According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an agency dedicating to understanding the science behind the disease of addiction in an effort to understand its effects and develop effective treatments, has stated that methadone maintenance is a good tool to use in the treatment of opioids, like heroin. They have found that people who use methadone to overcome their addictive behaviors commit fewer crimes, use fewer illicit drugs, improve their health, and take better care of themselves overall. If this is the case, then how do people become hooked on methadone – the very medication prescribed to improve their lives and treat their addiction?
Methadone Maintenance Can Provide Stability and Reduce Cravings
For the past several decades, individuals addicted to heroin have used methadone to return to a more structured and “normal” lifestyle. This drug does not have the same euphoric effects as heroin, when taken correctly. For instance, methadone can last for up to 36 hours, so a recovering addict only has to take it one time per day, rather than using heroin several times per day. Methadone maintenance allows mothers to care for their children, employees to maintain steady employment and eliminates the “dopesickness” – or withdrawal symptoms – that many heroin addicts experience. Some individuals can remain on methadone maintenance for years as a treatment for opioid addiction, particularly heroin addiction, just as some individuals use insulin to control diabetes.
Methadone Can Be Prescribed for Pain Management
Methadone is also used to treat pain, according to Medline Plus, a publication of the National Library of Medicine. When an individual who does not suffer from heroin or opioid addiction is prescribed methadone, they must be very careful to follow the directions exactly as they are given to reduce to risks of dependency. For instance, because methadone is a slow-acting and long-lasting medication, an individual who takes their normal dose as directed may find their pain returns before it is time to take another dose. If they choose to take their next dose early, they are putting too much of the drug into their body at one time. This can increase the risks for overdose, which can be life-threatening, and it increases the development of tolerance as well.
Tolerance occurs when the body and brain get used to a certain chemical or drug on a regular basis. As the body grows accustomed to the drug, it will need more of the drug in order to recreate the euphoric effects. While methadone typically does not create the same kind of high as drugs like heroin, it is still sought by some drug abusers for recreational purposes, as related by Capital Gazette.
Recreational Use of Methadone as a Drug of Choice
Methadone as a drug of abuse is used typically because of its sedative effects and also because of the painkilling abilities. An individual who takes illegal CNS depressants may be attracted to methadone as another source for this type of reaction. When an individual uses methadone at the same time as another CNS depressant, such as the prescription drug Xanax or alcohol, the effects of the methadone are enhanced, making this a drug of choice for recreational use for some individuals.
Tolerance Can Lead to Addiction
When an individual seeks drugs, either through frequent visits to multiple doctors or on the street from illegal drug dealers, because they have a compulsion to use the drug, they may suffer from addiction. When people become hooked on methadone, they have developed tolerance to its effects and they need more of the drug – sometimes dangerously high amounts – in order to stave off the withdrawal effects, which can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Flu-like symptoms (runny nose, nausea, diarrhea, cramping, etc.)
- Muscles aches and pains
- Rapid heart rate
The symptoms are similar to those suffered during heroin withdrawal. Though the symptoms cascade more slowly than heroin and are often less severe, they can last for a longer period of time than heroin withdrawal.
Methadone Addiction Is Still Addiction
Any time an individual abuses a drug – using it more often or in higher doses than prescribed, or obtaining it illegally without a prescription – they risk addiction. Even though methadone is a legitimate treatment for opioid addiction, when it is used improperly and addiction is present, an effective treatment program is the best way to stop using the drug.
If you are, or someone you care about is, struggling with methadone addiction or abuse, please contact us here at Axis to find out how we can design a personalized, fully comprehensive treatment plan to help.