Methadone is an opioid-type drug that has been used for more than 60 years for treating patients who are addicted to heroin or other opiates. It was initially developed as a synthetic painkiller but found its true calling as a treatment for heroin addiction in the 1960s.
Although methadone has declined in the United States, it is still prescribed for various medical conditions, most notably pain treatment and as part of general anesthesia. Methadone is a type of opioid receptor antagonist (ORA). Unlike other ORA drugs used to prevent or treat opioid addiction, methadone differs in that it also has essential effects as an analgesic or pain reliever.
It may seem counter-intuitive as methadone is a substance that can be abused by the individual who uses it. However, this dual action makes methadone especially useful for medical and dental procedures (particularly major surgery) where there is excellent potential for pain-related discomfort. Methadone is not a new drug. It was developed as an analgesic in Germany, and the first reports of using methadone to treat heroin addiction in the United States date back to the mid-1960s.
Since then, methadone has become the substance of choice for treating heroin addiction for several reasons. One reason is that it is highly effective at suppressing withdrawal symptoms, which are extremely painful and distressing for recovering addicts, often leading them to relapse if left untreated. Another reason is that methadone can ease cravings for heroin or other illicit opiates.
What Is Methadone Treatment?
Methadone treatment slows down opioid hyperactivity, eliminating the need to use heroin or other opioid drugs to alleviate discomfort.
Methadone treatment produces long-term results, although some patients may need the drug indefinitely. It involves the use of methadone as a painkiller and as an anti-diarrheal drug to control pain and discomfort.
Methadone treatment can control cravings for opioids without having to dose them every few hours. A patient on methadone does not experience the average high or ‘rush’ from using heroin or other opioids. Methadone treatment can control withdrawal symptoms that are common when a habitual user stops opioids suddenly.
Methadone treatment may involve additional medications such as buprenorphine (BUP) for withdrawal management and naltrexone (NTX) for detoxification. Naloxone (NAL) can also be used in cases where there is a need to block the euphoric effects of opioids. These medications are intended to help control cravings and prevent potential relapse.
Despite its widespread deployment in clinics around the world, methadone treatment is far from being a perfect solution to the problem of opioid addiction. Several other medications and therapies have been developed over the last 60 years that offer equally effective results. These include opiate replacement therapy (ORT) using drugs such as Suboxone and methadone, a variety of detox procedures used alone or in combination with medication and non-narcotic pain relievers, psychological tools for helping control cravings, and therapy for providing emotional support.
The effects of methadone are partly mediated by a particular receptor (OR) located in the brain and spinal cord called the mu-OR. Opioids that interact with mu-ORs block or reduce pain sensation decrease nausea and prevent vomiting. It means that methadone can be used to treat both withdrawal symptoms from heroin and pain. The difficulty of methadone treatment probably stems from the fact that methadone is not as potent as heroin, which means it has less potential for causing euphoria or dependency effects. Although some patients with severe opioid addiction may perceive a difference between the two drugs, many patients do not notice any difference.
The use of methadone to treat heroin addiction has proven to be an effective treatment option in the United States and many other parts of the world. The efficacy of this drug in treating opioid addiction remains a matter of debate because some argue that methadone does not work very well. Others say that methadone is underused, which could be due to a reluctance by providers to use methadone. Although there are some initial problems with the medication, these medications can relieve pain and alleviate symptoms if appropriately used. Ready to get started? Call us on our toll-free number 833-680-0165.