While some people struggling with a heroin addiction might choose to quit cold turkey during detox, plenty of patients choose to ease out of their dependency by using methadone. The patients entering detox with the most severe and long-standing addictions usually look for some type of replacement medication such as methadone so that they can avoid some of the more serious withdrawal symptoms they are likely to experience while abstaining from substance abuse.
Methadone has proven to be effective for many people hoping to quit their heroin addiction but others find it difficult to taper off and quit their use of the medication completely. There are also some dangers and side effects associated with the use of methadone.
For those attempting a treat a long-term opiate habit it is a good idea to be well-informed about how methadone works before beginning treatment.
How Methadone Treats Addiction
Methadone is a type of medication that works in parts of the brain and spinal cord to block the "high" caused by opiates such as heroin. It also helps to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms because it is a synthetic opiate.
The medication is able to fit into the same receptors in the brain as an opiate would and relieve many of the symptoms of withdrawal. Methadone is used for treating heroin addiction because it prevents the normally intense and painful withdrawal experience but it also does not cause the user to experience euphoria when it is administered with the right dosage.
The medication is usually provided in pill or liquid form with patients receiving their dose from the clinic at least initially. After their first few doses they may be able to obtain a take-home prescription for the remainder of their treatment.
Side Effects of Methadone
For people who have had a heroin addiction for many years, they may experience some effects of withdrawal especially during the induction phase of treatment. For safety reasons the first dose or so of methadone is usually low to moderate which could mean feeling some withdrawal symptoms at first such as restlessness, irritability, excessive perspiration, body aches, nausea, depression and many of the other symptoms normally associated with acute heroin withdrawal.
There may also be some side effects to the use of methadone, another reason why patients are given a lower dose at first. The side effects of methadone should be differentiated from the normal effects of withdrawal.
Methadone can cause blurred vision, vertigo, dryness of mouth and vomiting in some patients. Eventually the physician will determine the right dose when withdrawal symptoms, drug cravings and the medication's side effects begin to fade.
Abuse, Dependence and Withdrawal
Some of the major dangers of people using methadone, especially when they have had a very severe opiate addiction are the potential for abuse and physical dependence on the drug. Because addiction itself is characterized by compulsive use of drugs for non-medical purposes, it can be difficult for people still in the process of recovery to avoid the desire to abuse methadone.
They might try to obtain additional prescriptions by visiting multiple prescribers so that they can take more than their regular dose. Patients can often become dependent on methadone and struggle to come off of the drug.
Ending treatment can be a slow process of tapering off and will involve some withdrawal symptoms like aching, insomnia, lack of appetite and depression for a few weeks. For patients that have been on long-term treatment of methadone the process of tapering off can take 6 months to a year before they can completely quit.
Patients who combine their methadone treatment with therapy and support groups may find it easier to quit the medication and avoid relapse.