Methadone Abuse Grows, Reasons are Complex

Methadone had its start as a synthetic substitute for heroin during World War II. German officials saw the war coming and knew that the country could possibly be cut off from supplies of pain killers made from opium and received from other parts of the world. They set their scientists the task of developing a synthetic opioid, and methadone was the result.

Although Germany lost its patent rights on the drug with its loss of the war, methadone went on to become popular throughout the world as a pain-killer. Its secondary use as a means to help addicts off their dependence on heroin soon became its biggest application. Today in the U.S. methadone is distributed in licensed clinics.

The medicine does not provide the euphoria of heroin or other addictive medicines at the same relatively low doses as the others. Instead a person has to take higher amounts of methadone to feel something akin to a high. This is one of the reasons more deaths from methadone overdose are reported today.

People seeking that high may take a dose of methadone and not notice much reaction. They take more and more until they reach the overdose level. Coma and death can result.

U.S. Government reports show that two types of users tend to abuse methadone. The first is the person fighting addiction to other substances. The second is someone who uses drugs recreationally and may be entirely new to methadone use.

In the first instance, addicts taking methadone as a substitute for illegal heroin may miss the old high and try larger self-dosing. Most people who have been addicted to street drugs for long periods of time just want to keep away the sickness of withdrawal. If they feel the twinges of anxiety that often signasl the lessening of drugs in the blood stream, they may resort to taking extra methadone to keep the “sick” away.

Methadone’s delayed narcotic effect plays a part in overdoses. People, whether addicts or recreational drug users, do not feel a buzz after first taking methadone. They might mix in other drugs such as alcohol and not realize the trouble they are getting themselves into until it is too late.

Naïve drug users who experiment with illegal medicines and street drugs now and then, might be offered methadone at a party, for example. They may already have had some beer or popped a couple pills of some kind. They decide to try the hit of methadone offered, do not feel substantially different at first, ask for more, and end up comatose or dead.

Some addicts fighting abuse through legitimate methadone treatment at clinics may not be able to hold down jobs until they are clean. If they can sell a dose or two of methadone on the streets, they may be earning money from the only source available to them. The problem of course is that they can wind up in prison and the people taking methadone without medical supervision can suffer serious harm.

Sometimes addicts undergoing methadone treatment against heroin addiction supply friends or family members with doses of their medicine. The addicts may be trying to help others who are addicted to street drugs. Whatever the reasons, sharing methadone prescribed for a particular person with anyone else is illegal and dangerous for everyone concerned.

Methadone’s overall effects are similar to, yet different, than those of heroin and other opioids. Someone who has taken a dose may not feel its effects until hours later. It works more as a sedative than a stimulant and someone seeking a buzz may be disappointed.

Since it does have a high ceiling for any feelings of euphoria, officials promoting its use as a legal substitute for heroin were at first surprised that the medicine was moving into the category of abuse. They had thought that its dissimilarities to heroin and other opioids would make it unpopular on the streets.

It is ironic but logical that heroin too went through the same cultural change not long after it was introduced to the public. By the 1800s, heroin was in widespread use in many nations as a medicine to treat pain. For as many people given the medicine by doctors for pain, there were growing numbers of people becoming addicted to heroin.

Advances in medical technology do not keep human nature from complicating the picture. Many people are in pain of one kind or another, either physical or psychological. They want to ease their pain by almost any means possible.

Government regulations can do only so much toward eradicating methadone abuse. Some believe that education is a better response to the problem rather than stricter laws. Whatever the case, methadone abuse is taking many people to the brink of death and beyond.

Anyone addicted to methadone can get help from one of the licensed clinics that dispenses the medicine. Medical professionals can oversee an addict’s gradual regaining of dignity and health. At a clinic used to treating addicts, methadone addiction does not cause surprise, just concern.