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Methadone Addiction, Detox and Recovery

Methadone addiction is certainly more common in the United States than it should be. If you’re addicted, there could be a number of reasons. This is a drug of abuse, which means sometimes people choose to misuse it to get high. However, it’s much more common for people to get addicted to it without meaning to.

Either way, you may feel as though there’s no way for you to stop taking this drug. We’d like to challenge that belief by offering you some helpful information on how to recover. You don’t need to continue taking it for the rest of your life. With the right approach to treatment, it is possible to stop and take back control of your life.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is an opioid medication that is often given to those who need to recover from addictions. It’s used frequently during medical detox for the purpose of helping with withdrawal symptoms from opioid drugs. It works well because it acts as a replacement for harder drugs like heroin. When it is taken in high doses, or when it is taken for longer than prescribed, it’s easy to form an addiction.

Methadone was first developed by Gustav Ehrhart and Max Bockmuhl around 1937 in Germany. However, it wasn’t approved by the United States until 1947. Today, it is listed on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.

This medication is often sold under the brand name, Dolophine, as well as a few others. It’s usually taken by mouth, although it can be injected into a vein or muscle.

In addition to treating withdrawal symptoms from opioid drugs, methadone can also be used to treat severe pain. It works as an analgesic for those who suffer from chronic pain, and it works well for neuropathy.

There are a lot of reasons why a doctor might choose to put a patient on this drug if they suffer from pain. Most opioid drugs result in tolerance, which then requires doctors to rotate the drugs they use. When a patient is placed on methadone, a lower dose can be used, and that individual can stay on it longer. Many will even remain on it for their entire lives.

There are a lot of good reasons why people are placed on this drug, both in the short and long-term. For people who are addicted to heroin or other opioids, research shows a decrease in criminal activity. This drug can also help to lower the risk of infectious diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis.

As a form of medication assisted treatment, methadone has worked very well. When patients are compliant with their program, it can change their entire lives. They’re better prepared to participate in therapy because they don’t struggle with withdrawal symptoms. Many will become more active in their children’s lives, go back to work, and contribute to society in other positive ways.

Unfortunately, there are also negatives to taking this medication. There is a risk of dependence, and many who take it long-term will become addicted to it. This can happen even when they’re following their doctor’s instructions exactly.

Methadone does have some significant side effects, which we’ll discuss in more detail in a moment. It should never be used alongside other drugs or alcohol, but many people do.

If you have taken it for a long period of time, you’re likely to suffer significant changes in your brain. You may notice that you don’t learn as well as you once did. Also, you may suffer from memory issues.

Methadone Use and Abuse Statistics in the U.S.

While this drug has helped many people, statistics indicate that the perceived dangers of it are very real. According to information from the CDC:
  • Between 1999 and 2014, the overall prescription opioid overdose death rate increased 300%.
  • In 1999, there were 784 people who died from a methadone overdose.
  • By 2006, that number had increased to 5,406.
  • It remained about the same in 2007.
  • By 2014, the methadone overdose rate declined, down to 3,400.
  • For everyone with commercial insurance who received an opioid drug for pain, .85% of those were methadone prescriptions.
  • That percentage was 1.1% for everyone who had Medicaid as their insurance.
  • In 2014, this drug accounted for close to 23% of all opioid-related deaths.
  • Today, it continues to account for almost one in four prescription opioid-related overdose deaths.

How do People Abuse This Medication?

It’s possible to abuse this drug on purpose, or accidentally. We believe that if you are left on it long-term, you are accidentally abusing it. You’re not doing it through any fault of your own, but your use should still be considered inappropriate.

There are those who will abuse methadone for the purpose of getting high on it. This isn’t always easy to do because many states require people to come to a clinic to get their medications. However, there are those who will allow people to take a certain number of them home with them.

Most people who abuse methadone will slowly increase how much they use at one time. In higher doses, it can result in a euphoric effect that’s quite relaxing and attractive. Unfortunately, this is one of the risks of putting someone with an addiction on another addictive medication.

How do People Get Addicted?

When this drug is carefully monitored by a doctor, forming a tolerance to it is rare. However, that isn’t so once you start increasing your dose on your own. The road to addiction begins the very first time you misuse it in any way.

Methadone Detox Information

A higher dose of methadone will result in cravings for the drug. You may start seeking out that euphoric high every chance you get. What’s really happening is that it’s changing the way your brain works.

When you take too much methadone at one time, it will result in a surge of dopamine in your brain. That’s what causes the euphoria to take place. Excess levels of dopamine help you feel good, and when they drop, you yearn for that feeling again. When this happens enough times, and you continue to use, you’re feeding your addiction.

You may be asking yourself, how do I know if I’m an addict? Perhaps you don’t feel like you’re addicted to anything. You may enjoy the way the drug makes you feel, or might take it just because you’re told you have to. Either way, you could still be dependent upon it.

Either way, it might help you to know what signs of methadone addiction are. Once you do, maybe you can start to recognize them in your own life, if they’re there. They include:

  • You have cravings for it once the medication starts to leave your system.
  • You’ve started to form a tolerance, and it takes more of the drug to get you high than it did before.
  • You go through withdrawal whenever you miss a dose of it.
  • You don’t have any control over how much you use, or how often you take it.
  • You would rather use than do anything else.
  • You find yourself obsessing about the medication all the time.
  • You’ve thought about visiting multiple doctors to get prescriptions for it.
  • Your drug use has become more important to you than your family.

If you still have questions, try taking our opioid addiction quiz. This might help you get some more information about your situation. You can also try talking with a loved one to see if they think you might have an addiction that needs treatment.

Methadone Side Effects

This drug may be considered one of the weaker opioids, but it still has serious side effects. It’s important for you to know what you might experience when you take it.

How the medication affects you may be purely subjective. Not everyone has the same side effects. Yours may be less severe if you’ve been taking it appropriately, as your prescription states. If you’re abusing it, you should expect your side effects to be more severe.

Methadone will produce side effects, even if you’ve only been taking it for a short time. For many people, some of the immediate effects are the reasons they take this drug.

Some of the short-term effects might include:

  • Euphoric feelings
  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • A feeling of relaxation
  • Slower breathing rates
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Nausea

This drug will also slow down your reaction time substantially. You shouldn’t drive on it until the effects wear off. You may appear lethargic once the effects of it kick in, and you could even slur your words.

Doctors really should be warned about the dangers of leaving someone on methadone long-term. Some of the effects it can have are pretty scary.

Long-term methadone use may mean that you have been on it for a year or longer. Ideally, patients shouldn’t be taking this medication for more than six months, according to most experts.

If you’ve been using methadone long-term, you may be experiencing:

  • The onset of seizures
  • Problems with concentration
  • Bouts of dizziness
  • Feeling disoriented
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations that come and go
  • Confusion about your identity
  • Possible heart problems
  • Swelling of the mouth and tongue
  • Blood in your urine
  • Excessive itching, with or without hives
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sleep apnea

Many people aren’t aware of the dangers of methadone, and perhaps you weren’t either. You may have been led to believe that it was relatively safe for you to take. That made sense to you because you can’t imagine your doctor giving you anything dangerous. Unfortunately, a lot of people are misled in this way.

Are There Alternatives to Being Left on it Long-Term?

In short, the answer is yes. There really is no reason for anyone to be parked on methadone.

Consider the story of Michael, from Scotland, who had been placed on this drug for 20 years. He had been using heroin, and it’s possible that the opioid replacement drug saved his life. However, his concern is that people are getting put on it, and then they’re being forgotten about.

Michael didn’t like the way methadone made him feel. He wasn’t able to be a regular contributor to society. He was always sedated, and he says, “It suppresses every feeling, every emotion your sense of sight, smell, everything.”

If you’re addicted to methadone, you may find yourself agreeing with Michael’s point of view. It can feel so hopeless when something you turned to for help actually ends up causing you even more problems. The good news is that Michael found a way out. There was hope for him, just like there’s hope for you. It all begins with going through the detoxification process.

What is Methadone Detox?

When you go to through methadone detox, you’re giving your body a chance to get rid of toxins from the medication. This is recommended because of how highly addictive it is. It doesn’t take long before your brain learns to rely on it. This is also known as drug dependence.

The detoxification process can help to treat the withdrawal symptoms you’ll experience when you stop. That means you’ll feel better much faster than if you were to stop taking it on your own.

When you stop taking your medication, your body may experience a sense of shock. You’ve gotten used to taking it over a period of time, so you’ve become dependent on it. When you suddenly take it away, it’s normal to get a reaction.

You’ll probably find that your symptoms will be both physical and mental in nature. Some of the most common methadone withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Chills alternating with fever or sweating
  • Panic attacks or anxiety attacks
  • Pain in your muscles or joints
  • Becoming irritable or angry
  • Stomach cramps and diarrhea

It’s also important to be aware of the more dangerous withdrawal symptoms that can occur when you stop using this drug. These symptoms will probably require you to talk with a doctor, which is another reason why detox is always recommended. You could experience:

  • Cravings for methadone that can lead to relapse and/or overdose
  • Vivid auditory or visual hallucinations
  • Extreme bouts of paranoia
  • Depression symptoms that can lead to suicide
  • Grand Mal seizures

People often want to know, how long does methadone withdrawal last. This is a question that’s difficult to answer with exact certainty because everyone’s experience is going to be different.

The severity of your addiction will dictate your methadone withdrawal timeline, and so it depends on how long you’ve been using it, how often, and in what dosages.

You may experience:

  • During the first 24 hours, an onset of your symptoms, which may be relatively mild at first.
  • During days 2-10, increasing cravings for the drug that are difficult to control. You may start to experience paranoia and hallucinations as well, and this is when most people relapse.
  • During days 11-21, your physical symptoms may begin to diminish, but you could also start feeling more depressed and anxious. Cravings may be persisting.
  • During days 22-30, most of your symptoms may be gone, but depression can still remain.
  • Beyond the first month, you may have good days and bad days when your symptoms come and go, but as time goes on, these days should be further apart.

You may have considered doing an at-home detox or using drug detox kits to help you recover from your addiction. These methods are no substitute for a professional detoxification center.

The best methadone detox centers offer their patients all the support they need when they’re in the beginning stages of their recoveries. However, that’s just one reason why drug detox kits are not a good idea.

It’s important to remember the fact that medical complications do happen. You are at a greater risk for them when you attempt to use at-home detox to try and stop using this medication. This is a very powerful and potent drug, and it’s best to stop it under medical supervision.

What are Your Options for Withdrawal Treatments?

Scientific research has uncovered so many ways to treat opioid addictions. You’ll want to choose a detox program that focuses on utilizing the most modern methods of treatment.

Your doctor will talk with you about what you can expect during detox. You’ll likely have a lot of questions, and they’ll be more than happy to answer them for you. When it comes to your treatment, all of the options will be discussed with you. Your doctor will choose the right approach for you, based on your needs and your medical history.

It’s very probable that your doctor is going to recommend medical detox for you. This means that you may be placed on medications to help you through your withdrawals. While methadone is an opioid replacement therapy drug, it’s not the only one that’s available to you. Some experts would even argue that it’s not nearly as effective as some of the newer medications on the market.

Vivitrol is a new medication that has recently been FDA approved to treat opioid addiction. Unlike methadone, this is not an opioid drug. However, it works in much the same way, by blocking the opioid receptors. This is going to help you with your withdrawal symptoms, and reduce your cravings for other opioids.

There are also other medications that have been shown to be effective. For example, you may be placed on:

  • Naltrexone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Subutex
  • Suboxone
  • Naloxone

You should get pretty quick relief once you start your medication. If you’re in need of additional medications to help you, you’ll be able to talk with your doctor. If you’re a seizure risk, they may place on an anticonvulsant drug. If you start to feel anxious, you may need a benzodiazepine to help with your symptoms. These are just a few examples.

Many of the best detox centers have actually started to make a shift toward more natural means of detoxification. Non-medical treatments provide you with a high level of professional support. They’re also a great complement to medications.

The goal will be to improve your body’s health overall. This means that your liver and your kidneys aren’t as able to process toxins as efficiently as they should. Most methadone addicts don’t eat a balanced diet, and so your body is most likely lacking in many of the basic vitamins and nutrients it needs to get rid of toxins efficiently.

By making these changes to your diet, not only will you be able to go through detox in a healthy way, but you’ll also feel better so much faster.

Exercise is another important component of the detox process. When you exercise, your body is producing sweat, which allows for the release of toxins as well. Not only that, but getting your heart rate up will naturally produce dopamine. That in itself is going to help you feel better quickly.

How Long Will Detox Take?

It’s difficult to say how long you’ll be detoxing from your medication. Some people will detox fairly quickly, and they’ll feel better within a few days. However, most people find that they need to get a little bit more help.

You should expect your stay at the detox center to be around seven to ten days. There is a chance that you’ll need to be there longer, but it shouldn’t be more than two weeks.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter how long it takes you to detox from methadone. What matters is that you take the time to get the help you need to recover. In choosing to get treatment, you’re taking such an important first step in the right direction.

What Happens After You’ve Detoxed Off Methadone?

Once you’ve successfully detoxed, the next step is to go to a rehab program for additional help. Rehabilitation is going to address a different side of your addiction. By now, you’ve done the work of addressing the physical side. Now it’s time to work on the psychological side.

It’s very important that you don’t skip this step. You’ll probably be feeling a lot better by the time you reach this point. You may even think that you’re ready to go home. There is still so much work to be done, and there are so many more things you need to learn.

The Benefits of Methadone Rehab Programs

There are many great benefits to going to a methadone rehab program. There, you’re going to learn everything about yourself and your addiction. You’ll be working with a therapist to understand why you became addicted to this drug. The reason may be something simple, like you used it to deal with stress. However, it could be something much more involved that requires additional therapy.

Getting to the root cause of your addiction is a critical part of your recovery. Unless you do, even though you feel better, you could end up relapsing in the future. That’s something we want to help you avoid at all costs.

Many people with drug addictions eventually learn that they really suffer from a co-occurring disorder. This is a mental health condition that has contributed to your dependence on drugs in some way.

For example, many people will abuse methadone because they like the way it makes them feel. Without it, they may feel extremely anxious, or even suffer from panic attacks. However, when they abuse their medication, their symptoms go away. This is a form of self-medication.

If you only get help for your addiction, but you ignore the anxiety, you’ll turn to drugs again when it comes back. When you go to a treatment center that focuses on treating co-occurring disorders, you’ll get help for both conditions. This is going to give you a much better chance at a long-term recovery.

Will You Need an Inpatient Rehab?

You might not necessarily need to go to an inpatient rehab. However, most people find that it provides the highest level of support to meet their needs. This is something you may want to keep in mind.

If you’re addicted to methadone, chances are good that you have a long history of addiction. At this point, it might not be a good idea for you to start by going to an outpatient program. The temptation to use when you’re living at home might just be too much for you to bear.

With an inpatient treatment center, you’ll stay for about 30 days, although some programs may be slightly longer. During that time, you’ll be receiving all different kinds of therapy. You’ll have plenty of time to work one on one with your therapist. You’ll also participate in groups, and you may work with other patients in a 12-Step program.

It’s very possible that an inpatient program isn’t right for you. If that’s the case, it’s OK. There are a lot of other ways you can get the help you need to recover from methadone addiction.

We highly recommend that you stay within the realm of professional treatment. A great alternative would be attending an intensive outpatient treatment program, or IOP. You would still be able to live at home, go to work and take care of your responsibilities. Many IOPs offer appointments during the evening hours. You may need to go several times during the week for a few hours each time.

You could also talk with the doctor who is prescribing your methadone to you. Let them know that you worry about having an addiction and tell them you’d like to get off it. They can provide you with information and referrals to help you take the right steps.

How Effective is Your Treatment Going to be?

If you’re like most people, you may be wondering, is rehab really going to work for me? Maybe you’re skeptical about the process, or you’ve known people who had bad experiences. This is completely understandable. However, we want you to know what you can expect, statistically.

When it comes to rehab success rates, usually between 40% and 60% of people will end up relapsing. Of course, the opposite is also true. The same percentage of people will go on to be successful with long-term recovery.

What’s interesting is that these percentages really apply to all diseases, including the disease of addiction. If you are compliant with the program you’re in, you have a good chance of staying in recovery. That means attending all of your follow up appointments even after treatment is over.

Amytal Addiction Treatment

How to Get Started With Methadone Detox and Treatment

We understand that it can be scary when you realize you need to recover from an addiction. If you’re addicted to methadone, you might not be sure what to expect going forward. It’s our hope that we’ve given you enough information to make the experience a little clearer.

At Northpoint Washington, our staff members have a lot of experience helping people with this addiction. We know how to assess you to decide what treatments will work the best for you. You’ll also find that we’re very caring and understanding. We know it’s hard, but we’re determined to stand by your side through the challenge of recovering.

Did we answer all of your questions about methadone detox and treatment? Do you have additional questions you need to get answers for? Please contact us and let us know how we can further assist you.

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Northpoint Washington: Opening April 2019

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