Few people today haven’t heard about the “Opioid Crisis” or “Opioid Epidemic” affecting the country today. It’s in the news and is a major topic of debate as varying groups try to figure out what actions to take. Most of us hear the terms, but few know what they really mean in terms of actual numbers. From the time that synthetic opioids were introduced to the medical industry, the number of addictions, overdoses, and deaths has continued to rise.
Government organizations, including the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, collect information on the most common drugs. According to their records, more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths occurred during 2017. The sharpest increase was among those deaths caused by fentanyl and its analogs.
From 1999 until 2017, the number of deaths from overdoses of prescription opioids increased from 3,442 to 17,029. Heroin-related overdose deaths increased during the same time period from 1,960 to 15,482 while cocaine-related overdose deaths grew from 3,822 to 13,942. In 2019, more than 130 people died in this country from overdosing on prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids.
How Did We Get Here?
The problem with opioid abuse and addiction began with the use of prescription opioid painkillers. Pharmaceutical companies assured the medical industry that these drugs would alleviate pain without causing any risk of addiction. Healthcare givers began prescribing them at high rates, leading to a wide rate of addiction and abuse before realizing the drugs were, in fact, highly addictive.
Doctors didn’t monitor the length of time that their patients received opiate drugs. We now know that three days is the maximum amount of time anyone should take opioids. Once addiction occurred, people began looking for alternate means of getting the drugs they craved. A common practice was “doctor shopping” where they went to different doctors for the same or different complaints. Many people still use this method to get more opioids today. They also obtain them from sellers online and from dealers on the streets.
Entering drug rehab for opioid addiction is a much safer option than buying and using illicit drugs. One of the biggest dangers today is buying a drug that is “cut” with other unknown drugs. Those like fentanyl are more potent and more addictive than the drug the person thinks they’re buying. Due to the overwhelming statistics and growing risks of opioid addiction, experts continue to look for ways to make recovery from addiction easier, safer, and more appealing to those people who are addicted.
Methadone is one of a handful of drugs approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for the pharmaceutical treatment of opioid addiction. Methadone maintenance treatment is appropriate for some people who need help with opioid recovery. Doctors can substitute methadone for the addictive opioid substance, implementing the cross-tolerance to block the drug’s effects. Cross-tolerance develops between substances that act on the same brain receptors. Methadone interacts with the brain receptors to prevent the opioid from binding.
What Is the Benefit of Reading this Article?
If you or a loved one is suffering from opioid addiction, you want to learn your treatment options. Medically-assisted treatment is one way professionals make going through the withdrawals during opioid addiction more tolerable.
Methadone is the original replacement drug for use during opioid withdrawal. It is appropriate for some people and it offers several benefits. This article explains the causes of opioid addiction and abuse and how methadone maintenance treatment can help prevent you from relapsing after rehab. Understanding how methadone works and who it works best for will help you decide if methadone treatment is right for you.
This article also discusses the essential components of successful methadone treatment and the potential risks involved. You should know what to expect if you opt for a methadone addiction treatment program.
What Is Methadone?
Methadone is a synthetic opioid medication that, like other opioids, is prescribed as a pain medication. Most often, it is used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid withdrawal. Methadone is best-known for use in medication-assisted treatment during heroin withdrawal. But it is also useful for treating withdrawal symptoms with other semi-synthetic opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone.
Methadone is a full agonist opioid, meaning it fully interacts with the same receptors in the brain as other opioid drugs. When administered in the proper dose, the drug attaches to the receptors in the brain without creating the sense of euphoria caused by illicit opioids. It is a slow-acting drug that alleviates withdrawal symptoms as the addictive drug leaves the system. Because the methadone attaches to the receptors, the body doesn’t react as strongly to the loss of the addictive drug, such as heroin.
The drug is also used during the latter stages of treatment. The patient continues to take the drug after stabilization to eliminate drug cravings. Keeping drug cravings at bay reduces the risk of relapse during the early stages of recovery. By controlling the cravings and withdrawal symptoms, methadone helps patients stay in treatment without relapsing to their former drug use.
Methadone is not a new drug. It’s been around for more than fifty years. There have always been debates about whether using methadone was trading one addiction for another one. People worried that the methadone clinics popping up in their neighborhood put them and their families at risk. They didn’t understand the way MAT worked and thought it was a way for addicts to get high.
Many drug rehab centers have gone to new MAT drugs that don’t have the same risk of addiction or side effects associated with methadone. Although methadone has a long history of success in MAT, a lot of people have found themselves addicted to the very drug they used to manage their opioid addiction. Although there is still a place for methadone maintenance treatment, newer treatments often offer comparable results without the same risk of abuse.
Suboxone, a drug that combines buprenorphine and naloxone, has replaced methadone as the primary drug for opioid addiction treatment. It offers many of the same benefits without the same potential for abuse. Also a synthetic opioid, Suboxone can cause side effects like headache, dizziness, insomnia, and trouble concentrating. The side effects tend to be milder than those of methadone while the naloxone in the drug makes it less likely people will abuse it. Another benefit is that clinics don’t require certification to implement Suboxone like they do with methadone.
How Does Methadone Help in Addiction Treatment?
Methadone works by changing how the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It reduces the painful symptoms of opioid withdrawal while blocking the euphoric effects caused by opioids. The methadone “tricks” the brain into thinking its craving has been met so that the patient no longer craves the drug.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says that a dose of methadone offers about 4 to 8 hours of pain relief. When administered properly, methadone is considered medically safe as a treatment for opioid dependence. Once administered, it remains active for 24 to 36 hours, which is longer-lasting than other opioids. For example, a dose of heroin acts for about 3 to 6 hours.
Methadone requires a single injection per day in comparison to heroin requiring several injections for the same length of effectiveness. That means that people getting outpatient treatment only need to go to the rehab center once each day for their methadone injection. If they are permitted to take their treatments at home, methadone is also offered in pill form.
Methadone treatment is not a stand-alone treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD.) Any time medications are used in medication-assisted treatment programs, they should be combined with behavioral therapy for a comprehensive approach to rehab.
What Is Methadone Maintenance Treatment?
Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) is a comprehensive treatment program which implements methadone as a replacement opioid for the addiction drug. Methadone is prescribed along with counseling and the patient’s participation in social support programs.
Physicians must supervise the administration of methadone to patients during treatment of OUD. Once the physician deems them stable based on proven progress and consistent dosage compliance, the patient might be permitted to take the drug at home between program visits.
Methadone maintenance treatment isn’t an option at all rehab facilities. Only those with a SAMHSA certified opioid treatment program are legally permitted to dispense methadone. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that methadone treatment should be for a minimum of 12 months. But the length of treatment varies from person to person.
Methadone Maintenance Treatment Stages
Like methadone maintenance treatment in general, evaluation is an ongoing process. It begins with a basic screening and collecting evidence. The goal of the evaluation is to determine whether the client has an addiction, the extent of the addiction, and whether they have co-occurring conditions. The information gathered during the assessment helps the treatment center create a professional treatment plan. They will analyze whether methadone treatment is appropriate for the individual, how much to use, and for how long. They will continue to assess the client’s process and determine the success of the treatment plan as they go forward.
Stabilization is a critical phase of MMT. Clients are most likely to drop out of the treatment program during the initial weeks of treatment. If their methadone dose hasn’t reached the proper level to assist with their withdrawal symptoms or they haven’t made the necessary lifestyle changes to support their changes in substance abuse, they may continue using their drug of choice.
During stabilization, the counselors and medical personnel work to stabilize the physical and psychological components in the client’s life that help them adjust to the treatment and a life without addiction. Meeting the client’s needs during this phase of treatment will help reduce stress and persuade the client to remain in treatment.
Preparation for Treatment
Clients make lifestyle changes in preparation for treatment. This might include improving relationships with their loved ones, acquiring a stable living environment, developing financial security, and securing a job. Any existing chronic physical or mental health issues must be addressed.
Before getting methadone treatment, you should understand what it is and the risks. Although it is used to treat opioid addiction, methadone is also an opioid that is highly addictive. The difference is that it doesn’t create the intense high of other opioids. Used in a methadone maintenance treatment program, it helps prevent withdrawal symptoms and cravings that occur during detox and throughout the rehab program. The use of methadone helps prevent relapse to the use of stronger opioids like heroin. It is important to follow your doctor’s dosing instructions and avoid all other drugs and alcohol during your treatment. Combining methadone with similar drugs or alcohol can result in respiratory suppression and even death.
Another risk of methadone is that of overdose. Once you develop a tolerance for the drug and then stop taking it for a time, returning to your former high dosage level can result in an overdose. Methadone also causes side effects including:
- Shallow Breathing
- Swelling of the Face, Tongue, Lips, and Throat
- Chest Pain
Achieving the Best Results from Methadone Maintenance Treatment
The following tips are essential for making your methadone safe and effective:
– Never use more than the prescribed amount of the drug
– Always take your dosages at the given times
– Never consume any alcohol in any quantity
– Keep methadone out of the reach of children
– Store the medication out of the light and at room temperature
– Dispose of any unused methadone by flushing it down the toilet
Does Satori Offer Methadone Maintenance Treatment?
Methadone treatment isn’t the right choice for every patient or situation. Satori Recovery Center only prescribes methadone for patients who are already taking methadone that was prescribed by another clinic.
Satori Recovery Center offers effective treatment of opioid addiction in a medically supervised environment. We offer evidence-based treatment plans that are customized for the individual. MAT therapy includes the combination of effective assistant drugs and therapies for a comprehensive approach to drug addiction treatment. Contact us today to learn more about our rehab program. Our goal is to provide every client with the safest, most comfortable drug addiction treatment possible.