What is Methadone? - Buprenorphine Doctors

What is Methadone?

For thousands of years, humans have known of the analgesic qualities of opium. Early Middle Eastern societies (dating back to the Neolithic Age) included evidence of opium poppy usage. And for at least the last 300 years, societies have acknowledged that opioid addiction as a problem.

Opioids belong to classification of drugs derived from the sap of the Opium Poppy. Opioids can be found as legal prescriptions (such as morphine, codeine and oxycontin) and as illegal drugs (heroin and fentanyl).

Because opioids attach to specific receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal tract, they can block the users’ perception of pain. They also induce a euphoric “high,” followed by lingering sensations of relaxation and freedom from anxiety.

As the body adjusts to these euphoric sensations, it expects them. That means the body will stop producing its own mood-regulating hormones: before the long, the body will need more of the opioid to produce the same euphoria. This is why opioids can be highly addictive.

Opioids’ Effects

Opioid use can cause:

  • Depressed respiration,
  • Dilated pupils,
  • Constipation (due to muscle movement inhibition)
  • Increased risk of other physical and mental health problems

Opioids’ effects also include greater risk of sexually transmitted diseases, Hepatitis B or C, HIV infection, and liver disease due to risky behavior.

Because opioids can bring euphoric pleasure, their use carries a high risk of addiction. Those seeking to escape their opioid addition have a difficult time overcoming their cravings and withstanding the withdrawal. This is where Methadone is of value.

What is Methadone?

Methadone, a synthetic opioid, was originally created to relieve pain other non-narcotic pain-relievers couldn’t treat. While Methadone gives the same pain relief as other opioids, it does not produce the same euphoric, intoxicating, or sedating effects. It has been found that Methadone can also block the euphoria-inducing effects of other opioids and can relieve the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

Any successful treatment program for opioid addiction must consider that a patient may still use opioids and may have relapses. Treatment programs need to evaluate each patient individually, and determine the best course of treatment. This treatment plan often includes doses of Methadone as part of medically-assisted treatment (MAT).

Reducing the cravings and withdrawal symptoms, Methadone allows patients to lessen the cravings for opioid use, decreasing the chances of a patient relapsing. If their opioid addiction has lasted years, they may need years of treatment to completely break their dependence.

Methadone Treatment Programs

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, successful treatment outcomes increase as the dose of Methadone increases and as the length of the treatment increases. They recommend a minimum of 12 months spent in treatment, with some individuals benefiting from a course of treatment that is extended over a period of years. Opioid addiction treatments can fail due to the myriad of other issues opioid users often have (mental illness or addiction to other substances).

Anyone needing Methadone for opioid addiction treatment must receive medical supervision, both because of restrictions on the medication’s use and because of its possible side effects. Those effects include: drowsiness, lightheadedness, weakness, fatigue, dry mouth, difficulty urinating, difficulty breathing, or constipation.

But Methadone treatment programs also have many strong benefits. They include:

  • Reduced (or ceased) use of injection drugs
  • Lowered risk of overdose
  • Lowered rates of disease transmission
  • Increased life expectancy
  • Reduction in risky sexual behaviors
  • Reduced criminal activity
  • Improved familial and social stability

Evidence and continuing study suggest that the benefits of Methadone during opioid addiction treatment far outweigh the possible side effects. The road to recovery for anyone addicted to opioids is long, but with the right treatment and with diligent time, they can eventually regain control over their addiction.

Come learn more at Buprenorphine Doctors, where you can search for opioid addiction doctors and for opioid treatment clinics. If you or your loved one need to begin opioid addiction recovery, you can begin with our help.


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