The Duality Of Methadone

Methadone is a pain medication that is also used for the treatment of opioid withdrawal, also known as medication assisted treatment (MAT). The medication can be used for a brief period to get patients through acute withdrawal, or for longer periods of time as a maintenance therapy. Methadone is primarily associated with the treatment of heroin addiction, but it is used to treat addiction to many other opioids as well. Much of the information on methadone discusses its use as a treatment while often ignoring its addictive qualities.

If you’re struggling with a methadone addiction, you’re not alone. Methadone can be highly addictive and for many patients it can cause as much harm as good.

Withdrawal from methadone can be particularly difficult because the drug stays in your system for far longer than many other opioids.

Defeating Your Methadone Addiction

Overcoming an addiction that has become a part of your life can be overwhelming. Many people are deep into their addiction, unable to remember what life was like before methadone. But if you’re at the point where your methadone addiction has lowered your quality of life, or if you want to recovery before that happens, it’s time to overcome it.

Methadone Detox

Because methadone is a long-acting drug, its presence remains in the user’s body long after the effects wear off. For this reason, many people overdose or take more than they should because they’re looking for a high that isn’t easy to get.

Detoxing from methadone can be as difficult as detoxing from heroin. Both are opiates with similar effects on the body, including nausea, vomiting and muscle cramps. A medically supervised detox may include buprenorphine to ease the symptoms of the withdrawal, as well as shorten the time it takes to detox.

Individuals who are prescribed methadone for MAT are typically weaned down to less than 40mg per day. Slowly, they will be tapered down until reaching 10-20mg for a few days prior to the dose gradually decreasing to reach 2 mg per day. This effective tapering process assists in reducing many of the strongest withdrawal symptoms, such as drug cravings, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, body pain, anxiety, excessive sweating, and restlessness. After the individual has been on this low, 2mg, dose for a couple of days, the physician will usually add naltrexone, in conjunction with the methadone, to further ease the individual off opioids. If the individual entering detox has been misusing methadone and is addicted due to other reasons other than MAT, the physician will continue with the weaning or tapering approach, however also prescribe naltrexone in addition to buprenorphine.

Weaning or tapering off opioids should only be done under the supervision of a physician as they can regulate the doses and ensure medication compliance. Physician’s may also prescribe additional medications, often called “comfort medications,” to assist with relieving additional withdrawal symptoms. A few examples of comfort medications include Pepto-Bismol and anti-anxiety medications such as Buspar, clonidine, and ibuprofen.

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What to Expect During Rehab

If you are ready to make a change and end your methadone use, seeking an evaluation from a substance abuse counselor at a treatment facility is an important step. Your specific situation will need to be assessed to understand the level, frequency and intensity of your methadone addiction and associated addictive behaviors.

Depending on your responses, a detox period, followed by inpatient treatment or 1 of 3 different styles of outpatient treatment will be recommended. Outpatient treatment is also used as a supportive level of care that is recommended to assist with transitioning from inpatient or residential treatment back into the community.

What Happens After Rehab?

After discharge from treatment, it is common for treatment centers to recommend aftercare programming to further support your transition from treatment, back into your daily life. This can assist with building a healthy routine, life skills, relapse prevention techniques along with therapeutic support throughout the process.

Upon completion of aftercare, which is also called standard outpatient treatment, which is held once per week, it is always recommended to participate in alumni programming (if offered by your treatment center). This helps keep you connected to your support team and further develop healthy relationships with fellow individuals in recovery for fellowship and support.

Finding A Treatment Center

If you’re struggling with a methadone addiction, you’re not alone. Whether you started using methadone for pain or as a way to stop using another drug, you can come overcome addiction. If you or a loved one has a methadone problem, contact a treatment provider today to learn about available rehab options.