methadone maintenance
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Methadone: Maintenance Drugs for Opioid Addiction

While methadone maintenance is a common treatment option for opioid addiction, there are dangers of methadone that clients should know beforehand. This technique is typically used in programs in which clients are given a drug like methadone as part of a maintenance program.

As such, the following will present a description of how methadone is used in the treatment of opiate addiction, any effects or dangers of methadone, and whether there are any alternatives to methadone that can be used for similar purposes.

How Is Methadone Used in Opioid Addiction Treatment?

One of the most problematic types of drugs to which countless Americans have become addicted is the class known as opioids. These are substances that offer effects similar to that of opium obtained from the opium poppy. Opium is a powerful central nervous system depressant from which the many different painkillers that are available today have been created.

While these medications have proven to be effective in treating severe pain, they’ve also proven to be highly addictive. When taken habitually over a period of time, a person becomes physically and even psychologically dependent on opioid substances and will experience withdrawal symptoms when deprived of the drug.

Addiction treatment professionals encourage opioid addicts to complete a detox program followed by inpatient treatment, but an alternative would be to begin replacement therapy in a methadone maintenance program.

Methadone is an opioid analgesic that can be used to treat pain; however, it’s most well-known for its use in the treatment of opioid addiction. When a client who is addicted to heroin or painkillers chooses a methadone maintenance program, he or she will begin by receiving daily doses of methadone.

Methadone is known to have a rather long half-life for an opioid, but it takes a period of several days of taking the drug daily for it to reach its peak level of effect. When a person has reached the peak level of effect, he or she is considered to be on a stable dose of methadone.

In this state, the methadone binds to his or her opioid receptors, which prevents him or her from experiencing withdrawals while also satisfying any cravings he or she would otherwise be having. Methadone is different from other opioids in that it doesn’t offer the same level of euphoria, so patients on a stable dose of methadone don’t get intoxicated, or “high,” from the drug like they would on other opioids, and the methadone actually blocks the effects of other opioids to an extent.

Once stabilized, an individual can either continue methadone maintenance indefinitely or begin a methadone taper, which means steadily decreasing dosage until he or she is no longer physically dependent on opioids.

What Are the Dangers of Methadone?

Like all other opioids, there are certain dangers of methadone, which is why methadone maintenance programs require patients to consume their daily doses while under medical supervision, requiring them to visit their treatment facilities every single day.

Despite there being much evidence showing how effective methadone maintenance is in treating opioid addiction, it can have a dangerous reaction with a number of other substances. In particular, combining methadone with benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium has proven to be lethal.

Therefore, methadone maintenance programs require patients to take regular drug screens to assure that they’re abiding by the rules of the program. And like any other opioid, there’s also a risk of overdose, especially when methadone is combined with other opioids.

Are There Other Maintenance Drugs for Opiate Addiction?

Besides methadone, a common drug used in maintenance programs is one called Suboxone. Considered very similar to methadone, Suboxone is another powerful partial opioid agonist that bonds with the brain’s opioid receptors to prevent withdrawal symptoms and cravings while offering no intoxication or euphoria.

However, a primary difference between methadone and Suboxone is that Suboxone is much more effective at blocking the effects of other opioids due to containing an amount of naloxone, which is notably used to reverse an opioid overdose.

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