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Methadone Addiction and Detox Treatment

Author: Ned Wicker

Published: 2009-09-04 : (Rev. 2013-06-14)

Synopsis and Key Points:

methadone detox is that the drug is used to help a person avoid the discomfort of withdrawal.

Main Digest

Most people associate methadone with opioid treatment, to help addicts get off heroin, for example, and ease them into recovery, free of any drugs or pharmacological intervention. By design it works, but as with anything, there are times when the use of the drug is abused.

For starters, methadone is a synthetic opioid, and beyond drug addiction treatment, methadone is used as an analgesic for treatment of various pain conditions. It is a powerful pain killer, used as a substitute for morphine, and it is less expensive. When methadone is prescribed, there is careful monitoring of the dosage and frequency of use, so patients are closely watched.

Why methadone for opioid addiction treatment

Patients are placed on a methadone program to help with the withdrawal symptoms from addiction to opiate drugs, such as heroin. Those suffering from the disease will explain that the withdrawal is worse than the actual addiction, so many avoid treatment for fear that the withdrawal will be too severe. Also, when off their opiate drug of choice, addicts have to deal with the intense cravings that go along with abstinence.

Therefore, methadone, used under very controlled circumstances, is a tool to help addicts come down off the drugs without severe consequences. Understand that methadone is classified as a schedule II of the Controlled Substance Act, so even though it is used as a tool for treatment, it is still a powerful drug and can easily be abused. When used as an analgesic, physicians must have Drug Enforcement Agency registration. You can see that there are serious controls on methadone, and getting a prescription is not easy.

The physicians who are authorized to prescribe methadone have made an application to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the FDA, along with the Department of Health and Social Services, decide the dosage and the cases where methadone may be used. Clinics that use it have extra state and federal licenses. Moreover, because there are so many controls, there are only about 700 methadone clinics in the country, and some states do not have any methadone clinics at all. Addicts do not have an easy path to methadone treatment, and even if they do have access, the regimen itself is highly controlled and many addicts have difficulty following the plan.

Methadone can be taken by injection, or by mouth. When administered for the control of opioid withdrawal, methadone doses are slowly increased over five to seven days, but this is not always the case. It depends on how the patient responds to the treatment. For example, if the patient has a high tolerance to opioids, then the dosage will be higher, if necessary. Outpatients are encouraged to make frequent reports to medical staff during the early stages of treatment. This communication is vital to determining the proper dosage of the methadone. Each individual may need to have several adjustments before the right dosage is achieved.

Because methadone is a synthetic opioid, there are side effects which should be clearly understood. Patients can experience respiratory depression, which of course is a major concern for heroin users. Likewise, it is not uncommon for patients to have nausea, or to become confused. Patients also need to understand that methadone and alcohol do not mix, and the use of any other drug must be strictly by design and carefully considered.

There are alternatives to methadone treatment. For example, buprenorphine allows for an easier withdrawal. Remember, the patient has to withdraw from the heroin, and then be eased off the methadone. Buprenorphine is also different because if a person decides to abuse the drug for recreational purposes, they will be disappointed because they won't get high. They will, however, get the side effects. Opioid addiction in the last 10 years has also seen the advent of suboxone treatment, but like methadone, suboxone, a synthetic opioid, can be abused.

The important thing to remember about methadone detox is that the drug is used to help a person avoid the discomfort of withdrawal. It is a serious drug and carries serious consequences when abused. Persons seeking methadone treatment need to understand that the strict controls and the heavy oversight of their program are needed to ensure that the treatment is effective.

Reference: Ned Wicker is the Addictions Recovery Chaplain at Waukesha Memorial Hospital Lawrence Center, the author's website for addiction support: www.drug-addiction-support.org

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