Welcome to the beginning of your journey to recovery from methadone, a legal opioid used for pain treatment, but also as maintenance therapy for people quitting an opioid addiction, such as one to heroin. Maintenance therapy is any method of therapy designed to assist in a patient’s primary goal. For example, the primary goal for a recovering heroin addict in treatment is sobriety. Methadone is used as a substitute for heroin (or any other opioid), acting similarly to the drug of abuse but simultaneously allowing the addict to wean off of heroin.
This is a comprehensive article that takes you through the signs and risks of methadone abuse, and will show you how to recognize abuse signs and risks in order to help someone in need. We’ll also cover what withdrawal from methadone can be like, and finally what The Haven Detox has to offer in the way of detoxification, the extremely important first step toward recovery.
If you wish only to read about our detoxification process itself, please scroll down and begin reading at the section titled Our Methadone Detox Program. Otherwise, please continue to read on.
We wish you the absolute best of luck, but with help from us here at The Haven, luck is something you may not need! Our ample staff and top-notch doctors are ready, willing and able to help you today.
Signs of Methadone Abuse
It’s important to recognize the signs of methadone abuse. It’s also important to know that any use, outside of legally prescribed and responsible use, is abuse. Just because the drug is legal or just because you’ve heard that it’s not as strong as heroin does not mean the drug is not extremely dangerous. Methadone kills thousands of Americans each and every year.
The majority of the signs of methadone abuse are identical to the signs of abuse of other opioid pills. The short-term and long-term health effects of methadone abuse are covered further down in this article, and so what follows is merely a list of the signs of methadone abuse. Some of these signs may double as effects, but what follows are signs more easily detectable.
Methadone Abuse signs include:
- Drowsiness and/or lethargy
- Weakness of the body
- Half-opened eyes (if unusual)
- Dry mouth
- Lack of appetite
- Mood swings
- Slurred speech
- Constricted pupils
Risks of Methadone Abuse
It was around the turn of the millennium that the medical community began to truly take notice of methadone’s negative effects. In 1999, the CDC reported 784 deaths from an overdose of methadone. Flash forward to 2006, seven years later, a period during which big pharma mass marketed a countless number of opioid prescriptions. An overwhelming total of 5,406 Americans die at the hands of methadone. That was an increase of 600%.
The very next year, in 2007, the death toll rose to 5,518. After another period of seven years, the fatal methadone overdose count fell to 3,400 in 2014. Even though this was a 39% decrease in the death toll, methadone still caused over a quarter of opioid-related deaths that year, (the year America first broke its own record for drug deaths).
In 2003, the New York Times published an article about the growing dangers of methadone. It explains how methadone in the early 2000s became a huge problem nationwide and was the fastest growing killer in Maine, North Carolina and Florida. Eclipsed by the scope of the current drug overdose epidemic our nation is facing is the fact that methadone is still widely abused. Most of the abused methadone comes from painkiller prescriptions, not from maintenance therapy methadone.
Within the above-referenced NY Times article, Dr. Edward C. Covington, director of the chronic pain rehabilitation program at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio is quoted as saying, “Methadone is probably one of the very few drugs that I’ve seen doctors almost kill patients with. It’s that hard to use when you first start to use it. If it’s on the street, we’re going to be seeing some deaths.”
The risks associated with methadone abuse, both short-term and long-term, can be quite severe. As with signs of abuse, its risks are similar to those of other opioids.
The short-term risks of methadone abuse include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Twitching and/or tremors
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Cyanosis (slight blue appearance of nails or lips)
- Coma and/or death
The long-term effects of methadone abuse include:
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Nerve and/or liver and/or brain damage
- Coma and/or death
Recognizing Methadone Abuse & Stepping In
If you or someone you know is abusing methadone, whether they are a non-prescribed user or someone abusing his or her prescription, now is the time to step in. You can intervene, and begin the process of helping. Of course, you can step in and help yourself too, if you’re the one with the problem. As with all illicit substances, abuse soon leads to addiction. One pill of methadone could kill you. What high could possibly be worth that?
Stepping in and intervening to help someone we know has a problem is always easier said than done. We love these people, and we do not want to hurt them, but we love them enough to know they are hurting themselves, and perhaps at a deadly rate. In such extreme cases, professional intervention is recommended. When it comes to trying to help someone you love, keep these tips in mind:
- Do not call the person an addict or even accuse them of being an abuser.
- Do not demand the person seeks help. Simply state your concerns.
- Encourage the possibility of help, but do not be forceful.
- Maintain the rapport you already have with the person. Acting differently will likely arouse suspicion.
Withdrawal from Methadone
When it comes to drug abuse, tolerance describes a lesser reaction to a substance following repeated use of that substance. For instance, a first-time drinker could likely achieve drunkenness with a beer or two, whereas an alcoholic, who has a high tolerance to alcohol, would require many more beers to achieve the same level of drunkenness.
For all users, tolerance to methadone is established quicker than with most other drugs. This means that methadone abusers will need more and more each time they use. Please note that the higher one’s tolerance to methadone at the time of withdrawal, the more severe the symptoms of withdrawal are likely to be.
Withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of heroin or morphine. Still, perhaps fortunately for the recovering addict, methadone withdrawal is not as intense as the aforementioned drugs.
Methadone withdrawal symptoms include:
- The chills
- Body aches
- Excessive sweating
- Increased heartrate
- Mood swings
- Intense cravings for more methadone
Because methadone stores itself in fatty tissue and takes longer to leave the body than most substances, withdrawal symptoms can last up to six weeks. Also, they might not even set in until 1-5 days after the last use.
Withdrawal symptoms are much more likely to occur, and much more likely to be worse, if an addict stops using without help. Opioids present the most dangerous withdrawal circumstances, and The Haven can provide all of the help necessary for a methadone addict to begin the path to recovery. The first step, as mentioned, is detoxification, commonly called detox, which safely and effectively removes all traces of methadone (and other opiates if applicable) from the body.
Our Methadone Detox Program
Methadone has been used in the United States since 1947 as an effective maintenance treatment for opioid addiction. The reason for needing a methadone detox program is that like other opioid medications, tolerance and dependence can develop with repeated and prolonged use.
Methadone is a synthetic opioid used medically as an analgesic, anti-addictive and reductive preparation for individuals with opioid dependency, as well as a pain reliever. It works by stabilizing patients and can block the euphoric effects of heroin, morphine, and similar drugs. Properly medicated methadone patients can reduce or stop altogether their use of these substances, but it has not always functioned to curb addiction so much as to re direct it and maintain dependency on a substitute medication.
An individual with an intolerance or dependency on methadone will demonstrate symptoms such as drowsiness, dangerously slow breathing, irregular heartbeat, confusion, mood swings and tolerance for the drug. The long-term side effects of chemical dependency on methadone range from lung infections, impaired judgment, problems with coordination, to serious heart conditions.
Checking into a professional treatment center if attempting to detox from methadone is strongly recommended.
Detoxing from Methadone Addiction
Methadone is not chemically structured the same way as heroin, morphine, Vicodin and other opiates, but the symptoms associated with dependency can be equally as challenging to overcome, and methadone detox is recommended. It’s important not to minimize the consequences of methadone addiction simply because it’s a medication, the potential for overdose and dangerous withdrawal symptoms are significant, and thousands of people suffer accidental deaths each year. Detoxing will require a tapering off of the drug, and generally withdrawal symptoms won’t set in until after a day without the drug.
What to Expect During Methadone Detox
The process of how to detox from methadone at The Haven Detox begins with an initial health assessment involving physical examination, including a visual screening of patients, to establish a comprehensive evaluation of each client. Our clinical staff members have experience working with individuals detoxing from methadone, and it’s important to generate a basic knowledge of medical history, history of abuse as well as personal well-being, psychological and emotional condition.
Variables such as age, number of years using, amount used per week, family history and any underlying mental disorders are taken into consideration to develop an effective treatment plan. Our team of professionals works together with clients to draw up a treatment plan incorporating daily individual and group therapy sessions. Throughout detox, we work with clients to outline a long-term treatment plan, in preparation to transition successfully to the next phase of recovery. At The Haven Detox, we are committed to providing a comfortable and safe environment, giving our patients the necessary time and tools to build a life free of addiction.