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Methadone Addiction 101 – Everything you need to know to make the right decision

Medical professionals frequently recommend methadone for the treatment of an opiate addiction, as this drug works to prevent the high obtained with the use of opiates. In addition, the medication helps to reduce any withdrawal symptoms and cravings the user is experiencing and acts in a manner similar to synthetic morphine. When taken once every day, the methadone eases the withdrawal symptoms for anywhere from 24 to 36 hours, thus the user is less likely to relapse. This is a common method used to treat heroin addictions, and the NHS reports more than a quarter of a million individuals in the United Kingdom currently receive daily doses of the drug. What do individuals need to know concerning this drug and how addictive is methadone?

Why Is Methadone Prescribed?

A methadone addiction can develop if users replace their heroin addiction with methadone

Methadone works to ease withdrawal symptoms of those who are addicted to opioids, such as codeine or heroin. Pregnant women who take opioid drugs especially need methadone, as abrupt withdrawal of their drug of choice may lead to miscarriage or the baby being born prematurely. When used properly with medical care, methadone can decrease the risks to the foetus and increase the odds of the baby being born healthy. Individuals suffering from hepatitis C or HIV are also frequently given this drug, as it helps to reduce the risk of their infection spreading to others when needles are shared.

Methadone, when initially taken by a drug user, provides a lesser degree of the sedation and euphoria they have been obtaining with their drug of choice. Over time, as the correct dose of methadone is determined, the individual becomes tolerant to the drug and he or she feels normal while on it. Thinking isn’t impaired with the use of methadone, thus the person can continue with their daily life without interference.

How Does Methadone Make You Feel and What Causes Methadone Dependence?

Addicts on heroin detox can still develop a methadone dependence if the drug is abused

When a person is given methadone to treat an opiate addiction, they experience many effects similar to that seen with opiate use. The effects aren’t as strong, yet they still obtain the feeling of well-being they obtain with their drug of choice, as the methadone also works on the pleasure centers found in the brain. In order to avoid any withdrawal symptoms they experience, the methadone user may continue to use the drug much as they did their previous substance of choice. So can you get addicted to methadone? The answer is, yes, and below are the signs of addiction.

Signs A Person May Be Addicted To Methadone

Abuse of this drug may come in many forms. For example, a person may begin lying to their doctor in order to receive more methadone, by exaggerating their symptoms or using other methods to increase the dosage they are given. If given an oral form of the drug, the person may begin taking more than they have been instructed to, or they could take methadone and continue their prior drug use at the same time. Furthermore, a person that develops a methadone dependence may begin combining it with another drug, such as alcohol or a different substance.

The Effects Of Methadone Use

Individuals who use methadone experience a number of effects. Some find they become drowsy or very warm, and others state they are content while on the drug. The blood pressure drops with use of methadone, and the person’s heart rate, respiration and body temperature likewise go down. People on methadone must take care when operating heavy equipment or a vehicle, as they can be impaired as a result of use of this drug also.

Methadone Use Complications

How addictive is methadone compared with other drugs?

When a person uses methadone for an extended period of time, they are likely to develop complications. These complications vary by user, but individuals can expect to see one or more as they come off the drug. In addition, pregnant women who use methadone pass it on to their child, thus the baby must also be weaned off the drug.

  • Decreased sex drive
  • Nervousness
  • Light headedness
  • Vomiting
  • Increased sweating
  • Itching
  • Rashes on the skin
  • Tooth decay
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Menstrual periods that are irregular
  • Soreness in the joints and muscles

Pregnant women pass the drug on through their system to the baby, thus the baby is also addicted at birth. Breast feeding is encouraged at this time, as the methadone remains in the milk until the mother is weaned off of the drug. Feeding the baby in this manner allows the baby to be weaned also and reduces his or her withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone Addiction Treatment

To discontinue use of methadone, patients need to go through a detoxification period. The user slowly cuts back on his or her use of methadone, and withdrawal symptoms will be present during this time. These symptoms may last for a period of four to six weeks, and symptoms a person can expect to see include:

  • A rise in blood pressure
  • Goosebumps
  • Twitching
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Contracted pupils
  • Anxiety
  • Suppressed cough reflex
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Diarrhoea

An alternative method is to enter a medical facility to undergo detoxification. During this process, the person is kept unconscious as the methadone is eliminated from the system. This process is much faster, but the person needs to be unconscious and given medications to combat the withdrawal symptoms he or she experiences.

What Happens After Detoxification?

Can you get addicted to methadone if you don't have a history of drug use?

Detoxification is only the first step in the recovery process. Users need further treatment to achieve recovery, and this often involves spending time in a methadone addiction treatment center. Patients who stay 90 days or more in the centre tend to have the highest recovery success rate, as they learn how to cope with life’s challenges and handle any triggers that previously led to their drug use.

Methadone has been shown to be very helpful in treating opiate addictions, as the medication is safe, even over extended periods of time. Individuals who fail to take it regularly, however, find they don’t receive the full benefits. For this reason, it’s best to work with a medical professional throughout the treatment phase. Doing so significantly increases one’s chances of having a successful recovery. The risks associated with use of this medication are minimal when compared to the risks of heroin and other opioid drug use.

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