How It Works and Is It Safe?
Methadone is the most studied substance used in the treatment of opioid addiction. Provided via dissolvable tablets on a daily basis, methadone works by impacting a patient’s central nervous system in ways that decrease withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. Since the 1960s, methadone has been extensively utilized in medication assisted treatment programs for opioid addiction, especially considering the vast amount of clinical research that has consistently backed its safety and effectiveness.
When taken as directed by a physician, numerous studies have determined that methadone is safe, as it causes no serious short or long-term health issues. In fact, research has shown that methadone is safe and non-toxic when used in a medical environment. The experts behind these studies note that any side effects that occur from methadone use are temporary, and typically only develop when a patient is first being introduced to the medication and working with a physician to determine the appropriate dosage.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a statement regarding pregnant women and methadone use, stating that women who are expecting and experiencing an opioid addiction at the same time can safely take methadone without posing significant risks to themselves or the baby.
Like any other medication, using methadone can be risky if it is not used as prescribed. There is a very big danger associated with methadone and overdoses, especially for those who choose to abuse it recreationally and/or in combination with other substances. Methadone overdoses make up one-third of prescription drug-related overdoses every year. It is imperative to understand, however, that these overdoses are caused when methadone is abused, not when it is utilized in a licensed medication assisted treatment program.
When taken as prescribed and under the watchful eye of a medical professional within a medication assisted treatment program, methadone is safe for use.
The Effectiveness of Methadone Treatment
There have been decades of data supporting the fact that methadone is safe, but also an exceptional amount of research proving that it is also effective in the treatment of opioid addictions. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), treatment that includes methadone to help stop an opioid addiction is the most effective type of care provided today.
In addition to methadone being cost-effective, the CDC also states that the successes listed below are linked to the use of methadone in a treatment program:
- Decreasing or stopping addiction and drug use
- Lessening the risk of overdose
- Reducing the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C
- Dramatically improving life expectancy (the average rate of death for those addicted to opioids who participate in methadone treatment is 30% lower than those who do not)
- Decreased likelihood of participating in criminal activity
- Increased family stability and employment potential
- Improved outcomes for women and their babies
When taken as directed and within the confines of a licensed medication assisted treatment program, methadone is highly effective.
Benefits of Methadone Treatment Plus Counseling
Methadone is only one part of a complete medication assisted treatment program. As methadone works to decrease drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms, patients are able to remain focused on the therapeutic elements of the treatment program. In other words, as methadone is helping alleviate the physical side effects of opiate addiction, therapy works to address the psychological effects, such as the underlying issues behind the development of the addiction.
How You Can Be Successful in a Medication Assisted Treatment Program: Even though methadone is proven to be safe and effective, it is not the stopping point of successful treatment. It, like any other medication, should not be looked at as a “miracle drug.” There is no medication in the world capable of solving all the problems that one individual might have, as fully recovering from an opioid addiction takes time, effort, and perseverance. When you choose to participate in a medication assisted treatment program, you will start a relationship with doctors, counselors, and nurses who are specially trained to help individuals work through the issues that are afflicting their lives. Through following their direction, listening to their advice, and participating fully in your treatment, you can dramatically improve the likelihood that your time spent in treatment will keep you in recovery from an opioid addiction for years to come.
How to Support Your Loved One During Medication Assisted Treatment: The golden rule behind being a supportive family member, spouse, or friend is that you must take care of yourself in order to take care of others. While it is obvious that your loved one’s life has suffered damage from his or her opioid addiction, it is important to recognize that your life has been affected too. To offer the best possible support for your loved one at this time, speak with his or her treatment provider so you can obtain resources and support that you need to in order to do so. Spend time learning about addiction as a disease, know the benefits and restraints of treatment, and understand what your loved one is going to need both during and after treatment. Some resources that can benefit you include family therapy, support groups, and individual counseling. Remember, in order to offer the best support for your loved one, you must care for yourself, too.
The Side Effects of Methadone
Below are a number of possible side effects associated with the use of methadone:
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Skin rashes
- Sleep problems
- Slowed breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Dry mouth
- Exhaustion or fatigue
For more detailed information about the side effects of methadone use, and to understand how they can affect you, speak with your physician or contact Maryland Comprehensive Treatment Centers today.