Why Is Methadone Used to Treat Heroin Addiction?

Since the 1960s, methadone maintenance therapy, or MMT, has been one of the most successful ways to help heroin users escape the trap of addiction and lead healthy, fulfilling lives. Methadone is a man-made opioid that is used to manage moderate to severe pain. This medication can also be prescribed by qualified doctors as part of a comprehensive heroin addiction treatment program.

Methadone is distributed at outpatient facilities or inpatient rehab centers that are authorized to dispense this powerful drug. When you’re on a methadone maintenance program, you must continue to take the medication on a regular basis, usually every day, in order to control heroin cravings and avoid the unpleasant side effects of opiate withdrawal.

Methadone’s Role in Heroin Rehab

Methadone isn’t a “cure” for heroin addiction, but it can be a lifesaver for opioid addicts who have tried to quit unsuccessfully. Methadone works by activating the same chemical receptors in the brain that respond to heroin. If you’ve become dependent on heroin and you decide to quit, taking methadone on a daily basis can keep you from going into withdrawal, a condition that occurs when an addict’s body is suddenly deprived of opiates. By blocking your brain’s opioid receptors, methadone can prevent symptoms such as:

  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle spasms
  • Goosebumps
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness

Methadone can also reduce your craving for heroin when you’re going through addiction treatment, so you can concentrate on the rehabilitation process and start looking forward to a better future. Unlike heroin, methadone does not cause a euphoric high when it’s taken at the recommended doses. Instead, a methadone maintenance program allows you to function normally, take care of your loved ones, and even hold down a job. If your life has been ravaged by the effects of heroin addiction, methadone can give you a renewed sense of hope.

In order to be an effective part of a recovery plan, methadone must be taken correctly under medical supervision. Like heroin or other opioid drugs, methadone can be addictive when it’s abused. Methadone should never be combined with other drugs, especially central nervous system depressants like prescription narcotics, alcohol or heroin. An overdose of methadone can lead to respiratory depression, coma and death, warns the National Library of Medicine.

Benefits of Methadone Treatment

Methadone maintenance treatment has consistently proven to be one of the best ways to treat heroin addiction. According to the Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, MMT offers the following benefits to the recovering addict:

  • Reduces the use of heroin or eliminates heroin abuse altogether
  • Lowers the risk of heroin overdose and death
  • Prevents transmission of communicable diseases like hepatitis and HIV/AIDS
  • Lowers the rate of drug-related criminal activity and incarceration
  • Promotes personal and economic stability in recovering addicts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, methadone can be taken by pregnant women who are addicted to heroin, thus reducing the risk of miscarriage, complications with pregnancy, low birth weight and birth defects. This should, of course, only be done under the close supervision of a doctor.

Using Methadone in Your Recovery Plan

Methadone alone isn’t enough to keep you clean or enough to help you reach a complete state of recovery. In addition to following a methadone maintenance regimen, recovering heroin addicts should take part in a program that offers the following rehabilitation services:

  • Individual and group therapy
  • Family or partners counseling
  • Nutritional replacement
  • Social services such as housing or employment assistance
  • Education and counseling on blood-borne diseases (for IV heroin users)
  • Participation in a 12-step program like Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

To avoid the potentially life-threatening side effects of methadone, including addiction and overdose, you should never take this drug without a doctor’s supervision. Visiting a clinic or rehab center every day to obtain a dose of methadone might seem like an inconvenience, but when you compare your treatment plan to the devastating consequences of heroin addiction, you’ll see that these requirements are well worth the trouble.

Heroin is one of the most addictive opiates available, and many addicts never recover from the effects of this potent drug. However, recovery is possible when you reach out to experienced addiction treatment professionals. If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin dependence, we encourage you to contact us to learn more about our comprehensive treatment programs. At Axis, we give you the support you need to build a healthy, stable future in recovery.