Methadone Addiction and Withdrawal

methadone addiction

It’s an undisputed fact that opioid addiction is a crisis plaguing the entire country, and officials are scrambling to find a solution. To combat this, healthcare officials have had to adopt some creative practices in weaning addicts off of their drug of choice. 

Specifically, doctors now prescribe methadone to opioid addicts as a means of getting them off the opioids without triggering withdrawal symptoms. This might seem like prolonging the inevitable, and it’s a complex method of battling addiction but one that’s increasingly common. 

Still, most people aren’t familiar with precisely how Methadone works, and they’re even less familiar with the risks associated with the medication, both of which are important topics to grasp if considering Methadone treatment. There’s no doubt that the medication can be effective for scaling down the scope of an addiction, but it’s not a path that should tread lightly.

Understanding Methadone and Why It’s Effective

First and foremost, it needs to be clear that Methadone is, itself, an opioid. It works on the same receptors in the brain as other addictive opioids, which is why it prevents withdrawal symptoms. It can be prescribed as a pain medication, just like any other opioid, though it’s more commonly used to prevent addicts from substances like heroin and morphine, which can lead to  experiencing withdrawal as they attempt to get clean. 

Doctors who prescribe Methadone are essentially banking on the fact that it is less damaging than other opioids or at least easier to regulate. Obviously, an opioid addict who begins Methadone treatment isn’t actually kicking their habit, but they’re making it safer and more manageable while attempting to get it under control. 

Perhaps most importantly, Methadone is regulated in a way that a street drug like Heroin obviously is not. So long as it is used properly, this makes Methadone a much safer substance, and taking it prevents addicts from experiencing the same degree of discomfort that they otherwise would when discontinuing opioid use.

How Methadone Is Prescribed

There are a few different ways that addicts can obtain Methadone: they can receive a prescription from their doctor which they administer themselves, or they can visit a methadone clinic. In either case, honesty about their current usage and their ability to follow a prescribed course of treatment are critical. 

Methadone will most commonly be prescribed as an oral tablet, although there are also liquid and concentrated forms. Generally, doctors will prescribe a higher dose to start to minimize the physical jarring that occurs in switching from one substance to another. The idea is that as time goes on, the doctor can reduce the dosage, and eventually wean the addict off of Methadone entirely. 

Theoretically, treating opioid addiction with Methadone makes sense. Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t always work out that way.

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Potential for Abuse

Despite the regulation and frequent use, one should never lose sight of the fact that Methadone is an opioid. That means that it can be addictive and that it should never be used beyond the scope of prescription. 

In 2016, nearly 350,000 people over the age of 12 admitted to having misused Methadone at least once in the previous year. Underscoring this issue, thousands of doses of Methadone have been removed from street distributors by law enforcement in recent years. All of this speaks to a troubling, yet unavoidable reality: Methadone certainly works to curb addiction for some people, but for others, it is merely another means to feed their addiction.

Based on evidence gathered from Methadone treatment outcomes, it appears that the younger a person was when their opioid addiction set in, the less likely they are to break free from that addiction (and therefore, the more likely they are to misuse Methadone). Likewise, those with an extensive criminal history are more likely to abuse Methadone. 

Certain telltale signs of Opioid addiction in general also apply to Methadone abuse, like neglecting other aspects of one’s life to focus entirely on the substance. Additionally, stockpiling doses to take more at once, obtaining Methadone from illegitimate sources, and attempting to get higher dose prescriptions are signs of addiction.

Breaking Down The Timeline for Detox and Withdrawal from Methadone

As with any drug, the length and severity of withdrawal from Methadone depend on a number of individual factors, like the severity of use leading up to detox. As a rule of thumb, it can take up to 14 days for Methadone to leave a person’s system after they discontinue use. 

Even once a person makes it through the physical ravages of detox and withdrawal, the disheartening truth is that 3 out of 4 addicts will relapse within the next 3 years. Obviously, this speaks to the need for treatment beyond simply prescribing medication.

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Methadone is certainly one way that opioid addiction can be managed, but it’s far from the only option, and it’s clearly not necessary for achieving sobriety. Receiving 90 days of high-quality treatment (whether residential or outpatient) is something like spending an entire year taking Methadone (while scaling down the dosage and never misusing the medication). 

For someone who genuinely wants to break themselves of opioid dependency, and who knows that they simply aren’t capable of doing that if they continue taking a different substance rather than facing their addiction head-on, therapeutic treatment may be a far better option than Methadone.

The Efficacy of Natural Treatments

Some opioid users are reluctant to attend treatment when they can simply receive a Methadone prescription and go about their daily lives. The problem is, as has been stated above, using Methadone is often just a way to prolong addiction rather than combat it. 

Quality rehab treatment, on the other hand, works to disrupt the unhealthy effects of addiction on the brain. That is to say that the therapeutic methods utilized by quality treatment facilities allow an addict to see the folly of their ways and even to understand why their addiction formed in the first place. 

To break it down further, this sort of treatment dissects the root of the addiction, whereas Methadone simply puts a bandaid on the issue and hopes that it will heal on its own. There is nothing wrong with choosing to engage in Methadone management, but a user ought to employ a great deal of self-awareness when making that decision. 

If Methadone feels like a poor management system for an individual, there’s nothing to say that rehab treatment can’t be just as effective on its own if the user is determined enough to maintain their recovery. 

Ultimately, a person’s success with long-term recovery depends on the quality of care they receive early in their treatment and their own internal tenacity. Breaking opioid addiction is always going to be a struggle, but the right treatment team can make a world of difference.

For help setting out on a natural path to recovery, contact Mission Harbor today, and enjoy the clarity of a drug-free outlook.

The facilities at Mission Harbor are staffed with trained experts to best assist patients with their mental health issues. We are capable of dealing with any and all cases with a licensed staff, equipment, and approved techniques. Our mission is to help those who want to help themselves, and we support your decision in seeking help.

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