Treatment for Methadone Abuse

Methadone is well known in the mainstream as a treatment for opioid addiction (such as addiction to heroin) or a treatment for severe pain. Its origins go back to Germany, during World War II, when this opioid was created to serve as a long-acting pain reliever for surgeries and cancer treatment. After 1950, methadone was used to treat opioid addiction (including addictions to heroin and morphine). In the opioid abuse treatment context, methadone manages withdrawal symptoms, assists in detoxification, and can be used in maintenance programs to treat opioid abuse. This drug comes in the form of tablets, an oral solution, and an injectable liquid.

Methadone works to mimic natural endorphins in the body. Endorphins make contact with special receptors in the brain that are involved in pain. When an endorphin attaches to one of these special receptors, pain is blocked. Endorphins can also create a pleasurable feeling. Methadone was designed to fit the same special receptors to which endorphins attach, and it can block the pleasurable effects of opioid abuse.

Like other opioids, methadone is addiction-forming, and as such, it is classified as a Schedule II drug. Although methadone has a lawful prescription purpose, it is also a street drug. Popular street names for methadone include:

  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Amidone
  • Maria
  • Fizzies
  • Wafer

Risks and Side Effects

When used under a doctor’s or addiction specialist’s care as part of a structured drug treatment program, methadone can be a helpful aid in achieving and maintaining abstinence. However, methadone abuse exposes the user to a host of common side effects, including:

  • Itchy skin
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sleepiness and dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting, and constipation
  • Facial swelling
  • Trouble breathing

Withdrawal symptoms, including the following (among others), may manifest when the familiar usage of methadone is interrupted:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle tremors
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
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Just as prescription painkillers like OxyContin are vulnerable to being diverted from lawful users to non-prescribed users, methadone is a legal drug that can end up in the wrong hands. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, methadone abuse presents the following risks:

As CBS News reports, although as of 2012 methadone only represented two percent of the market share of prescription painkillers, methadone was responsible for more than 30 percent of overdose fatalities related to this drug category. Perhaps surprisingly, most of these deaths occurred in Americans who take methadone for pain, not those using it for opioid abuse treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control, methadone is associated with greater risks than other prescription pain relievers because it is susceptible to build up in the body and can disrupt normal heart rhythm and breathing.

Treating Methadone Abuse

Although using medication, such as methadone, to treat withdrawal from opioid addiction has proven effective, some argue that this practice is merely replacing one drug with another. As a result, some 12-Step programs and sober living facilities are not welcoming of recovering addicts on a medication-supported maintenance program. Now, imagine how much more complicated the picture becomes when another opioid antidote, such as Suboxone, is used to treat withdrawal from methadone.

Suboxone is a combination of four parts buprenorphine to two parts naloxone. Suboxone can help establish a safe groundwork for the transition from methadone dependence to being opioid-free. Using Suboxone to taper off methadone abuse can be complicated despite some various success stories on the Internet. Suboxone should only be used to treat methadone withdrawal under the care of a qualified consulting medical professional or addiction specialist.

Care and heightened vigilance must be exercised when using Suboxone as it is itself addictive (i.e., can cause physical and mental dependence). When withdrawal occurs, symptoms will likely manifest. It may seem like a perverse chain of treatment when you need an antidote to treat an antidote. However, the dangers of withdrawal from opioid abuse may necessitate the safe use of another opioid antidote. The good news is that an effective recovery program can end the complicated circle of opioid abuse.

Treating Methadone Abuse

Although using medication, such as methadone, to treat withdrawal from opioid addiction has proven effective, some argue that this practice is merely replacing one drug with another. As a result, some 12-Step programs and sober living facilities are not welcoming of recovering addicts on a medication-supported maintenance program. Now, imagine how much more complicated the picture becomes when another opioid antidote, such as Suboxone, is used to treat withdrawal from methadone.
Suboxone is a combination of four parts buprenorphine to two parts naloxone. Suboxone can help establish a safe groundwork for the transition from methadone dependence to being opioid-free. Using Suboxone to taper off methadone abuse can be complicated despite some various success stories on the Internet. Suboxone should only be used to treat methadone withdrawal under the care of a qualified consulting medical professional or addiction specialist.
Care and heightened vigilance must be exercised when using Suboxone as it is itself addictive (i.e., can cause physical and mental dependence). When withdrawal occurs, symptoms will likely manifest. It may seem like a perverse chain of treatment when you need an antidote to treat an antidote. However, the dangers of withdrawal from opioid abuse may necessitate the safe use of another opioid antidote. The good news is that an effective recovery program can end the complicated circle of opioid abuse.

Find Treatment for Methadone Abuse

If you, or your loved one, are abusing methadone or any other opioids, we can help you get the care you need to get well. Call us today for more information on how a comprehensive treatment program can get you on the path to an addiction-free life.

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