Methadone can be used to treat persons with an opiate use disorder. Methadone works by occupying areas of the brain that opiates target to prevent withdrawal symptoms or make them less severe for those that have stopped using opiates. Methadone also helps with eliminating cravings for opiates. Withdrawal symptoms include:
Many people stay on methadone long-term and some people gradually reduce their dose to completely stop taking methadone. Methadone should not be taken with any other illicit substances and alcohol. The impact of mixing benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, etc.) and methadone can be deadly. There is an increased risk of overdose when benzodiazepines are taken with Methadone. Since Methadone is a depressant that slows the central nervous system, which includes heart rate and breathing, so does benzodiazepines. As a result, the combination of taking the two can slow the heart rate, risking the heart for cardiac arrest and stopping one from breathing.
Methadone can be prescribed and lasts longer in the body to help those with an opiate use disorder once someone stops using. Most persons are referred to a community treatment center for assessment. Most treatment facilities have a general practitioner on site that can complete the assessment. The assessment usually includes taking details of the person’s health, social circumstances, past and current drug taking, identifying if methadone is needed or appropriate, an examination, urine analysis to confirm any illicit substances being used and assessment of what the person needs are at this time. In addition, to those that may have been using heroin intravenously, a blood test for HIV, liver function and Hepatitis A, B and C are conducted.
After the assessment, an initial low dose is prescribed. The low dose is prescribed out of safety and can be adjusted frequently. This stage is very important because this is the phase where a regular maintenance dose is identified over a few week period. The maximum effect can vary person to person as it takes 2-4 hours for Methadone to reach its peak effect level.
Once the correct dose is identified, the person is now in what is called Methadone maintenance. Methadone is a once-daily liquid dose taken under supervision of a nurse or pharmacist who dispenses it. Methadone must be taken regularly and if three or more doses are missed, the body may lose its ability to break down the drug. If three or more doses are missed, persons can return to taking Methadone, but at a lower dose. Some people that have been on Methadone for a while will want to detox. This often takes years as it is safer to stay on Methadone than to detox before the person is ready.
People that use Methadone are more likely to stay off heroin if they are supported by friends and family. Too often, family and friends do not support persons with opiate use disorders because of their lack of knowledge regarding Methadone. Methadone is a drug used to help those persons with an opiate use disorder so they no longer use opiates. It can be viewed as taking medication for high blood pressure or insulin for type 2 diabetes. The way people can change their diet to reverse type 2 diabetes while taking medication is the same as those using Methadone to reverse their opiate use disorder. Support from loved ones goes a long way for a person using Methadone. Persons with opiate use disorders also do well when attending outpatient treatment coupled with group and individualized therapy. It is much harder to do it alone.
Please educate a friend, coworker and loved one on the benefits of supporting a person with opiate use disorder when they have made the choice to use Methadone in their recovery efforts. There are plenty of successful people around us, you may never know, that have or currently use Methadone. As America is going through the opioid epidemic, being educated on the various ways Methadone can help just might save your loved one’s life.
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