Methadone Addiction and Abuse

Methadone is a medication given to people being treated for heroin and other types of addiction. It is a controversial choice, with those opposed to this method pointing out that addicts are trading one type of addiction for another. The drug is taken orally when being given to treat addictions, but it may also be injected. Some people continue to use methadone for years after they stop using heroin.

What is Methadone Addiction?

Methadone addicts are the in throes of a physical addiction to the drug, which is a synthetic opiate. It has the same characteristics as other drugs in this class, and is used to replace other medications, such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Percocet, as well as heroin. A person who becomes addicted to methadone may feel that they can't function throughout the day without it.

Signs of Methadone Dependence

Methadone abuse may take a number of forms. Here are some signs that a user has developed an addiction:

  • Lying to the doctor about symptoms to get a higher dose of the drug
  • Combining methadone with alcohol or other substances
  • Taking more of the drug than the label indicates
  • Using methadone while continuing to use heroin

Causes of Dependency

People who use methadone experience similar effects than if they were using other opiates, albeit not to the same extent. Methadone works on the pleasure centers in the brain and creates a feeling of well-being. A heroin addict may continue using methadone to avoid going through withdrawal symptoms much in the same way they originally continued to abuse heroin.

Effects of Use

Methadone addicts experience these kinds of symptoms when they take the drug:

  • Contentment
  • Drowsiness
  • Warmth

The person's body temperature, heart rate, and respiration drop. Blood pressure is lowered, as well. His or her ability to operate a motor vehicle or heavy equipment may be impaired as a result.

Complications and Long Term Effects of Methadone Use

For long-term users, the symptoms of methadone use include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Increased sweating
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Itching
  • Lowered sex drive
  • Nausea
  • Skin rashes
  • Sore muscles and joints
  • Tooth decay
  • Vomiting

When pregnant women use methadone, the fetus is also exposed to the drug. As a result, the baby is born with a methadone addiction. These women are usually encouraged to choose breast feeding over bottle feeding, since methadone is also present in breast milk. After birth, the baby goes through withdrawal from the drug, and this method of feeding helps to ease the symptoms.

Help and Treatment for Methadone Addiction

Similar to beginning the process of overcoming heroin abuse, the first step in methadone treatment is to go through detox. There are two different approaches to getting free from methadone. The first way is to gradually cut back on the dosage. Using this approach doesn't protect the person trying to quit methadone from withdrawal symptoms, though. Withdrawal from methadone is not a pleasant experience, since it includes:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Goosebumps
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Pain
  • Twitching

These symptoms may last for between four and six weeks. The other option for methadone detox is to go through rapid detox under medical supervision in a hospital. With this option, the patient is unconscious while receiving medications to deal with the symptoms of withdrawal.

Beyond Quitting: Methadone Recovery and Rehabilitation

People who have quit methadone need support to continue along the road to recovery. A drug rehab program in an inpatient drug rehab center that lasts at least 90 days has the best success rate. This methadone treatment approach helps the addict to develop new ways of dealing with life stresses and the circumstances that may trigger a desire to use again. In most cases a combination of a sober living home and recovery programs is necessary to help a methadone addict make a successful transition back into regular day to day life.

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