What is Methadone?
Methadone is a man-made opiate which is used as a painkiller and a substitute for heroin in the maintenance treatment of addicts. Like all opioid drugs, methadone produces a slowing down of the body’s functions, depressing the nervous system and subsequently causing a reduction in physical and emotional pain.
The half-life of methadone is one of the factors that has made it attractive in the eyes of doctors treating heroin addicts. Whether as the effects of heroin last only a few hours, methadone can be effective for between 24 and 38 hours.
It also does not produce the same sort of high and if the addict uses on top of the prescription, the opioid receptors in their brains are already full, preventing the rush many are seeking. Methadone is highly addictive and many users report quickly developing a tolerance meaning they must use more to have the desired effect.
Methadone can come as a pill that is intended to be swallowed or dissolved, or as a liquid to be drunk, diluted or injected. Most commonly, it comes in liquid form and when used for the treatment of opioid dependence it is prescribed and administered through licensed treatment centres.
Street Names for Methadone
Methadone is frequently referred to by a long list of different names by its users depending on where they come from, their ethnicity and age group.
History of Methadone
Methadone was first synthesised in 1939 by German scientists at IG Farben, a large pharmaceutical company and it is alleged that its development was part of Hitler’s plan to be independent from other countries. The idea was that Germany would have access to pain relief for their hospitals without having to buy opium.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s as the use of heroin spread, methadone started to be used to try and stabilise addicts and lessen their chances of catching blood borne diseases. Unfortunately, this approach, while providing stability for many, has resulted in thousands of people being tethered to methadone prescribing services.
What are the Effects of Methadone Addiction?
The long term effects of methadone addiction are almost as bad as those of heroin and while this drug can appear to restore a degree of normality to an addict’s life there are still consequences.
Every addict’s path into addiction varies. This is a complex disease with many underlying layers which coupled together with trauma, abuse, depression and anxiety make it difficult to diagnose and treat without effective residential care. CLICK Dual Diagnosis
The effects of methadone often look to be far less chaotic than those of active heroin use so they are not sufficiently acknowledged. Additionally, there is a lack of research in this area.
- Respiratory problems
- Heart problems
- If taken orally, decaying of the teeth
- If injected, risk of blood borne diseases
- Decrease of sexual libido
- Interruptions or cessation of the female menstrual cycle
- Possible damage to nerve cells in the brain.
- Changes in the brain chemistry – short term
- Changes in the structure and function of the brain – long term
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Disturbed sleep
- Unhealthy eating habits/malnutrition
- Lying to yourself/denial
- Apathy /Exhaustion
- Memory loss
- Mood Swings
- Potential increase in risky behaviour
- Financial problems
- Sexual problems
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Lack of interest in work/school
- Lack of interest and ability in maintain relationships/friendships
- Damaged relationships with family members
- Lying to others
- Damaged self-esteem and self-worth
- Damaged relationship with self
- Lack of interest in life
- Inability to function without the drug
- Continued use despite negative consequences
The signs and symptoms of methadone addiction get progressively worse over time and there will be no resolution until effective addiction treatment and aftercare are sought.
Often methadone addicts think that because the consequences seem to be far less than that of their primary addiction that they are doing much better.
The severity of symptoms for methadone withdrawal vary on a number of factors including the period of time the drug has been used for, how much is used and the general physical health of the user. These symptoms can be very uncomfortable.
Methadone withdrawal symptoms include:
- Trouble sleeping.
- Muscle pains.
- Stomach cramping.
The Two Stages of Withdrawal – Acute and Post-Acute
There can be two stages of withdrawal from methadone addiction. The first stage has immediate acute symptoms and these are usually both physical and psychological.
During stage two, some former users experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms or PAWS. These refer to a number of psychological symptoms which can last for weeks or months after the user has stopped taking the drug. This is one of many reasons why residential treatment is the most effective way to treat methadone addiction.
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Anger or emotional outbursts