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Methadone Treatment



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 rehabilitation services.

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 less desirable.

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 under control.

For the above reasons, methadone, in this author's opinion, should be turned to as a last resort.


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