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Methadone Addiction, Recovery and Your Treatment Options

Methadone addiction has become a very serious problem in our country. In fact, some believe that this drug has only contributed to the opioid epidemic. It is not uncommon for people to become addicted to it accidentally. But there are also those who choose to abuse it and then become dependent on it.

Methadone frequently causes withdrawal when it is stopped, and the symptoms can be severe. This can cause people to be afraid to stop taking it, and they will often stay on it for years.

Fortunately, there are detox and recovery options available to those who form addictions to methadone. It is not easy to recover, but with the right support, it is possible. If you have become an addict, you need to know that there is hope. We would like to take this opportunity to provide you with all the information you need.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a medication that belongs to a classification of drugs called opioids. It was formulated by the Germans during World War II. Upon its arrival into the United States, it was first used to treat severe pain. Today, there are other uses for it as well.

This medication is often sold under several other brand names. Among them are:

  • Dolophine
  • Methadose
  • Symoron
  • Physeptone
  • Heptadon

Methadone abuse has become very common, and this drug is available for sale on the street. It can be purchased under any of the following street names:

  • Amidone
  • Fizzies
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Dollies or Dolls
  • Metho
  • Jungle Juice
  • Maria
  • Wafer
  • Pastora

This video gives an excellent overview of methadone and how it is used to treat opioid addiction:

Today, methadone is primarily used to treat addictions to heroin and other opioid drugs. Because it is also an opioid, it works the same way that others do in the brain. For addicts, it replaces their drug of choice, which can help with withdrawal symptoms.

When it is used appropriately, methadone can be a very effective opioid replacement therapy drug. It works by lessening the pain of opioid withdrawal, but it can also block the effects of these drugs too. For instance, if someone uses heroin while taking this medication, they will not feel the euphoric effects.

Most addiction treatment professionals believe that methadone should only be used short-term. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people to remain on it for years. They should also be participating in a counseling program while they are receiving treatment.

An opiate drug is one that is directly derived from the opium poppy plant. There are a few drugs that fall into this classification, such as heroin, opium and morphine. Methadone is synthesized in a lab, which makes it an opioid, and not an opiate.

People often get confused about the differences between opioids and opiates. The term opioid refers to the entire classification of drugs that attach to the opioid receptors in the body. That means that all opiates are considered opioids, but the reverse is not true.

Methadone has often been used to treat pain, and this was actually its first FDA approved purpose. It does work very well as a painkiller, but it certainly is not without its risks.

One of the benefits of methadone is the fact that it is a long-acting drug. A small dose of it can help to relieve pain for hours. Most doctors refuse to prescribe it for their patients before trying other methods of pain relief first. However, there are some people who need something stronger.

According to an article in the NY Times, this drug was once known as the fastest growing cause of narcotic deaths. It was at fault for more than twice as many deaths as heroin in 2008. During that same year, it was keeping pace with the number of deaths from other painkillers, such as Vicodin and OxyContin.

The only way to get a prescription for methadone in the United States is to go through an approved clinic. These clinics must be both licensed and accredited in order to treat patients. Doctors who prescribe the drug must have special certifications and training.

Methadone treatment is regulated by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment as of May 2001. When a patient begins their treatment program, they must come to the clinic every day to receive their medication. Eventually, they may be granted the ability to take some doses of the drug at home. However, this is only the case when they have remained in compliance and in good standing with the program.

These regulations are in place for good reasons. This drug is extremely addictive, and the potential for its abuse is very high. People tend to get addicted to it quickly, and once they do, it is very difficult for them to stop.

In this video, one young woman gives an honest opinion about methadone clinics:

Methadone Facts

Even if you’ve been taking this medication for years, there’s probably a lot about it that you don’t know. For instance:

  • It was the most widely used painkiller in Germany, as well as in other parts of the world, during the 1930s.
  • It was formulated in response to a potential war. The German government anticipated that they might not have adequate supplies of painkillers because of interrupted access to opium.
  • It wasn’t released in the United States until 1947.
  • In the 1960s, methadone was promoted as a replacement drug for heroin.
  • The Controlled Substances Act was issued in 1970 primarily as a way to regulate the use of methadone in treating heroin addiction.
  • Many addiction treatment experts believe that the use of methadone is really just trading one addiction for another.
  • It’s more difficult to withdraw from methadone than heroin.
  • Methadone can be a deadly combination when taken with other drugs, or with alcohol.

It’s scary to think that this drug is being promoted as the answer for opioid addiction. The reality is that, for many people, it only serves to make their situations worse. Before they know it, they wind up addicted to a secondary drug that requires even more treatment to get off.

Many of the statistics regarding methadone use and misuse in the United States are staggering. According to the CDC:

  • In 2014, there were more than 47,000 fatal drug overdoses in our country.
  • This number is a 6.5% increase from the previous year.
  • This fact makes drug overdose one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.
  • In 1999, there were 784 overdose deaths from methadone.
  • By 2006, that number had gone up to 5,406.
  • It increased again slightly in 2007 to 5,518.
  • That increase was a 600% gain.
  • By 2014, methadone overdose deaths had become less common.
  • There were 3,400 deaths that year, which still indicates a serious problem.

It’s interesting to watch the trends of methadone use over the years for treating addiction. In 2011, about 9% of all addiction treatment programs offered opioid replacement therapy. This number has remained fairly consistent for many years.

From 2003 to 2011, the number of people receiving methadone treatment has gone up dramatically. In 2003, there were 227,000 using this medication. By 2011, that number had gone up to 306,000. That means that people receiving this drug account for as much as 25% of all substance abuse treatment patients.

How do Opioids Affect the Brain?

All opioid drugs have a profound effect on the brain, including methadone. These drugs are drawn to the opioid receptors in the body. When the molecules of the drug attaches to the receptors, the result is pain relief, euphoria and other sensations.

Methadone Addiction Information

Opioid medications also cause an increase in dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is the chemical that is released whenever you have a pleasant and enjoyable experience. For example, your brain will produce it when you eat a delicious meal or dessert. You may feel it when you spend time with a good friend, or when other positive things happen to you.

When you take an opioid drug, it causes the release of excess dopamine, which is what leads to the euphoria. This experience is encouraging you to continue taking the drug. This is why people abuse medications like methadone. Over time, they notice that they need to take more of it to get the same results. When they stop, they’ll find that they don’t feel quite like themselves. This is because dopamine levels in the brain can drop significantly. It’s as if the brain is no longer capable of making it on its own.

This video gives an excellent explanation of the way that opioid drugs work in the brain:

How Does Methadone Compare to Other, Similar Opioid Replacement Therapy Drugs?

As you are probably aware, methadone is not the only opioid replacement therapy drug on the market. It’s also not the only medication used for pain relief. It’s interesting to compare it with other drugs to see what the similarities and differences are.

Both methadone and Suboxone are frequently used to treat opioid addiction. Many physicians feel that Suboxone is the safer option for most patients. It is known to be less addictive; although the risk of abuse is still there. Also, while methadone can be used to treat both addiction and pain, Suboxone is only approved to treat addiction.

Methadone can be prescribed in various forms including an oral tablet, a liquid, a concentrated liquid and an injectable solution. Suboxone is only available as a tablet or as a sublingual film that dissolves under the tongue.

Methadone is quite a bit cheaper than Suboxone, which is one of its benefits. Both of these medications require close supervision when patients take them. You won’t need to go to a clinic in order to get your Suboxone medication in most cases. However, if a doctor is concerned about you abusing it, they may require you to take it in their office.

Buprenorphine is the generic name for the drug, Subutex. There are also other brand names that it is sold under. When you compare it to methadone, there are a lot of similarities and differences.

These medications are similar in that their half-lives are almost the same. The half-life for buprenorphine is between 24 and 60 hours. For methadone, it’s between 8 and 60 hours. They are both formulated to be long-acting drugs, which means their effects can be felt for a longer period of time.

Buprenorphine is a partial agonist, whereas methadone is a full agonist. A partial agonist doesn’t activate the mu opioid receptors the same way a full agonist does. It will only work until they reach a ceiling effect or plateau.

A full agonist will continue to activate the opioid receptors until the maximum effect is achieved. This means that someone who is more at risk to abuse their medication might choose methadone over buprenorphine.

Most doctors believe that buprenorphine is a much better solution for opioid addiction than methadone. Its addictive potential is lower, and overall, it is much safer for the patient.

Methadose is a drug that was developed in response to the problem of addiction with methadone. It is essentially the same medication, but the difference is that it is about ten times stronger.

Methadose is a cherry-flavored solution that patients consume orally, just like they do with methadone. The fact that it is stronger is said to help keep people from injecting it. When it is injected, it will congeal under the skin or in the veins. This can cause patients’ arms to become swollen and discolored. In some cases, it can even result in abscesses.

While there are some obvious benefits to Methadose, the drug does have some drawbacks. Some addiction treatment professionals believe that the risk of overdose might be greater. People who are abusing it might not realize that it is a stronger medication. The new drug’s half-life appears to be shorter as well. Patients report experiencing withdrawal symptoms faster than when they take methadone.

When it comes to naloxone vs. methadone, the two drugs really have very different purposes.

It’s rare to find someone who is prescribed naloxone (Narcan) as a treatment for their addiction. This drug is primarily used to treat opioid overdoses, and it’s not used to help them stop using these drugs. It’s a short-acting medication that often has to be re-administered frequently to reverse the effects of opioids.

Narcan is a life-saving medication; there’s no doubt about that. However, it’s not an appropriate choice for someone who needs addiction treatment.

There hasn’t been much debate on methadone vs. Vivitrol. Most addiction treatment professionals believe that the former drug is a much better option for people with an opioid use disorder.

As you know, methadone is primarily used to treat opioid addiction. On the other hand, Vivitrol can be used for this purpose, as well as to treat alcohol dependence. Most practitioners administer naltrexone in the form of an injection that is given every 30 days. This gives them more control over when the patient gets their medication. It also makes it much more convenient for the patient.

One of the biggest benefits of Vivitrol is the fact that it is non-habit forming. People who take it don’t have to worry about becoming victims to a secondary addiction. It also has much higher success rates in the long-term than methadone does. These factors are why so many addiction treatment programs are beginning to offer Vivitrol services to their patients.

A study was done regarding Tramadol vs. methadone in the treatment of opioid withdrawal. For the study, seventy patients were randomly assigned to two different groups. Each group received a different medication, and their withdrawal symptoms were closely monitored.

In the Tramadol group, it was noted that there were less side effects from the medication. The patients in the methadone group did experience several side effects. The number of people who dropped out from the study was similar in both groups. However, these medications seemed to be about the same as far as controlling withdrawal symptoms.

While the outcome of this study is very interesting, Tramadol is not approved to treat opioid addiction. It may be considered a very effective pain reliever, and more doctors should attempt to use it before resorting to methadone.

What is Addiction?

When someone has a drug addiction, they are really suffering from a long-acting brain disorder. It’s usually not something that happens immediately after that person starts using a substance. But there are many cases in which it can occur very quickly.

People with addictions become victims to the changes that take place in their brains as a result of substance abuse. When they start using, they are doing it because it helps them feel good. Eventually, they feel the compulsion to use because it is the only way they feel normal.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as, “…a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry…Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission.”

Once someone has an addiction, they have a condition that needs to be treated. There are very few people who have been able to overcome it on their own.

There are a lot of ways to determine if you’re an addict. One of them is to look for the signs of addiction in your life. These can include:

  • Continuing to use a drug even when it’s resulting in negative consequences.
  • Feeling the need to use a prescribed medication (like methadone) even when it’s no longer medically needed.
  • Feeling the need to increase how much you use because you’re forming a tolerance to a drug.
  • Feeling odd when the effects of the drug begin to wear off.
  • Having a desire to stop using, but finding that you cannot.
  • Spending a lot of time obsessing about obtaining or using a substance.
  • Being unable to stick to the limits you set for yourself regarding substance use.
  • Losing interest in people and hobbies that once gave you joy.
  • Borrowing or stealing money in order to pay for drugs.
  • Doing things that are dangerous when you’ve been using.
  • Taking risks in order to obtain your substance of choice.

When it comes to the possibility of methadone addiction, you can never be too careful. If looking at this list doesn’t help, you may want to try taking our opioid addiction quiz. You can also get in touch with us for a free phone assessment to get more information.

Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

If you are addicted to methadone, you’ll likely experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug begins to leave your system. These can be pretty severe and difficult to deal with on your own.

Some examples of common methadone withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Cravings for the drug
  • A runny nose
  • Insomnia or other problems with sleeping
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Excessive yawning
  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Other flu-like symptoms

Your methadone withdrawal timeline can be separated into three different stages. This is what you might experience during each one.

The Early Stage – You may start to feel symptoms within the first thirty hours after your last dose. You may have cold or flu symptoms, but at first, they should be pretty minor. Over the next few hours, they should become more intense.

The Peak Stage – It can take as long as one week to reach the peak of methadone withdrawal. This is because of how long it stays in your system. You may feel very agitated and anxious during this time. You may also have significant abdominal pain and gastrointestinal symptoms until this stage has passed.

The Late Stage – Once two weeks have passed, you should begin to feel much better. Some symptoms may persist, such as insomnia and anxiety. You may still have some cravings for the drug, but they should be better controlled.

Methadone Detox

Detoxing is the best way to begin your recovery. You should choose a facility that specializes in methadone detox. They understand the best way to treat your addiction and will provide you with personalized withdrawal treatment.

Medication Assisted Treatment

Many people find that they need to have medication assisted treatment to help them through the detoxification process. Methadone is a very potent medication, and you may need to begin taking a drug like Vivitrol or Suboxone to help you recover.

Most drug detox programs also promote the use of holistic withdrawal treatments during recovery. This involves improving the patient’s diet and including physical exercise as a regular part of their regimen.

Holistic detox will help to improve the person’s overall physical health. This, in turn, will aid in the detoxification process.

Should You Consider Going to Opioid Rehab After You Detox?

It is very important to go to a high quality opioid rehab after detoxing from methadone. There, patients will be able to work on healing from the reasons for their addictions. Many got addicted to this drug accidentally, but that is not the case for everyone.

A lot of people choose to abuse methadone because it helps to treat various psychological symptoms. These individuals are suffering from co-occurring disorders, which require specialized treatment.

The Importance of Ongoing Methadone Addiction Treatment

Because addiction is a disease, ongoing treatment is a vital part of the recovery process. Patients do not heal just because they went through detox and rehab; although these are critical parts of their journey. They should expect to continue to get help through an outpatient program that can provide them with additional support.

Begin Your Recovery Today

If you are addicted to methadone, please know that you’re not alone. So many people have fallen prey to this medication, but that doesn’t mean you need to remain on it forever. Here at Northpoint Washington, we have the tools that are needed to assist you in your recovery.

The moment you realized you were addicted, you probably experienced a sinking feeling in your stomach. It was hard to believe that it happened to you, and you felt powerless to do anything about it. People in your situations need professional support, which is found through detox and rehab. Together, we can overcome this addiction and get your life back on the right track.

Can we answer any more of your questions about methadone addiction and recovery? Please let us know by contacting us today.

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Northpoint Washington: Opening April 2019

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