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Methadone is a prescription opioid used to treat the symptoms of heroin withdrawal. It is a synthetic narcotic analgesic which means that it is a man-made chemical that causes numbness and pain relief. Originally developed as a stepping stone down from heroin and as a way to combat the effects of heroin withdrawal. Methadone now accounts for one-third of painkiller related deaths in the United States, despite only making up two percent of all painkillers.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Methadone is responsible for over 30 percent of overdose deaths in the nation. This makes it the fastest growing cause of narcotic deaths and has overshadowed deaths caused by heroin—the very drug whose addiction Methadone was developed to help treat.
There is a growing opioid epidemic in the United States that has steadily reached critical mass over the past five decades. As of 2012 it is estimated that there are currently two million Americans who are addicted to some form of opioid, be it heroin or prescription drugs such as Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, or Methadone. This is according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration who also warns that Methadone withdrawal can be as intense as heroin withdrawal and last up to six months. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the rate of overdose from opioid analgesics has quadrupled since 1999.
First synthesized in 1939, but the proliferation of Methadone as a method of combating heroin addiction began during the mid-1960s. The development of Methadone clinics was created in part as a response to the growing number of users in the United States for whom incarceration had not reduced their dependency on the drug and in part in answer to the many Vietnam War veterans returning to the states who had become addicted to the drug in Vietnam where it was readily available and incredibly cheap.
Methadone treatment programs follow a strict regimen and are usually carried out under the supervision of a doctor. The drug itself is usually ingested as a liquid form; however, pills and even injectable ampoules are available in some cases. If following the regimen prescribed by the clinic, Methadone is designed to not give users the same high that heroin provides. However it is possible to get high from Methadone by consuming more than the prescribed dosage or in combination with other prescription drugs.
In spite of the good intentions of these clinics, it has shown over the years to be just as dangerous as heroin. Methadone is just as addictive as heroin, which is to say highly addictive, and withdrawal from Methadone itself can be more difficult on the user than heroin withdrawal. This causes users to seek out Methadone illegally outside the clinic once their prescriptions have expired or even while they are still active as a means of getting high.
The symptoms of Methadone withdrawal are similar to that of most opioids, including heroin, with some users reporting an even higher intensity of the symptoms from other drugs. Withdrawal is a painful process in which the body is learning to cope with the removal of the chemical from the body that it has become dependent on.
Withdrawal is a sign of chemical dependency that can be fatal if not handled properly and under the guidance of caring professionals.
These symptoms usually onset after 24 hours of one’s last dose of Methadone, usually starting with chills and other flu-like symptoms and then escalate over the coming weeks. As time goes on the severity of the symptoms increase causing users to take more of the drug in an effort to self-medicate and return to their version of “normal.”
Methadone is meant to be a way to come down from heroin addiction by helping to deal with the physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal. Unfortunately, many users simply end up trading their heroin addiction in for a methadone addition. As mentioned before, users, particularly those with addictive personalities, will often seek out illegal sources of Methadone or other opioids such as Percocet or OxyContin. In the absence of a prescription users will turn to the streets to continue their habit.
Methadone as a substitute for heroin may help in some cases, but it does little to treat the underlying psychological and spiritual problems that lead one to use drugs in the first place. It may help with the chemical aspects of withdrawal but it will not help the user to develop the discipline and spiritual fortitude required to resist seeking the drug on the streets when the prescription runs out. Nor will it help with staying sober in the years to come and provide the guidance needed during temptation that can only be found with a strong support system and deep moral reflection.
Ultimately Methadone ends up becoming a crutch—in the same way that heroin is a crutch—and a way to avoid dealing with the problems that caused the addiction in the first place.
At Bay Area Recovery Center, our motto is “Let’s Face It.” This means not running away from problems but facing them head on and learning how to cope with addiction. If you or someone you love is addicted to Methadone or is considering using a Methadone clinic, give us a call at 713-999-0116 and let us help you find the path to recovery.
Bay Area Recovery Center has successfully treated individuals dependent on drugs and alcohol for over 20 years. People need to know treatment does work and there is life after addiction. Let us use our experience and expertise to develop a detox and treatment plan that is personalized to your situation. The illness of addiction is not something you or your family should have to go through alone. We can help. Call us now (713) 999-0116 or (281) 853-8715.
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