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Methadone is a potent synthetic opioid used to treat opioid addiction, and in some cases, it may also be designated as a pain reliever. The drug was first available in 1947 under its brand name Dolophine. During this time, it was used in methadone maintenance, which is designed to wean individuals off other opioid drugs. During methadone detox, the drug is used to help someone adjust to opioid abstinence.
Methadone has the potential for abuse and to cause addiction because of its euphoric effects. Safer prescribing, however, led to a sharp decline in methadone overdose rates between 2007 and 2014. Still, the medication is highly addictive, and overcoming the withdrawal symptoms may require medical detox to mitigate the most uncomfortable symptoms.
Methadone works similar to other opioids, but it has a much longer half-life (around 15-55 hours), which helps a user wean off other drugs like heroin. Pain-relieving effects can last up to eight hours, and they will not experience withdrawal symptoms for up to two days.
Substance use disorders are placed into three separate categories – these include mild, moderate, and severe. Addiction is a chronic but highly treatable disease that falls on the severe end of the spectrum. Although substance use disorders are challenging to detect in their earliest stages, they will eventually become difficult to hide from friends and family. If you are concerned that you or a loved one is developing a substance use disorder, there are few ways to determine if there is a problem.
If you use methadone for therapeutic purposes like pain relief or use it recreationally, the first sign of a substance use disorder is tolerance. If your body needs more of the drug to achieve the effects you once felt when you started using methadone, it’s because your body has adjusted to the chemical in your body. If you increase your dose and continue using methadone despite this warning, you are at risk of developing a chemical dependency.
Dependency occurs when our bodies and brain become reliant on methadone to maintain normal brain chemistry. The nervous system will, in turn, stop producing specific chemicals and increase others to balance around the drug. At this stage, if you cut back or stop using altogether, you could experience cravings or flu-like withdrawal symptoms.
If you are worried that someone close to you is developing a methadone addiction, here are a few signs that you should look for:
Methadone is known for two things – how useful it can be in treating addiction to potent opioids, and it’s severe withdrawal symptoms. As you may expect from other opioids, it will cause symptoms similar to the flu. The safest way to deal with methadone addiction is to check yourself into medical detox.
Clinicians will oversee your status and ensure a safe transition into sobriety. Once you complete your stay, they will make the determination about your next step. Only a licensed medical professional can make these calls, so if you are concerned about a methadone addiction, you must call a professional immediately.