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.

Methadone Abuse And How To Treat It

For those who are addicted to opiate narcotics, many opt to receive drug therapy treatment in an attempt to beat drug addiction.  Usually this is beneficial and helps thousands to overcome dependency, but for some it can mean trading one addiction for another.  Methadone is an approved drug that is often prescribed for use in helping to relieve the withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction.  A problem occurs when some use this medication in a manner not advised by their physician, such as taking more than is prescribed, or coupling it with other drugs to attain a euphoric sensation.

Methadone was initially, and still is, prescribed to help reduce severe withdrawal symptoms from drugs such as heroin.  It was approved for use by the FDA and has been used for over fifty years.  It is often the fear of extreme cravings, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, fever and tremors, that keep many for attempting detoxification.  Methadone was beneficial because it helped to reduce or even eliminate some of the more severe symptoms.  Methadone is also use to relieve pain for those who have illnesses or injuries that result in chronic pain.  Long-term use or abuse of this medication can lead to addiction.  Many take it too often, and some take it with other medications.

Methadone, if not taken properly, is a dangerous and potentially life threatening drug.  This is because it comes with a list of potential side effects and some long-lasting effects that are detrimental to one’s health if taken improperly.  Every medication has possible side effects, and methadone is not exempt.  Most potential and serious side effects never occur, and doctors prescribe medications because they feel the benefit of taking it is higher than the risk of not taking a medication that may result in beating dependency.  Some of the side effects include swelling of hands or feet, mood changes, appetite loss, drowsiness and flushing.  Some more serious effects are nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fluid retention, difficulty urinating, vision problems, headache and weakness.  The potential for serious side effects increases when the drug is taken against doctor advice, which makes the possibility for overdose or death a very real possibility.

As with most drugs, if abuse occurs over a long period, it affects the body in numerous negative ways.  Drugs can remain in the system for years after use.  Drugs lodge in the fatty tissues of the body and can cause damage long after some stop taking it.  We also know that drug abuse can lead to decreased intellect, difficulty learning, and difficulty paying attention and may tamper with memory.  Methadone abuse is particularly dangerous because it can slow breathing down making breathing difficult or impossible.  This is a strong medication, and usually it is only taken once per day.  For those who take it more often, there is a serious chance for overdose, coma and death.

Detoxification is necessary, but it is not recommended for those who have used Methadone long-term to stop taking this medication suddenly.  This is because a slow and steady weaning is safer.  Sudden cessation could mean an onset of withdrawal symptoms like restlessness, sweating and chills, wide pupils and muscle pain.  These symptoms are decreased with a gradual weaning of this medication.

Detoxification is a scary concept for some.  The symptoms can range from mild to severe, but there is help for these symptoms.  There are medications that can help decrease these symptoms, and while some might be fearful of trading one addiction for another, if the medication is taken as prescribed this is usually not an issue.  It is important to take all medications according to physician and label instructions to reduce the risk for dependency and life-threatening side effects.  Detoxification is necessary to rid the body of drug residue, which can increase cravings and cause health related ailments.  Of course rapid detoxification is an option.  This is where all medications are stopped suddenly and completely.  This will of course result in ridding the body of drugs, but should not be attempted alone.  A physician can sit down with you and discuss the best options available for success.

Taking medications that reduce withdrawal symptoms may help to increase success rates.  This is because it helps control cravings, which helps to decrease activities like injecting drugs and obtaining infections like thrombophlebitis, HIV and hepatitis C.  Methadone is still very helpful in treating dependency to opiates and heroin, but for those who end up with an addiction to Methadone, help is available.  Through other medications and the detoxification process, a drug-free existence is possible.  Addiction does not just affect your life, but the lives of those around you as well.  Personal relationships deteriorate, and work relationships may also be negatively affected.  Beating dependency will improve not only the quality of your life, but it may help to save it as well.