Methadone Treatment for an Opioid Addiction

How It Works and Is It Safe?

Out of the many medications that are utilized in the treatment of addictions, none of them have been more studied than methadone. Methadone works by impacting an individual’s central nervous system so that opioid withdrawal and cravings for use are no longer present once opioid abuse is stopped. Methadone is administered in a dissolvable tablet or a liquid solution once a day. This medication has been used in opioid addiction treatment programs since the 1960s, and extensive amounts of research have proven its safety and effectiveness.

Numerous studies have shown that when methadone is taken as directed by a professional treatment provider, it does not cause any short- or long-term health problems for users. Experts who have monitored methadone research deem this medication non-toxic and medically safe. These same experts also report that the side effects linked to the use of methadone are temporary and generally only occur when a patient is first getting adjusted to his or her dosage during the induction phase.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided confirmation that women who are pregnant and struggling with opioid addiction can safely consume methadone. The HHS says that using methadone at this time does not cause any harm to the mother or her baby.

However, as with most medications, methadone can pose danger if it is abused in ways inconsistent with a medical professional’s recommendations. The possibility of a methadone overdose is a very real risk, especially for those who abuse this medication recreationally and/or with other substances. Today, one-third of all prescription drug-related deaths occur because of methadone overdose. However, it is critical to understand that these deaths are all connected to the misuse of methadone, not the use of it within a medication assisted treatment program.

When taken as prescribed and under the care of a qualified treatment provider within a medication assisted treatment program, methadone is safe.

The Effectiveness of Methadone Treatment

Due to decades of data, experts can state that while methadone is safe, it is also highly effective in treating opioid addiction. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), treatment that includes the use of methadone for treating opioid addiction is the most effective form of care offered for this condition today.

Methadone is also a cost-effective way to decrease addiction. Additionally, the CDC states that the below listed benefits are common amongst those who are engaged in a medication assisted treatment program:

  • Improved outcomes for pregnant women and their babies
  • Reduction or cessation of drug use
  • Lessened likelihood of engaging in criminal activities
  • Improved family stability and employment potential
  • Reduction in the risk for contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B
  • Reduction in the risk for experiencing an overdose
  • Increased life expectancy (Those who participate in a medication assisted treatment program have a 30% higher life expectancy rate than those who do not.)

When methadone is used within the guidelines provided by a medication assisted treatment program, it is effective.

Benefits of Methadone Treatment Plus Counseling

Methadone is only one part of a complete medication assisted treatment program. This medication is effective in reducing cravings for continued substance abuse, as well as reducing the painful withdrawal symptoms that come with the cessation of use. Therefore, patients are afforded the mental wherewithal to actively engage in the therapeutic aspects of their treatment. While methadone helps address the physical concerns of opioid addiction, therapy addresses the deep-seated issues behind the addiction’s development.

How You Can Be Successful in a Medication Assisted Treatment Program: While methadone is known for its safety and effectiveness, it is imperative to realize that this medication is a not a cure. There is no medication that can make all of an individual’s issues go away, as this requires time, effort, and dedication. When you engage yourself within a medication assisted treatment program, you will begin working alongside nurses, doctors, and counselors who are experienced in aiding individuals just like yourself work towards achieving a successful recovery. By following their directions, actively engaging in your treatment, and listening to their advice, you can dramatically improve the odds that the time you spend in treatment will help you build a solid foundation to continue in your recovery.

How to Support Your Loved One During Medication Assisted Treatment: In order to be as supportive as possible for a loved one who is obtaining treatment, you must be willing to take care of yourself first. Your loved one has surely experienced some personal damage to his or her life because of his or her addiction, however, you have likely been impacted negatively too. To be able to support your loved one at this time, you must work with his or her treatment program or other experts who can help connect you to the appropriate support. You will need to obtain an education about the disease of addiction, learn what your loved one’s benefits and limitations of treatment will be, and find out what he or she will need from you during the beginning of recovery and as time passes. Support groups, family therapy, and individual therapy can be incredible resources for encouragement and education. Never forget to put yourself first.

The Side Effects of Methadone

Below are some of the possible side effects linked to methadone use:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Skin rashes
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Exhaustion or fatigue

For more detailed information about the possible side effects that can develop from methadone use, and to find out how this medication might impact you, please speak with your treatment provider or reach out to us at Boston Comprehensive Treatment Centers.

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