of the drug. Methadone usage can also significantly impact  a person’s physical and psychological health, particularly over time.

While Methadone treatment for people addicted to heroin and other drugs has shown some success, treatment providers and researchers increasingly observe that treatment resulting in a methadone addiction isn’t a rarity. Instead, addiction is something that happens with the majority of people who treated with the synthetic opioid. There are also people who develop methadone addiction, even without being enrolled in a treatment program, and develop their addictions through recreational misuse

Brand names of methadone include:

  • Dolophine
  • Methadone HCI Intensol
  • Methadose
  • Methadose Sugar-Free
Methadone is a synthetic, prescription opioid that acts as a painkiller, with effects similar to morphine. It is a narcotic that tends to have a slower onset, and the thought in its use as a withdrawal treatment option is that it is effective because users don’t experience the same high they do with other drugs. The objective in its initial development was to create a pain reliever with effects similar to morphine, without the addictive elements.

Although the medication is not intended to be addictive, people may become accustomed to the short time it takes for their pain to disappear. Therefore, the medication is consumed for ailments as little as a headache or a toothache, for instant pain relief. When pain isn’t present, the medication can create a feeling of euphoria that people can easily become addicted to, making methadone lose its intended purpose.

Methadone is available in both liquid and pill form. The pill form is available at various dosages, and the pills may look different from one another based not only on the dosage but also the manufacturer. For example, Roxanne Laboratories manufacturers pills in 5mg, 10 mg, and 40 mg tablets. The 5mg and 10mg pills are small, white and round with scoring on one side and numbers printed on the other. The Dolophine brand is a round, white tablet, imprinted with different numbers based on dosage as well, and some brands, such as Methadose, have the brand name also printed on the tablet, along with scoring on the opposite side.

Methadone is also available as an oral concentrate, and brand names include Methadose Oral Concentrate (methadone hydrochloride oral concentrate USP), and Methadose Sugar-Free Oral Concentrate (methadone hydrochloride oral concentrate USP), which is dye-free and sugar-free. The oral concentrate is available in a 10 mg/mL dosage. Also available is an oral solution, with dosages of 5 and 10 mg directed per teaspoon.

The severity of addiction experienced depends not just on the dosage of the methadone, but on the form of consumption. Oral concentrates can be absorbed within less than five minutes, giving the methadone the opportunity to kick in almost immediately. Pills however, take up to 30 minutes just to break down before the body even has the opportunity to absorb its chemical makeup into the system and have any real effect. While pills may take a shorter amount of time, people tend to get frustrated with the length of time pills take to work, therefore they take more pills to try and maximize its effects.

As a synthetic opioid commonly used to reduce withdrawal symptoms, particularly in people addicted to heroin, methadone is used primarily as part of the treatment process for drug addiction. Methadone is used in place of heroin during the detoxification stage of treatment, and it can also be used for recovery maintenance. During treatment methadone helps ease the withdrawal symptoms that can be experienced. While methadone calms withdrawal symptoms, it also makes the recovery process much more tolerable. Rather than itching for heroin, or the drug in question, to stop the withdrawal symptoms from progressing, methadone is used as a stand-in to help prevent setbacks from occurring. Methadone is used to block the high that can be received from:

  • Codeine
  • Heroin
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone

Methadone may also be prescribed by a physician if a patient is in a tremendous amount of pain from an intense injury, the aftermath of a surgery or for a chronic illness.

Methadone was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1947, and while it can be helpful in the treatment of addiction to other drugs, the medication can become highly addictive at an alarming rate. Methadone tends to be powerful, and the impacts of using the drug last for a long time. Methadone is also less expensive than other prescription painkillers, which are some of the primary reasons why it’s become a popular, and often deadly, drug. The intentions of using the drug are pure but due to the relief that the drug offers, it can be seen as replacing the original drug being treated with the methadone.

Another way individuals use methadone in a non-safe way is to experience an intense high.

Methadone, as with many other addictive prescription medications, is classified as a Schedule II opioid pain medication. This classification means that methadone addiction is a very real possibility when people use it to treat their withdrawal symptoms from a current addiction. Methadone is used in drug treatment for addictions to other substances, like heroin, and is often given under the guidance of medical professionals in treatment facilities and methadone clinics. Despite this many people who receive this drug develop methadone addiction.

When someone becomes addicted to methadone, signs of the addiction may not be immediate considering they’re using the drug to treat addiction to another drug. When someone first takes methadone, they may be a bit dizzy, but there are other symptoms to look out for that will present themselves over time. These symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Constricted pupils

An overdose from the drug is possible  as well. An overdose can occur if methadone is taken with other painkillers, such as the ones that the medication is meant to treat. An overdose can also occur when a tolerance to methadone is built up over time, so the individual then consumes larger doses of the drug in order to experience the same kind of relief that was originally felt.

Methadone can also have long-term effects on both the brain and the body. The drug can cause intense mood swings and changes in behavior, since the neurotransmitters in the brain are affected by the intake of the drug. Users also may experience depression, confusion, restlessness and agitation. There is also a possibility of a decrease in cognitive function, memory loss and difficulty learning new things. Men and women can also struggle with a reduction in sexual needs and cause sexual dysfunction due to the reduction of testosterone. Severe lung and breathing issues can generate if methadone addiction isn’t treated accordingly.

Methadone addiction is a very real danger to people. Studies have shown that people who start taking methadone often continue taking it for 20 years or more. The methadone high can create feelings of euphoria and while  taking the drug the individual will usually experience pain relief or anywhere from 4-8 hours. Taking methadone actually blocks the things that make people feel high from drugs like heroin and oxycodone. What’s important to note with methadone, however, is that with proper dosages, the person taking methadone shouldn’t feel a high.

However, when the drug is taken outside of a medical professional’s recommendation, the person using methadone can feel the euphoric high and begin to crave it more and more after each usage. As the person’s body accustomizes to the regularly prescribed dosage, they will end up increasing the amount of methadone that they take on their own. This creates a dependence on the methadone. As the dependence grows, so does the addiction.

While clinicians see some benefits to the use of methadone for the treatment of withdrawal symptoms, and also for some instances of pain management, there has also been an increasing number of deaths resulting from its use.

  • The most popular brand of methadone is Dolophine, but other brand names include Methadose, Methadone Diskets, and Methadose Sugar-Free.
  • Methadone stays in the system of the user for up to 60 hours, which is much longer than heroin, which only remains in the system for around 4-6 hours.
  • The number of fatal poisonings that involved methadone went up more than 700 percent between 2001 and 2014.
  • According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, nearly 2.5 million people over the age of 12 reported abusing methadone in 2012, compared to the two million people reporting misuse of the drug in 2011.
  • In 2011, more than 65,000 emergency room visits were attributed to the use of methadone.

It’s crucial to work through an addiction with medical professionals and clinical therapists, as they can determine the proper form of treatment to not just manage a methadone addiction, but the original drug addiction that the methadone was meant to alleviate. Doctors will configure an effective treatment with the proper medications to ease the withdrawal symptoms and find a way to refrain an addiction from occurring again. The Recovery Village offers an abundance of programs that can be individualized for a person’s unique needs. With treatment facilities located across the country, centers include inpatient, outpatient and aftercare programs to teach patients the necessary skills to begin a life of sobriety.

If you or a loved one struggle with methadone addiction, The Recovery Village can help you receive the necessary assistance needed for a successful recovery. Calls are free and confidential. Take the first step toward a drug-free life today.

(Patterson, n.d.) (Abuse, 2011) (Center, 2003) (Everyday Health, n.d.) (, n.d.) (CESAR, n.d.) (Omudhome Ogbru, n.d.)

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