Methadone is used for drug detoxification and treatment programs to lessen the symptoms of withdrawal and to block the effects of opiate drugs. Used successfully for more than 40 years, methadone has been shown to eliminate withdrawal symptoms and relieve drug cravings from heroin and prescription opiate medications. Methadone helps people recover from addiction and to reclaim active and meaningful lives.
In this article, we review how methadone works, how it specifically helps address drug addiction, and we explain the general properties of this medication. If you have any questions at the end, we invite you to post them in the comments section below. We try to respond to all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.
What is opiate withdrawal in the first place?
After heavy and prolonged use of opiate drugs, the central nervous system (CNS) becomes habituated to their chemical presence and adjusts itself. So, if you develop dependence on opiates, what is actually happening is that the brain and CNS are trying to reach balance, and in order to counter the depressant effects of opiates, they “speed up” certain systems. So, when you stop or dramatically reduce opiate drug doses there are wide range of symptoms that occur. These symptoms are the “speeded up” symptoms already present in the CNS…and these are the hallmarks of opiate withdrawal.
Opiate drugs cause physical dependence, which means that a person relies on the drug to prevent symptoms of withdrawal. When the person stops taking the drugs, the body needs time to recover, and withdrawal symptoms result. Withdrawal from opiates can occur whenever any chronic use is discontinued or reduced and usually include:
- agitation or anxiety
- gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea, cramps, nausea or vomiting
- muscle aches
How can methadone help with opiate withdrawal?
The preferred drug in the treatment of opiate withdrawal is methadone, if an opiate agonist is to be used. Methadone is in a class of medications called opiate (narcotic) analgesics. Methadone works to treat people who were addicted to opiate drugs by preventing withdrawal symptoms and lessening cravings in people who have stopped using these drugs. This is why it is considered help for the treatment of opiate addiction. Specifically, methadone
- blocks the euphoric effects of opiates
- blocks the sedative effects of opiates
- does not cause euphoric high
- relieves drug craving
- suppresses opiate withdrawal
Methadone prescription for opiate withdrawal treatment
Methadone used for the detox AND the maintenance of opiate addiction treatment is available by prescription as oral solutions (1-2 mg/mL strength), tablets (5-10 mg), dispersible tablets (40 mg), or injectable solutions (10 mg/mL). However, regulatory restrictions concerning the use of methadone for the maintenance or detoxification of opiate addiction require that practitioners be registered with the DEA as a Narcotic Treatment Program (NTP).
If you have been addicted to an opiate (narcotic drug such as heroin), and you are taking methadone to help you stop taking or continue not taking the drug, you must enroll in a treatment program. The treatment program must be approved by the state and federal governments and must treat patients according to specific federal laws. You may have to take your medication at the treatment program facility under the supervision of the program staff. Ask your doctor or the treatment program staff if you have any questions about enrolling in the program or taking or getting your medication.
Who CAN use Methadone for opiate withdrawal help?
Methadone is not right for everyone. When taken as prescribed, methadone is safe and effective. But all medicines have risks. The physical effects of methadone must be managed in order to get the maximum benefits of the medication. And because methadone is habit-forming, it’s not always the best choice for someone who wants to quit drugs altogether.
Methadone can also have serious side effects in some individuals, including allergic reactions. You may be taking other medications which interact with methadone. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about methadone being right for you.
Who SHOULDN’T use Methadone in opiate withdrawal treatment?
Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. If you take methadone regularly during your pregnancy, your baby may experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms after birth.
Furthermore, drinking alcohol, taking prescription or non-prescription medications that contain alcohol, using street drugs, or overusing prescription medications such as benzodiazepines during your treatment with methadone increases the risk that you will experience serious, life-threatening side effects. Talk to your doctor about the risks of drinking alcohol or using street drugs during your treatment.
Methadone may harm or cause death to other people who take your medication, especially children. Store methadone in a safe place so that no one else can take it accidentally or on purpose. Be especially careful to keep methadone out of the reach of children.
Methadone help with opiate withdrawal questions
Are you considering methadone for a drug problem? Are you scared, nervous, or confused? Leave your questions or concerns in the comment section below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. On the other hand, don’t hesitate to leave a comment with advice and experiences of your own.