How It Works and Is It Safe?
Out of the many medications utilized in the treatment of addiction, methadone has been, by far, the most researched. Prescribed in either a liquid solution or a dissolvable tablet, methadone is taken once daily and influences an individual’s central nervous system to help stop withdrawal symptoms and the cravings associated with the cessation of opioid abuse.
Numerous studies have determined that when utilized as prescribed by a medical professional, methadone does not pose any serious short- or long-term health risks. Those professionals who have reviewed research on methadone note that it is not only non-toxic, but that it is also medically safe for consumption in this manner. These same experts determined that side effects linked to the use of methadone are temporary and typically only develop during the induction phase of treatment, which is when a patient is beginning his or her use of methadone and working with a doctor to find out his or her necessary dosage.
A statement was released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) saying that methadone can be safely consumed by women who are pregnant and grappling with an addiction to opioids. The DHSS also stated that methadone treatment during pregnancy will not lead to any harmful effects to the mother or her baby.
As with most any medication, methadone can be hazardous if taken in ways unintended by a medical professional. Overdosing on methadone is a significant risk for individuals who abuse it recreationally, and the potential for overdose increases if methadone is being abused with other substances. Currently, methadone overdose accounts for approximately one-third of all prescription drug related deaths per year. Despite this statistic, it is imperative to understand that those who die from methadone overdose lose their lives because they are illicitly abusing this substance. Those who take methadone as prescribed and within a medication treatment program are consuming this medication safely.
When taken as directed, under the watchful eye of a certified medical professional, and as a part of a medication assisted treatment program, the use of methadone is considered safe.
The Effectiveness of Methadone Treatment
With decades of data backing its safety, experts are confident in stating that methadone is one of the most effective forms of opioid addiction treatment available. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), treatment that involves the use of methadone to treat opioid addiction is the most effective type of treatment available today.
Not only does the CDC back the cost-effectiveness of methadone as an option for treating addiction, but they also note that a variety of studies have shown the following listed successes linked to this type of treatment:
- Decreasing overdose potential
- Limiting or stopping drug use
- Dramatically improving life expectancy rates (the average death rate amongst opioid abusers who partake in methadone treatment is 30 percent lower than those who do not obtain this treatment)
- Lessening the risk for contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B
- Increased family stability and employment
- Lower chances of participating in criminal activity
- Greater outcomes for pregnant women and their babies
When consumed as a part of a licensed medication assisted treatment program, methadone is effective in treating this form of addiction.
Benefits of Methadone Treatment Plus Counseling
Methadone is only one aspect of a complete medication assisted treatment program. The use of this medication is effective in decreasing the drug cravings and pain associated with withdrawal, which allows patients to obtain a clearness of mind that helps them remain focused and productive in the therapeutic modalities of their treatment plan. In other words, while medication is taking care of the physical symptoms commonly associated with the cessation of opioid abuse, therapy can be implemented to help patients uncover the underlying issues surrounding their opioid addiction.
How You Can Be Successful in a Medication Assisted Treatment Program: Even though methadone is known for its safety and effectiveness, it is critical to understand that this medication is not an end-all-be-all fix for opioid addiction. There is no medication that has the capability of producing results that allow men and women to live happy, healthy lives. In order to achieve this type of success, it takes hard work and determination. When you participate in a medication assisted treatment program, you will begin working alongside doctors, counselors, and nurses who are skilled in helping individuals such as yourself defeat issues that are holding you back from recovering. By following their direction, listening to their advice, and participating in your treatment on the whole, you can dramatically increase your odds that the time you spend in treatment will help you stay solidified in your recovery.
How to Support Your Loved One During Medication Assisted Treatment: Above all else, in order for you to be a supportive family member, spouse, friend, and so on, you must be prepared to take care of yourself first. Your loved one’s life has obviously been destroyed by an addiction to opioids, however, it is important to understand that your life has been impacted as well. For you to be able to provide the most support for your loved one at this time, it can be helpful to speak with his or her treatment program and/or other experts in the field so that you can get connected to the correct resources that can provide you with support. Obtain an education on addiction as a disease, learn what the benefits and limitations of treatment are, and find out what your loved one will need from you during all stages of recovery. Support groups, family therapy, and individual counseling can be incredibly beneficial, informational, and encouraging for you while your loved one is in treatment. Never neglect your own needs, as doing so will not allow you to properly care for your loved one.
The Side Effects of Methadone
Below are some of the possible side effects connected to the use of methadone:
- Skin rashes
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Sleep problems
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Exhaustion or fatigue
- Slowed breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Dry mouth
For more detailed information regarding the side effects of methadone use, as well as to learn how methadone might affect you, please speak with your provider or reach out to us at Cedar Rapids Comprehensive Treatment Center.