Methadone is usually used in helping people who are recovering from opioid addiction. As a prescription drug, methadone is used alongside therapy and counselling to increase the chances of those trying to recover from addiction to stay in treatment and reduce the risk of relapse. Nevertheless, methadone in itself can be abused and people can get addicted to it. If you feel you are having addiction problems from methadone, here are the things you need to know on how to overcome methadone addiction.
Understanding Methadone and Its Use
Methadone is synthetic so it is called an opioid. It can weaken the withdrawal symptoms and cravings that a person experiences when they are addicted to other opioids like heroin. Opioids and opiates are different. The former is made in a laboratory while the former is naturally-occurring and is from opium. Examples of opiates are morphine and codeine.
Methadone as medication may be in liquid form. Addiction treatment centres and clinics can provide this to a recovering addict for treatment. It may also be in tablet or powder forms. Methadone is consumed by the patient with the physician present. This is because there is a high chance that it can be abused which can then lead to the person becoming addicted to it.
When methadone is abused, it can make the person feel relaxed and euphoric. When it is abused frequently, the person will eventually develop a dependence on it. This drug is an opioid which is long-acting, meaning it can take a number of hours before the person can feel its effects. When they do experience the effects, those may last for as long as 36 hours.
People who abuse opioids so that they can get high usually go after drugs that can give them the effects quickly. An example of a fast-acting opioid is the oxycodone. It is different when a person gets high using methadone because it doesn’t give that rush that other opioids can. Nevertheless, methadone can still be abused and people can still get addicted to it.
There are individuals who have a drug use disorder who try to get methadone from their doctor when they can’t find illicit drugs like heroin. Even when a person takes methadone in an irregular pattern but he or she is not enrolled in a drug addiction treatment program, it is highly likely that recovering from methadone addiction can be much more challenging. If the person is using methadone to treat other drug addictions, it has to be taken as their doctor has prescribed it. This way, the treatment can be effective.
Those who are recovering from addiction take methadone so that they can deal with the withdrawal symptoms. However, once they see that methadone is helping them in their recovery, they may decide to take it for the long-term alongside therapy and counselling. When things become more stable for them, they can then be tapered off of methadone and function well without the aid of medications.
Maintenance Therapy Using Methadone
Many people who have opioid addiction choose to continue abusing drugs because they are afraid of having to deal with the withdrawal symptoms that come with being dependent on the drug. With opioid addiction, the withdrawal symptoms may last for a number of days. They may experience insomnia, muscle aches, diarrhea, nausea, and excessive sweating.
In overcoming drug dependency, it is important that the person can fully stop taking opioids. Among the best ways to overcome the withdrawal symptoms is just to face it head on and stop using the drugs cold turkey. Nevertheless, they should be aware that this can be a risky move and there are health consequences to this. The withdrawal symptoms can be so intense that quitting successfully can be very difficult.
Recovering from drug addiction will be more realistic and successful if the person can slowly decrease their opioid intake. This is maintenance therapy using methadone comes into play. Methadone can replace heroin as well as other illicit drugs. Compared to other prescription medications, methadone is actually less likely to be abused. Its good effects can also last longer compared to other opioids used for maintenance therapy.
For people who are using methadone for maintenance therapy, the treatment comprises of them going to the clinic of the physician to receive the prescribed dose daily. This has to be done for at least one year. There are some cases when the treatment goes on for a number of years. Studies have stated that this kind of maintenance therapy using methadone is more effective in keeping patients in their treatment program compared to other types of treatments.
Initial Dose for Methadone Therapy
For the initial dose, methadone intake depends on the history of the individual’s opioid use as well as the level of tolerance he or she has built up with the drug. People who have low opioid tolerance or have an unclear methadone use therapy, they would have to begin a low dose for their methadone therapy.
When the patient feels withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings while they are using methadone, then the physician adjusts the dose gradually. The methadone dose adjustment is based on the way the patient feels in 2 to 4 hours after taking the drug. Eventually, the drug accumulates in the patient’s body so methadone’s effects will last longer.
Phases of Methadone Therapy
After a number of days under the methadone therapy, the drug levels inside the body will be able to reach what is called a steady state. What this means is that the drug leaves the patient’s body in the same rate that it enters it.
The patient may feel withdrawal symptoms as methadone begins to wear off. This usually happens in the first days after the initial dose. When methadone reaches the steady state in the body, the patient will no longer feel such symptoms.
The next phase of the therapy using methadone is called the stabilization phase. It refers to the time when the patient is no longer craving for their drug of choice. To be able to reach this phase, methadone has to first reach a steady state. After that, the physician will have to adjust the dosage of the drug so as to prevent the patient from feeling withdrawal symptoms for the next 24 hours.
When the recovering person is already stable, then the intensive therapy and counselling can begin. This is to provide treatment for the psychological factors that are causing their drug addiction. During these sessions, the patient can learn about healthy ways to combat stress and cope in more appropriate ways. They also develop strategies to prevent relapse from happening.
Maintenance for Methadone Therapy
Once the person goes through all of the previous phases successfully, the doctor won’t have to make adjustments to the methadone dose for the patient not to feel withdrawal symptoms. The maintenance phase of methadone therapy begins.
The individual must abstain from illegal drugs. When done successfully, then they will be able to have a healthier and more productive life. Many patients during this phase have also finished their therapy sessions. Nevertheless, they still attend outpatient counselling and participate in support group sessions.
There are cases when patients need to be on maintenance for a long time. Others, however, choose to have the medication tapered off gradually. The tapering process of the drug begins when the patient has been taking regular doses of methadone for a number of months.
Physicians only recommend the drug to be tapered off if the patient has been proven to be able to abstain from drug use. The individual will also need a strong support group and the right motivations to be able to discontinue their methadone therapy.
Relapse can happen when the person tapers off of the drug even before they are ready. Any decision to adjust the medication should be discussed between the doctor and the patient. The length of time for tapering can vary from case to case.
It may take many months because the daily dose of methadone is only reduced by 5% to 10% every couple of weeks. If there’s a chance for relapse, then the doctor will have to adjust the dosage of the drug so that the patient goes back to the maintenance stage.
When the dose falls under 40 milligrams daily, most patients will not be able to maintain being in the steady state, causing them to feel withdrawal symptoms. There may be some who would prefer to return to the dosage for the methadone maintenance therapy. Others may decide to go through a supervised detox so that they can deal with the withdrawal.
Side Effects of Using Methadone
Even if methadone therapy is effective, it still has some risks. In the same way that most medications can cause side effects, methadone has its share of side effects as well. Most of it is felt during the first part of the therapy using methadone. Once the individual reaches a more stable phase during the treatment, some of the side effects diminish. Here are some of the methadone’s side effects.
- Dry mouth
- Energy loss
- Weight gain
If at any point during the methadone therapy, you experience an increase in your heartbeat, chest pain, difficulty breathing, as well as confusion, immediately go to the hospital or call an ambulance.
It is important to remember that you shouldn’t take methadone along with alcohol or illicit drugs. When you take alcohol or drugs, it can affect your central nervous system. Avoid using drugs such as benzodiazepines or heroin or you’ll risk experiencing side effects that can be life-threatening.
If methadone’s effects are starting to diminish, the patients should speak to their doctor and ask about dosage adjustments. If you consume other opioids while you are on methadone treatment just to address the withdrawal symptoms, then you should be aware that it can lead to a dangerous overdose.
Risk of Methadone Addiction During Treatment
When methadone is taken just as the doctor prescribed, then it will be effective and safe to use. Nevertheless, methadone can be abused. There may be some who’ll use it outside of the context of methadone therapy. This can lead to the development of dependence on the drug as well as addiction.
Compared to other opioids, methadone is not as addictive. But it still has its addictive qualities. Since it is a long-acting drug, it stays in the person’s body for a longer period than with other opioids or opiates. Methadone withdrawal begins about a couple of days after the person’s last dose. The withdrawal symptoms may be felt for as long as 20 days. Here are some of the symptoms you’d feel if you’re undergoing methadone withdrawal.
- Appetite loss
- Muscle aches
Methadone therapy has a bad reputation among people who do not understand the way it is being used for treating drug addiction. For some, it looks like giving recovering addicts another drug to be addicted to. But many physicians say otherwise. When used correctly during therapy, methadone can be an effective treatment for opioid addiction.
Recently, addiction recovery experts have been introducing other forms of medications for patients dealing with opioid addiction. An example of this is Buprenorphine. It is also an opioid but it is less likely to be abused compared to methadone.
Another drug is naltrexone which can block the effects that taking opioid has on the body. There are still so many ongoing studies that compare the different medications for drug addiction. This is to ensure that recovering addicts can have the best treatment during their drug recovery process.
What is Methadone Addiction?
Methadone is a drug that a person with opioid addiction takes as part of the treatment. Individuals who have heroin addiction problems may ask their doctor about methadone therapy for their addiction treatment.
When you take methadone as prescribed by the doctor, it can be helpful for an effective treatment for drug addiction. However, methadone itself, since it is an opioid, can be addictive, too.
When methadone is used to wean you off of your drug addiction, you will have to take it at the prescribed dose and under the supervision of your doctor. Many prescription meds for treating drug addiction are more expensive compared to methadone. That is why this drug is a more preferred option.
Now, more people are taking methadone as part of their addiction treatment. Doctors also prescribe this drug as a painkiller for patients who suffer from chronic pain. There is a high risk of getting addicted to methadone if it is abused by the person.
The way that methadone works as a prescription medication is that it binds to the brain receptors where opioid drugs such as OxyContin and heroin also bind. And since methadone can stay in the body for up to 3 days, it can help in blocking the euphoric effects caused by the opioid drugs.
Methadone can also lessen the withdrawal symptoms from drugs such as heroin. Being that methadone is long-acting, it can build up in a person’s body quickly. It may also remain in your bloodstream for a longer period.
It is vital that you use methadone only as it is prescribed. Do not try to make adjustments to the dosage of this drug without the advice from your doctor. You can easily overdose on this drug and it may be fatal.
Methadone Abuse and Addiction
As a very strong painkiller, methadone is prone to abuse and more people are becoming addicted to it. Today, regulators and lawmakers state that prescription meds such as methadone are being overly prescribed in situations that are not suitable for the patient.
The increase in methadone use is thought to be because of the fact that it is more affordable compared to other medications such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. It is even said that most insurance companies even prefer covering the cost of methadone compared to other types of painkillers.
Methadone can build up in your body and when you take more than the prescribed dosage, you can overdose. You should keep in mind that methadone is a safe drug to use and it is effective as well but only if you strictly follow the doctor’s instruction on the amount that you should take. Otherwise, you can get addicted to it.
Compared to other painkillers that have a half-life of 8 hours, methadone’s effects can last up to 50 hours. This is beneficial for people who are recovering from drug addiction. Methadone can stay in the body long enough to help in easing the cravings and the withdrawal symptoms.
However, methadone is not recommended for the treatment of chronic pain related to health conditions such as osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, or cancer. This is because its effects as a painkiller don’t last long while methadone is still in the patient’s body. That’s why people taking methadone for pain relief are at high risk of an overdose because they might take more of the drug before the appropriate schedule. Here are some of the symptoms of overdose.
- Shallow breathing
- Bluish skin and fingernails
- Inability to stay awake
When not treated, an overdose can lead to a coma and even death. Methadone, when mixed with other drugs, be it illicit or prescription medication, can cause serious problems on the heart. The person may experience arrhythmia or even heart attack.
Effects of Methadone Addiction
In terms of the effects of methadone addiction to the human body, this drug has similar effects as morphine. However, the effects tend to be longer-lasting. It is important to note that methadone does not create the same kinds of effects as other opioids, and in fact, this drug is ideal for blocking those effects.
Although methadone does not produce intense effects similar to other drugs, it is still capable of creating feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Because of this, it is important to note that methadone can still be abused.
Methadone is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. This means that it is helpful in treating medical conditions, but that it can also cause physical and psychological dependence if not used properly.
If methadone is not used as prescribed, the effects can be dangerous. The following are some of the short-term and long-term effects of methadone addiction to the human body.
Short-Term Effects of Methadone
After an initial absorption of methadone, individuals may experience feelings of drowsiness and sedation which makes them feel heavy and lethargic. They should also notice relief from any pain, as well as feelings of euphoria and complete relaxation.
If an individual has been taking methadone for a series of days or weeks, they may notice more severe physical effects on the body including sweating, nausea, constipation, a decreased heart rate and pinpoint pupils.
When it comes to their actual behavioural changes, friends and family of individual users might notice that they experience more aggressive mood swings, heightened anxiety and even feelings of depression.
When an overdose has occurred or dependence is beginning to take over the body, users may experience effects that include low blood pressure, shallow breathing, tremors, itchy skin, blue lips and a decreased heart rate. They may also become extremely lethargic, have a hard time recognizing their whereabouts and may even enter into a comatose state.
Long-Term Effects of Methadone
The effects of methadone addiction to the human body become more severe the longer an individual has been using it in inappropriate dosages. The changes are quite often a result of drug abuse, and friends or loved ones of a user should be wary of potential problems if they see any of these signs.
Effects that a user may notice occurring in their body include severe respiratory issues, as a result of long-term use and a continuously reduced quality of respiration. They may also notice cardiovascular problems, which often begin to build-up with continuous injections, collapsed veins, etc.
Other effects a user may notice include memory loss and issues with learning, as well as signs of dependence. Long-term effects on the body that may be more noticeable include issues with poor judgement and a change in personality or behaviour.
Individuals who are focused on getting their fix also tend to focus less on their physical hygiene which often signals friends or family to begin noticing the dependency on the drug.
In small, controlled doses, methadone can be helpful in the aid of opiate addictions to substances such as heroin and morphine. However, when abused, methadone has the potential to be just as dangerous as other addictive substances.
Those who have been granted medicinal use of methadone should be aware of its potential dangers and remember the potential effects of methadone addiction to the human body.
How to Overcome Methadone Addiction?
If you have been abusing methadone or you’re not taking it in the right dose as prescribed by your doctor, there are options for treating you for your methadone addiction. The treatment comprises of comprehensive therapy as well as medical detox.
Because this drug is an opioid, going through a medical detox is necessary so that the drug can be eliminated from the body. There may be cases where methadone will be tapered off gradually while there are also instances where the patient may be given a different medication. An example of this is a drug called buprenorphine or L-alpha-acetylmethadol or LAAM. Both are used for treating opioid addiction.
The Detox Process for Methadone Addiction
Detox is the first step for treating methadone addiction. During the detox process, the patient will have to reduce the amount of methadone that he or she is taking until such time that they can finally stop completely. Of course, this is under the supervision of medical professionals.
Stopping the use of methadone will result in withdrawal symptoms that may range from mild to severe. Some of the withdrawal symptoms include body pain, anxiety, diarrhea, depression, insomnia, an increase in blood pressure, and chills and goosebumps.
The withdrawal symptoms may be felt for the next six weeks upon starting the detox program. This may depend, however, on the level of your addiction to methadone. The detox process may either be gradual or it can also be a rapid detox.
Gradual detox is slow and gives the patient time to wean off of the drug. Not much is done to the withdrawal symptoms that the patient will experience. To make this process more effective, the patient has to be in an inpatient addiction treatment centre. This is so that the patient can be monitored by medical professionals.
As for rapid detox, the procedure has to be done in an inpatient treatment centre. For this option, the patient will be given a general anesthetic and will be sedated for the first few hours of the detox process.
Typically, the sedation will last for a couple of hours. This helps a lot in eliminating or reducing the withdrawal symptoms from methadone addiction. After the sedation, the emotional and physical condition of the patient will be monitored closely by the medical professionals. This is to make sure that the patient is ready to be entered into the rehabilitation and recovery treatment for methadone addiction.
Just as any withdrawal symptoms, the ones that the patient will experience will be uncomfortable. There’s also no need to worry too much about them because rarely do they become life-threatening.
The withdrawal symptoms will start in the next 12 hours since the last methadone intake of the patient. It will then become less intense in the 30th hour since the last exposure to methadone.
Options for Rehabilitation for Methadone Addiction
After the detox, the treatment program for methadone addiction will begin to shift its focus from the patient’s physical addiction toward the individual’s psychological addiction. This is done through a rehabilitation and recovery facility for methadone addiction.
A treatment program for this kind of addiction is usually inpatient. This is to ensure that the patient will have the best possible chances for a successful recovery. Usually, these treatment programs will last for 90 days at least.
During this time, the patient will learn and develop much healthier ways of coping with life’s stresses. After the inpatient recovery program, it is then followed by an outpatient recovery program. This is necessary to make sure that the individual can successfully transition into his or her normal life before the methadone addiction.
There are several choices when it comes to rehabilitation and recovery programs for methadone addiction. Such programs may be categorized as either outpatient care or inpatient care. The patient can then choose if he or she wants to be in a private facility or one that is publicly-funded.
The inpatient treatment for methadone addiction is recommended by addiction treatment experts because the patients are given continuous medical attention. Their welfare, both physical and psychological, are regularly monitored.
As for outpatient treatment for methadone addiction, care can be provided in a rehabilitation centre. The patient, however, will not be given the same level of care and supervision as compared to an inpatient facility.
As a patient, you can visit the addiction treatment facility either daily or weekly. You can continue to stay at your home during the duration of your treatment. This may sound preferable as it may seem more comfortable but the first few weeks of treatment will be tough so it would benefit you more if you choose an inpatient facility. An outpatient addiction treatment may be done during the later stages of your rehabilitation.
When you enroll in an effective treatment centre for methadone addiction, the treatment will be able to successfully remove the drug from your system. It will also be able to give you treatment for your emotional and behavioural issues that affect how you feel and act toward methadone. In most facilities for methadone addiction treatment, there are a number of counselling programs that can address this.
Individual Counselling for Methadone Addiction
The focus of individual counselling is the emotional issues that the patient may have as well as the other factors that contributed to the methadone addiction. Counselling sessions are done in a secure and private environment where the individual can feel safe and comfortable.
Individual counselling is very helpful especially if the patient has mental health issues apart from the methadone addiction. For example, if you have depression or anxiety, this type of counselling will benefit you because you will be given the chance to express your thoughts and feelings to a psychiatrist or trained counsellor.
In an inpatient recovery facility, you may even have access to a therapist every day if you need it to be that frequent. Later on, as you move through the different phases of the rehabilitation program, you may feel that you don’t need as much support from your therapist as you once did so the individual counselling sessions may not be daily anymore.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
There are many programs in inpatient addiction recovery centres that provide cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT. With this kind of therapy, the focus is on replacing your unhealthy habits and behaviours with healthier ones.
With CBT, rewards are utilized such as positive reinforcement. Practice and rehearsal may also be done so that you can achieve a better recovery for the long-term. What it does is prepare you for a life outside of the inpatient treatment centre.
CBT sessions will also give you the chance to learn new behaviours and habits. You will also be able to reassess your emotions and motivations for your behaviours rather than simply focusing on your actions. Basically, CBT as a methadone addiction treatment will help you in changing or modifying the thought processes that have led you to methadone abuse and addiction.
Group or Family Therapy for Methadone Addiction
For more successful results of your treatment from methadone addiction, it will be better if your family can also join in the therapy sessions. Your family may have been unknowingly enabling your methadone abuse just to cope with the effects of addiction on everyone.
With group or family counselling, your loved ones will also have the opportunity to mend the broken relationships with you and with other members of the family. The focus of the sessions will be on forming healthier behaviours as well as better interactions while cutting enabling behaviours and habits.
In the sessions for group therapy, the therapist moderates the discussions. The point is helping the patient realize that he or she has a strong support group and that they are not going through this challenging time alone.
During group therapy, you can discuss your challenges as you are trying to recover from methadone addiction. You will be joined by people who are going through the same thing. Together, you can support each other and share your experiences as well as your concerns.
Group counselling sessions usually happen weekly during the first stages of your rehabilitation program. It will then be scaled back as you progress into the addiction treatment program.
Regardless of the type of addiction treatment facility that you choose or what type of counselling you prefer, what is important is that you focus on recovering for the long term. So, do your best to attend and participate in the counselling sessions. In many programs for addiction treatment, it is highly recommended that you make use of both the individual as well as the group therapies.
After reading this, hopefully, you are now equipped with sufficient knowledge on how to overcome methadone addiction. Begin your first step toward recovery now that you know a lot about methadone use, abuse, addiction, and treatment. You can start by asking your loved one or trusted friend to accompany you to an addiction treatment centre so that you can talk to a specialist on the programs that are most suitable for you.