Battling opioid addiction can feel like you’re trying to climb a ferociously high mountain when you can’t see the top. Almost 3 million Americans know this, and with the opioid crisis in full swing, this is a national cause for concern. Trying to kick prescription opioids or heroin cold turkey doesn’t prove effective for some people and subsequent relapses lead to more people dying. So, what is the answer and how can people safely kick their habit once and for all?
The answer, for many, is methadone. It’s the most widely-available and well-researched drug on the market that lets people manage their addiction and lead relatively normal lives. From New York to Hong Kong, people are living successful lives because they have swapped heroin for methadone. Although methadone is also an opioid, the way it works is slightly different, which allows users to return to society, work or school and live a productive life. So, to offer people a balanced view of the good and bad, we’ve collected the facts and research to let you decide if methadone could be the answer that you’ve been looking for.
An Alternative Opioid
Due to its effectiveness in treating heroin addiction since the 1960s, methadone has been listed in the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. It is a game changer for opioid addicts.
Methadone is taken in liquid or tab form, so those who have been injecting heroin or fentanyl don’t have to anymore, and soon the unsightly track marks will fade away. Those who have been taking other tablets won’t have to obtain it illegally anymore.
It is controlled by your physician, so you know that you are receiving the correct dosage and in the pure form. When illegal narcotics are bought on the black market, it’s not possible to know what you’re getting. Heroin can be replaced with fentanyl or a less pure version given. Prescription painkillers may have had different ingredients added that can be harmful. Methadone is much safer in this regard.
Recently, doctors have been using methadone as an analgesic in the use of chronic and cancer pain treatment. It has been found to have a similar profile to morphine, however its bioavailability is much higher. Around 80% of methadone enters the blood stream compared with 26% of morphine, so in fact, the pain relief can be higher and longer lasting. It is significantly less expensive and people require fewer dosages per day when compared with morphine, so there’s a positive argument for its usage in hospitals and clinics, especially for long-term cancer patients.
Lower Death Rates, Higher Productivity
In relapse, the potential to overdose on opioids, particularly heroin and fentanyl, is particularly high. This is because your body has gone through withdrawal and it won’t metabolize the same dose that you were used to before you got clean. In 2015 alone, 52,404 people died from overdoses and a sizeable majority of these were opioid users. When you switch methadone for another opioid, you will be given controlled doses by your doctor and be monitored, so that overdosing isn’t possible. You won’t experience cravings, as methadone is a synthetic opioid, so it fires the same cylinders in the brain that other opioids do, relieving the need to seek your drug of choice.
There is, of course, a chance of overdosing if you take more than the recommended dosage. If you are chasing the same euphoric high as heroin gives you, then you can end up taking too much. It is always worth remembering that this is still a controlled substance and combining it with alcohol or other drugs may have harmful and even fatal effects. Suicides are also reduced, as methadone can help you find new purpose in life and get counselling whilst in recovery.
Since methadone is a long-acting drug, as opposed to many opioids which are short-acting, there is the positive outcome that a normal life can be resumed. In fact, you can carry out methadone as a maintenance treatment without others knowing. You can enrol in school, start a new job, and be present as a parent again. It provides users with a new lease of life and allows them new possibilities that can be very hard to see when in the throes of addiction.
Of course, if you have been dealing with addiction to any drug, you will be aware of side effects. Methadone is no different – it is about reducing the risks and making it possible for people to have a normal life once again. Some side effects may be more profound for some people while others won’t feel them as much. Expected side effects include:
- Increased perspiration
- Disrupted sleep
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abnormal menstrual patterns
- Nausea and vomiting
If any of these are causing serious discomfort or appear to be ongoing, always talk to a medical professional.
There’s also a possibility that you may become addicted to methadone, and it’s important to take note of any changes in your behavior, or physical effects such as:
- Loss of concentration or focus, feeling drowsy
- Stomach pain
- Tremors or seizures
- Heart rate changes
- Paranoia or increasingly agitated mental states
These should only occur if you have been taking more than the recommended dose, but to avoid spiralling out of control, talk to your doctor to stay on a healthy path.
Methadone Gives You a Real Chance at Recovery
When you embark on a methadone maintenance program, you’ll see how dramatically your life changes. No more wasted days chasing a fix or engulfed in a high or low from which there seems to be no escape. Your zest for life will return and your body will become physically healthier than it’s been in a while. Just imagine being able to go to a spin class, joining a football team, or going to a dinner party without wondering where to get your next fix.
It’s not a stand-alone solution though. Once you have the space to breathe, it’s important to attend therapy or groups that support you in your recovery. Figure out the reasons behind your addiction and learn new ways to deal with them. Avoid falling into old patterns. The method for recovery is not an exact science, but with methadone, people have been finding their way out of prisons and into employment, away from disease and into productive lives for over 50 years now. So it’s certainly a working solution. If you feel that you’re ready for this, a simple search for methadone clinics near me, could help you overcome your addiction struggles once and for all.