Methadone Treatment – The Good and the Bad

Drug rehabs, clinics, or Methadone treatment can administer Methadone for people addicted to opioids. The goal is often to assist them in overcoming addiction behaviors and patterns, while maintaining a legalized and controlled form of opiate intake.


Methadone Treatment

Methadone is an opioid drug that was invented in Germany during World War II. The drug has very similar effects to morphine. You can find it in tablet form, powder, or as a liquid. Although a doctor must prescribe this drug, most people receive it at a Methadone clinic. Methadone has been available in the USA since 1947. It was brought in as a safer alternative to those suffering from heroin addiction. Since it suppresses withdrawal symptoms, some drug users choose to participate in methadone treatment therapy.

It is important to remember, that even though Methadone is sold as a safer alternative to other narcotics, it is a highly addictive drug, which can lead to addiction, abuse, and overdose.

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The History of Methadone

Methadone Withdrawal Detox

Methadone Treatment

While looking for a medical response to a heroin addiction sweeping the nation in the 1960s, New York physicians Vincent Dole and Marie Nyswander realized that daily doses of methadone could be an effective treatment and/or replacement for opiate addiction. Recovery specialists began prescribing methadone to help people overcome addictions to opiates, including heroin, morphine, and codeine. Then, private Methadone clinics started popping up in a large number of neighborhoods, where patients line up in the morning for their daily dose.

How Does Methadone Work for Opiate Addiction?

Methadone and other opiates relieve pain and cause euphoria by binding to special opioid receptors in the brain and elsewhere in the body. These opioid receptors are a bit like spaces in a parking garage – the opioid “parks” to take up the entire parking space. When methadone parks on an opioid receptor, there is no room for heroin or morphine to park there. The idea was that professionals would be able to control the amount and what opioid the individual will take by dispensing daily doses.


Methadone Addiction and Overdose

Some doctors began prescribing methadone in the 1990s to relieve chronic pain. However, this new use for methadone is proving to be quite dangerous, as the number of methadone-related fatal overdoses have increased significantly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), methadone-related deaths skyrocketed from 790 in 1990 to 5,420 in 2006.

The CDC also reported that Methadone contributed to nearly one in three prescription painkiller deaths in the United States in 2009 when more than 4 million prescriptions where written. This resulted in six times more people dying of methadone overdose in the last decade. The number of methadone overdose deaths eclipse those associated with heroin and other opiate drugs, such as fentanyl, morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.


Possible Risk Factors

The difference between a therapeutic dose of methadone and an overdose is dangerously small, making it very easy for a consumer to misuse this powerful drug or accidentally take too much. Methadone is not without its risks, especially at high doses; it can slow breathing and disrupt the heart function to cause irregular heart rhythms.

It is important to remember, that even though Methadone is sold as a safer alternative to other narcotics, it is a highly addictive drug, which can lead to addiction, abuse, and overdose.

Doses must be carefully given to each individual, and adjustments are typically necessary especially in the induction period. Additionally, a complete physical and mental history of the patient should be reviewed to ensure safety.

For example, common side effects of taking methadone can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Labored breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramps

Furthermore, when taking methadone, people should be very aware of the interaction potential with other medications. Some of this interaction could be detrimental to the heart and lungs. Another side effect to be aware of is the length in which methadone remains in your system. Lastly, active ingredients in other medications combined with methadone can lead to an overdose.

Methadone should often be avoided by people who:

  • Use antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, tranquilizers or antihistamines drugs
  • Take medicines for heart arrhythmias
  • Are pregnant or planning to be
  • Suffer from seizure disorders, asthma, sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or other pulmonary diseases
  • Have low blood pressure or sleep apnea
  • Suffered head injuries
  • Have any issues with liver, kidney, prostate, gallbladder, thyroid or adrenal glands.


Methadone Detox

Patients who attempt methadone withdrawal alone, without the help of trained medical professionals, face weeks or months of withdrawal symptoms. For instance, nausea, joint pain, diarrhea chills, tremors, lack of sleep, anxiety, elevated blood pressure and so many more symptoms that can drive anyone back to drug abuse.

Most medical professionals agree that supervised medical detoxification from methadone is much safer than trying to withdrawal from methadone alone by doing an at-home detox. The more prominent issue is that there is a large number of prescribing professionals, but very few have the knowledge or the experience to assist individuals with effective and compassionate methadone detoxification. Often, patients that have been on methadone maintenance for a long period of time, feel total hopelessness of ever being freed from this addiction.

Patients use methadone to delay withdrawal symptoms until they learn how to live without drugs. After rehabilitation, the patient must wean himself from methadone or try to quit “cold turkey.” Either way, the patient must eventually suffer the grueling withdrawal symptoms that probably held him in methadone addiction in the first place. In many ways, withdrawal from methadone is worse because the drug is long-acting, meaning it stays in the system longer to prolong the uncomfortable withdrawal process.


Methadone Withdrawal

Symptoms of Methadone withdrawal can include:

  • Muscles and joint pain
  • Confusion
  • Intense cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety or depression

Withdrawal Timeline

The initial withdrawal symptoms usually begin within 24 to 36 hours after the last methadone dose. It may vary from person to person and the more prominent symptoms often last between 2 to 4 weeks­. However, some people may continue to experience lingering symptoms for up to 6 months. For instance, Methadone withdrawal is often described as a feeling the severe flu.

The first 2 days after the last dose, people start feeling:

  • Anxiety
  • Sleeplessness
  • Restless Legs
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Cold and hot flashes
  • Yawning

Day 3 to 5

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Intense cravings
  • “Goose” flesh
  • Sweats
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Severe nausea and vomiting

Day 7 to 14

  • Exhaustion and depletion
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Continuous Insomnia
  • Low energy levels
  • More intense cravings

People detoxing at home are particularly vulnerable to fatal overdose because if they give in to craving and use, their low tolerance can lead to death.


Methadone Rapid Detox (Low and High Doses)

Waismann Method ® provides the medical detoxification patients need to successfully overcome methadone addiction by minimizing the withdrawal symptoms, in order to give the patient the best chance to move towards a drug-free life. Our approach treats dependence on even the highest methadone doses, offering hope to patients who were told they would be on the replacement drug therapy for the rest of their lives. Waismann Method ® is anesthesia-assisted rapid drug detoxification, administered in an accredited hospital, where we treat everyone as patients and not like drug addicts. Unlike other detoxification specialists, we do not require patients to switch one opiate for another before detoxification. Therefore, with our unparalleled experience and knowledge, we are able to treat any opiate – we help patients move towards a life free from opiate drugs, including methadone.