Methadone is a medication, which was developed in the 1940’s as a substitute for morphine. In the early 1960’s it was discovered that methadone, if taken every day as part of a program offering supportive services, is an effective medical treatment for opiate addiction. In recent years, heroin and other opiates (this includes prescription analgesics such as oxycontin/oxycodone, morphine, vicodin, fentenyl, and others) were the leading illicit drugs responsible for treatment admissions, and methadone is a proven mode of treatment with overwhelming potential for success.
Methadone maintenance is a long-term treatment for addiction. The patient must take medication daily. Once a patient is stabilized on medication, the negative thoughts, associated with addiction, often diminish. The patient’s life tends to normalize and functioning increases, which can include caring for their families, working, achieving educational goals, addressing both mental and physical health co-occurring disorders and enjoying an active, healthy lifestyle. Achieving a healthier, normal life through methadone maintenance is a valid form of recovery from opioid addiction. Improvement in all areas of health and social integration increase with the length of time in treatment. The greatest positive change comes in the first year of treatment.
Methadone works in several ways: The right maintenance dose does not make patients “high” or “drugged”, like other opioids. As the dose is adjusted and patients stabilize, methadone will block the effects of heroin and promote a more normal life. Methadone’s gradual, long lasting effects – 24 hours or more – eliminate the hunger or craving for other opioid drugs, rebalancing brain chemistry and reducing craving. Taken once a day by mouth, methadone treatment decreases the need and desire for heroin, which in turn will decrease the need and desire for heroin, which in turn will decrease health risks associated with illicit street drugs, including HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B and C. Methadone treatment is a cost-effective method of drug treatment/recovery program that utilizes medical and counseling services to enable patients to achieve and maintain sobriety.
Our clients are people from all walks of life who usually seek treatment when the circumstances and consequences associated with the abuse of opioids becomes too harmful to sustain. They often suffer from psychological as well as physiological dependence on opiate drugs, including heroin, oxycontin, vicodin, morphine and others. There are many dangers that arise with this dependence, including the inadvertent use of adulterated substances, infections, overdose, incarceration, poly-substance exposure or dependence, exposure to street violence and death.
Methadone is a legal medication and can be prescribed only by a physician. Methadone is administered orally, thereby reducing the dangers associated with HIV and other IV drug use. Methadone patients also have access to medical care, preventive health and counseling services. Pregnant women on methadone have a much better chance to give birth to a healthy baby.
Addiction is a chronic disease that results when people who initially used a substance voluntarily can no longer control their use of the substance and/or their behavior. Common signs of addiction are a change in mood, relief from negative emotions, provisions of pleasure, pre-occupation with the use of substance(s) or ritualistic behavior(s), and continued use of the substance(s) and/or engagement in behavior(s) despite adverse physical, psychological and/or social consequences. Like other chronic diseases, it can be progressive, relapsing and fatal.
The Methadone program is not a “quick fix”. Methadone is part of a long-term and comprehensive maintenance program for opiate dependent clients. The immediate goal is to stabilize you on your methadone dose, promote a sense of well-being and prevent physical withdrawal symptoms. Methadone will significantly decrease your drug cravings and help you eliminate drug use. Methadone maintenance treatment works best when combined with other services and interventions. Methadone works by its effect on opiate receptors in the body. To allow it to work properly, you are best advised to abstain from the use of all other opiates. In the case that you choose to use other opiates with methadone, the effect of the methadone will diminish. You will also fail to obtain the effect you have been accustomed to after taking opiates (e.g. less or no euphoria) and you may put yourself at a higher risk for overdose. Remember, the goal of Methadone treatment is to stabilize your body physically so that you can make the desired changes in your life, and make the best of your new “drug-free” lifestyle.
Methadone is taken orally and is diluted with water or juice. When you first start the program, you will be asked to drink your medication at the clinic daily. As you stabilize your dose and your treatment program, you may be eligible for some take-home doses.
– Successful stabilization, opiate abstinence, and maintenance on the methadone program for at least one to two years.
– Lifestyle modification/changes, such as a stable family life, steady employment, fewer financial and legal difficulties, and social support from non drug-using partner, family and friends.
Once these have been reached, the decision to taper off methadone is made by the client with support of the treating physician. It is important to understand that when methadone is taken as prescribed, and in conjunction with a comprehensive treatment program, it is a safe and effective medication that patients can take form many years to both achieve and maintain a drug-free lifestyle.
A few of the most common side effects and solutions are:
– Constipation: you can try increasing fiber, fluid intake and regular exercise.
– Sweating: this can be due to a methadone dose that is too high or too low.
– Sleepiness or drowsiness: may be due to too much methadone and should be assessed by your doctor.
– Weight change: some people will put on weight, but this is usually because they are eating properly and are healthier.
– A drug-free lifestyle – A stable personal, social, family and financial life
– No physical withdrawal symptoms
– Decreased or eliminated drug cravings
– Resolution of legal concerns
– A chance to obtain or complete an education
– A chance at stable employment
– Improved self-esteem, self-worth and independence
– Improved memory, concentration, attention and thinking
– Improved health and the prevention of drug related health problems (HIV, Hepatitis, Liver disease, etc.)
– Improved overall quality of life
– A chance to regain respect, trust and relationships with your spouse, children, family members, friends and associates.
Similar to the medicines prescribed for diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic medical problems, methadone is not a cure. No single medication or behavioral intervention can be a magic bullet for all patients seeking help for opioid addiction and the medical, psychiatric or social problems which may co-exist with it. Methadone maintenance treatment has proven to be the most effective way to treat opioid addiction. Research shows that life expectancy, health and vocational and educational achievement are much improved while substance abuse and criminal activity are greatly reduced from patients in methadone maintenance treatment. Proper use of medication eliminates withdrawal symptoms and the craving for heroin or other opioids and the structure and counseling required and offered provides an opportunity for patients to address problems and issues related to their addiction.
Treatment is tailored, whenever possible, to the individual patient’s needs and goals and is adjusted as these needs and goals change. Counselors and patients, working together on what the patient feels is important fosters mutual respect and understanding, which are essential to any therapeutic process. There are some aspects of treatment which are mandated by State and Federal regulation. Patients are assigned to a counselor and are required to meet with their counselor on a regular basis to monitor their progress. Patients who continue to abuse opioids, alcohol, or other illicit drugs will be offered an array of individually tailored medical and behavioral treatment interventions to meet their needs. If methadone maintenance is not helpful, the staff will assist the patient in finding outside services, other medications and treatment settings which might be useful alternatives.