Overview, Signs, Symptoms & Treatment
Widespread heroin and prescription pain pill abuses continue to spur demand for opiate addiction treatment and help. According to the American Family Physician, the number of Americans abusing opiate drugs ranges from 500,000 to one million people, 12 years old and older, within any given year.
As an opiate addiction treatment approach, methadone has been around for over 50 years. Methadone has become a standard treatment model simply because of its ability to counteract the effects of withdrawal and drug cravings addicts so often experience in recovery.
Unfortunately, methadone treatment comes with a range of drawbacks, one of which is addiction. Signs and symptoms of methadone addiction develop in stages, much like the symptoms associated with opiate addiction do. Certain differences between methadone and opiates can make for a more difficult recovery process where methadone is concerned.
Methadone addiction treatment entails many of the same interventions used to treat opiate addiction. Considering the serious risks associated with methadone addiction, the need for treatment becomes all the more pressing, especially in cases of long-term use.
Methadone is a synthetic opiate drug that produces long-acting effects compared to other addictive opiates. Methadone’s opiate properties account for why this drug works so well at relieving drug cravings and withdrawal effects. In essence, this drug mimics the effects of addictive opiates, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Methadone’s long-acting effects allow for a daily dosage schedule as opposed to the frequent doses or “hits” addicts must take within any given day. These long-acting effects lower the drug’s addiction potential and also prevents a person from getting “high.”
Methadone treatment works well during the detoxification stage, though it’s mainly used as a long-term, maintenance treatment. Rather than cure opiate addiction, methadone helps addicts better manage the urge to use drugs. Ultimately, methadone works as a replacement drug therapy so those in recovery only need to take the drug for as long as drug cravings and withdrawal effects pose a threat to their recovery progress.
While methadone treatment does offer certain benefits for people recovering from opiate addiction, its opiate ingredient still poses a risk of abuse and addiction. Much like a person becomes physically dependent on an addictive opiate, such as heroin or Oxycontin, the brain can develop a dependency on methadone’s effects as well.
As with any form of physical dependency, a certain degree of chemical imbalance within the brain compromises the brain’s ability to regulate bodily functions. This results in methadone withdrawal effects, some of which include:
- Anxiety episodes
- Hot flashes
In order to counteract these effects, a person may opt to take more methadone, which only makes things worse. Not surprisingly, the course of a methadone addiction follows the same route as any other opiate addiction, with physical dependency being the first warning sign.
More oftentimes than not, people who become addicted to methadone have resorted to using the drug as a means for getting “high.” Before long, physical dependency gives way to a psychological dependency at which point methadone addiction has taken hold. Once addicts reach a point where they need to get “high” in order to make it through the day, a psychological dependency is at work.