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Methadone Dependence – Signs of Methadone Use Vs. Abuse, Tolerance

Is Methadone Addictive?

Methadone is most commonly given to people who are receiving treatment for heroin addiction. There is some controversy surrounding its use, with many people claiming those prescribed methadone are simply swapping one addiction for another. So, just how addictive is methadone? Well, methadone is very similar to morphine, which is highly addictive and often easily abused. While methadone addiction is not considered as serious as heroin addiction, it does carry certain risks, symptoms and side effects.

Understanding Methadone Dependency and Tolerance

methadone-addictionA person can exhibit methadone dependence in a number of different ways. One example is taking more than the prescribed dose and lying to medical professionals about symptoms to obtain larger doses. It is not uncommon for a person who is dependent on methadone to keep taking heroin as well. This usually happens when the prescribed dose of methadone is not sufficient to ease the person’s craving. Signs of physical dependence include stomach cramps, nausea and severe irritability when the person stops taking the drug. Because methadone produces effects similar to certain other opiates, it can give the user a feeling of contentment, well-being and happiness. Because of this, the chances of psychological dependence are high. Before long, the person will begin chasing that first euphoric hit and be under the mistaken belief that only methadone can make him or her truly happy. Prolonged use of methadone can also build up a tolerance to the drug. This leads to the need for larger doses to experience the desired effect. Although methadone can be addictive, this is rarely the case when the drug is administered under a doctor’s supervision, according to the Center for Substance Abuse website.

Effects/Side Effects

Methadone works with the body’s natural opiate receptors in the soft-tissue organs and central nervous system. The methadone high makes a person feel warmth, drowsiness, contentment and intense happiness. Methadone causes a person’s blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature to drop. The ability to walk and talk can also be impaired, and the individual may appear to be heavily intoxicated. Coming down from methadone may cause symptoms such as depressive thoughts, muscle aches and anxiety and make the person tired and irritable. When used as prescribed, methadone will cause very few side effects, although some people experience constipation when they initially begin the treatment. The psychological side effects are more intense than the physical, which is why people will also benefit from attending therapy to address negative behaviors and thoughts.

Withdrawal and Detoxification

Withdrawal from methadone is similar to that of heroin. Withdrawal symptoms can include constipation, nausea, tooth decay and vomiting. Other, more serious, side effects include tachycardia, muscle spasms and fever. How long these withdrawal symptoms last usually depends on how severe the methadone addiction is. While the symptoms may be similar to that of heroin withdrawal, the onset of the symptoms of methadone withdrawal is slower than with heroin. The symptoms can also last longer. While it is possible for individuals to detoxify on their own, an official methadone abuse program organized by medical professionals is likely to prove more effective.

Treatment for Methadone Addiction

treatmentMethadone abuse treatment usually consists of two different approaches. The first is gradually cutting down the dose of methadone. This approach is often the least effective, as the person is left to deal with the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms alone. The second is to go through an official detoxification program, usually held at a hospital or rehab center. This can be attended as either an outpatient or an inpatient. People with severe addictions may be advised to stay under hospital supervision, so they can benefit from complete medical supervision. People who want to stop taking methadone need constant support on their road to recovery. A drug rehabilitation program will usually last for around 90 days. The trained staff will work at breaking down a person’s psychological dependence on methadone, as well as offering treatment to cope with the physical symptoms. The program involves teaching people new coping strategies, so they are better equipped to handle stressful situations. They will also be encouraged to face their methadone triggers. This will help them learn what to avoid and where.