Addiction is an illness that requires ongoing care. Whether you’ve been addicted to alcohol, heroin, or cocaine, you’re going to have to stay on top of your cravings, triggers, and physical health in order to stay sober. With an opiate addiction (heroin and prescription pain pills), the ongoing treatment may include taking regular doses of methadone.
Methadone has been the standard form of treatment for opiate addiction for over 30 years. It is legally only available from federally-regulated clinics to administer to recovering addicts so that they can slowly wean off the opiate addiction. Methadone is also an opiate, which is why it can be used to slowly wean a person off heroin, morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl and other opiates.
Methadone’s effects take place slowly, unlike other opiates. When methadone enters the body, it takes awhile for it to affect a person. Because of this slow-acting effect, a person isn’t going to experience a high off the drug. This is another reason why it can be used to wean off other opiates. When taken properly, methadone suppresses opiate withdrawal. It also blocks the effects of other problem opioids and reduces cravings. It can be used during detox as well as for long-term treatment.
The treatment for those who are addicted to heroin or painkillers typically undergo clinical, supervised detoxification in order to manage the withdrawal symptoms. Research has shown that the best combination of treatment includes methadone to manage the withdrawal symptoms, as well as therapy to address the behavioral and psychological issues that contributed to the addiction.
Methadone Side Effects
Those who take methadone as part of their heroin addiction treatment might experience one or more of the following side effects:
- Allergic reaction
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty passing urine
- Dizzy spells
- Irregular heart rate
- Limb swelling
- Loss of interest in sex
- Mood changes and agitation
- Reduced heart rate (bradycardia) or fast heart rate (tachycardia)
- Sudden death is a risk particularly for first time users
- Weight gain
Methadone has successfully helped people overcome their addiction to heroin and prescription drugs. In fact, for some people, methadone was the only option for overcoming an addiction to heroin or prescription drugs.
Yet, despite the success of this drug, the use of methadone in addiction treatment has also been criticized. Some experts point out that the regular use of methadone essentially creates another addiction. Although methadone is being used to help a person heal from opiate addiction, they can instead become addicted to methadone. Replacing one addiction for another, some argue, should not be a form of treatment.
For this reason, some doctors prescribe Suboxone. This drug treats opiate addiction by blocking the opiate receptors in the brain. With the use of Suboxone, an addict can try to use heroin or painkillers, but he or she won’t feel a high, and for that reason there won’t be any incentive to use. Doctors may choose to prescribe Suboxone and Methadone for different reasons, depending upon a person’s physical and mental health.
If you are struggling with an opiate addiction, it’s important to get help right away. Doing so may save your life.