One very popular treatment of opiate withdrawal
symptoms is methadone maintenance therapy. It is safe when administered
under the care of a doctor. Taken orally once a day, methadone
suppresses narcotic withdrawal for between 24 and 36 hours. Because
methadone is effective in eliminating withdrawal symptoms, it is used
in detoxifying opiate addicts. It is, however, only effective in cases
of addiction to heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs, and it is not
an effective treatment for other drugs of abuse.
Methadone reduces the cravings associated with
heroin use and blocks the high from heroin, but it does not provide the
euphoric rush. Consequently, methadone patients do not experience the
extreme highs and lows that result from the waxing and waning of heroin
in blood levels. Ultimately, the patient remains physically dependent
on the opioid, but is freed from the uncontrolled, compulsive, and
disruptive behavior seen in heroin addicts.
Withdrawal from methadone is much slower than that
from heroin. As a result, it is possible to maintain an addict on
methadone without harsh side effects. Many MMT patients require
continuous treatment, sometimes over a period of years.
Physicians and individualized health care give
medically prescribed methadone to relieve withdrawal symptoms, reduce
the opiate craving, and bring about a biochemical balance in the body.
Important elements in heroin treatment include comprehensive social and
When methadone is taken under medical supervision,
long-term maintenance causes no adverse effects to the heart, lungs,
liver, kidneys, bones, blood, brain, or other vital body organs.
Methadone produces no serious side effects, although some patients
experience minor symptoms such as constipation, water retention,
drowsiness, skin rash, excessive sweating, and changes in libido. Once
methadone dosage is adjusted and stabilized or tolerance increases,
these symptoms usually subside.
Methadone does not impair cognitive functions. It
has no adverse effects on mental capability, intelligence, or
employability. It is not sedating or intoxicating, nor does it
interfere with ordinary activities such as driving a car or operating
machinery. Patients are able to feel pain and experience emotional
reactions. Most importantly, methadone relieves the craving associated
with opiate addiction. For methadone patients, typical street doses of
heroin are ineffective at producing euphoria, making the use of heroin
All the benefits of methadone treament do come
with a down-side nonetheless.
Methadone gives the user no euphoric rush, it's
only purpose is to reduce dependence on heroin. Therefore if the user
has not come to terms with the underlying motivational forces that had
them using in the first place, their habit is likely to return. Not
surprisingly, therefore, a very high percentage of methadone users do
find themselves back on heroin, and since the old dosage no longer
achieves the same result, the addict is likely to increase their
dosage, thus increasing the seriousness of their heroin addiction while
they develop a methadone addiction! Additionally, since, as has been
noted, methadone is even more addictive than heroin, that the cycle of
dependance can become even more seious.
The one place where methadone usage is not
associated with these problems as stongly is with prison populations.
In most Western countries, persons who are on a methadone program
before they enter prison are maintained on their dosage while in
prison. In some prisons as many as 80% of the inmates are
methadone-dependant. While these programs are ostensibly maintained for
the purpose of looking after ther prisoners' health, cynics believe
that these programs are largely in place to keep prison populations
For the above reasons, methadone, in this author's
opinion, should be turned to as a last resort.
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