It’s often difficult to talk about methadone addiction. This is a medication that’s given to people who are in severe pain, and they may be expected to take the drug for the rest of their lives. Methadone is also a drug that’s given to recovering heroin and prescription drug addicts, and they may also be expected to take the medication for the rest of their lives. These people may have a form of addiction, but it’s a form that’s closely monitored by their doctors and, in general, methadone addiction is widely accepted.
There is another group of methadone addicts, however, and these people often do need treatment. People in this group develop methadone addictions without the advice of a medical professional, and by doing so, they put their lives in severe danger.
For Methadone Addiction Treatment
Methadone has been used as an addiction treatment for decades, and it’s still considered quite effective. In fact, according to a study published in the journal Addictive Disorders and Their Treatment, methadone therapies help recovering addicts participate in their communities and feel better about themselves, and the longer that people participated in methadone therapies, the better they did. While there are many medications available to treat addiction, doctors often reach for methadone because they know it works.
People who abuse heroin or prescription drugs often change the way their brains work on a chemical level. As the drugs enter the body, they attach to opiate receptors located in the brain and intestinal system. Soon, the body becomes accustomed to large amounts of opiates in the system, and it makes these opiate receptors less responsive. When the addict stops taking heroin or prescription drugs, the receptors are so weak that they can’t pick up the natural chemicals in the body. The person begins to feel incredibly sick and the cravings for the drug may be intense. Methadone can attach to these opiate receptors, normalizing the functions of the body and bringing the person immense relief.
According to an article published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, most people take 60 to 100 mg of methadone daily when they’re in a methadone program for addiction, although some people may take higher doses. Often, doctors start patients at low doses of methadone and slowly make the doses bigger until withdrawal symptoms begin to fade. At this point the patient is considered “stable” and some may continue taking the drug for years. People often must go to specialized clinics to get methadone, and they must take it while the doctor or nurse watches. This is to keep the person from developing a methadone addiction or selling the drug.
The goal of methadone addiction treatment is to keep the addict from using street drugs. Heroin bought from dealers, for example, may contain all sorts of additives such as:
These additives could cause severe allergic reactions, or even death. In addition, some people become accustomed to taking heroin that is impure, and when they’re given pure heroin, the drug is much stronger than they anticipated, and they overdose.
While methadone addiction treatment may be effective, they are certainly also controversial. According to a study published in the Sociological Forum, some people worry that people on methadone maintenance are learning to be dependent on their doctors during their treatment. Instead of taking care of themselves and making plans for their lives, they become passive. Other people worry that they’re simply substituting one addiction for another.
For Pain Relief
People with severe forms of pain that don’t respond to treatments may also develop a methadone addiction. When the drug attaches to the opiate receptors in the brain, tiny chemicals are released that help the body feel soothed and relaxed. Often, this allows people with severe pain to sleep or forget about their pain, and this relief can last for hours at a stretch. For people with cancer, for example, this could be a significant relief.
Over time, however, the person may find that he or she needs larger and larger doses of methadone in order to feel the same level of pain relief. Once again, the body is adjusting its response to the medication and trying to stay balanced. This is called tolerance, and it’s not the same as methadone addiction. It’s a natural process related to taking these medications.
Some people who use methadone for pain relief are given the drug in pill form or injectable form, and they’re allowed to take the drug outside a doctor’s office. Sometimes, other people grab the drug in order to abuse it. In some cases, small children have been impacted. Methadone is sometimes dissolved in juice, and small children mistakenly drink the laced juice and overdose. This is a real and serious problem with methadone addiction: People might take the drug accidentally or with intent unless the user takes care to lock the drugs up.
Some people take the drug without a prescription, sometimes developing a methadone addiction. They may be tempted to experience the drug on their own, out of a sense of fun and adventure, or they may mistakenly assume that the drug is a synthetic form of heroin that will provide the same sorts of euphoric pleasure heroin provides.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, these people are sadly mistaken. Unlike heroin, people with a methadone addiction experience no sense of euphoria. It might make the user feel relaxed, but it doesn’t provide a burst of happiness. And this is true no matter what dosage the person takes. People who use the drug in order to feel a high may take extremely high doses of the drug in order to feel a rush that is never coming, and they may die as a result of their methadone addiction.
Methadone is a depressant, meaning that it does induce relaxation. People with a methadone addiction who take it with alcohol or other drugs are at increased risk for these problems as a result:
- Slow breathing
- Extremely low blood pressure
Teens often mix medications with alcohol in so-called “pharm parties,” and they may be at increased risk of death due to experimentation alongside a methadone addiction.
People with methadone addictions for months or even years, whether they have a prescription or not, may have difficulty when they stop taking the drug. Those withdrawal symptoms that have been lurking in the background may come right up to the front and demand attention. The person may feel cold, clammy, sweaty, rigid and queasy and the craving for the drug may be intense. The person may go back to their methadone addiction to make the cravings stop.
Spotting an Addiction
As mentioned, many people take methadone for legitimate reasons, and they may need to keep taking the medication on the orders of their doctors. This doesn’t mean, however, that the person has a free pass to act badly. For example, one study found that people on methadone treatments were twice as likely to have car accidents as people who were not taking methadone. Normally, if someone was driving under the influence and was involved in a crash, the family would spring into action and hold an intervention to stop the addiction. It can be hard to know what to do when the person holds a prescription for the medication yet puts his or her life at risk. In these situations, talking to the person’s doctor can be helpful. The doctor may need to taper the prescription, for example, or the person may need a firm talk about what is and is not acceptable for people on methadone treatments.
People who develop addictions without a prescription, by contrast, are breaking the law. They may be spending a significant amount of money on their addiction, since they’re buying the drug on the black market, and they may start stealing or committing other crimes to support the habit. The person may seem relaxed and dopy most, if not all, of the time and the person might also become incredibly defensive when asked about drug use. The person may choose to spend time with drugs and people who use drugs, instead of spending time with the family. And the person may be miserable and just hoping the family will say something. These are the hallmarks of addiction, and they’re sometimes relatively easy to see.People in this second group truly do need medical interventions. Addictions can be physically, financially and emotionally damaging, and they’re hard to conquer alone. Methadone and other opiate addictions can be treated with medications combined with talk therapies. This two-pronged approach allows the addict to discover why the abuse is happening, and learn coping strategies that can prevent future abuse. It’s a very effective way to deal with the addiction and help the person get his or her life back on track.
If you or a loved one is struggling with methadone addiction, contact Michael’s House today and find out how we can help.