I am a Mother too two beautiful children, a waitress at Denny's, and a freelance writer. I want to help people, get the help they need!
What is Methadone and Why Don't More People Take It?
What keeps a person in active addiction even when they know it's destroying their lives and relationships? The fear of withdrawal symptoms, and the pain and misery they know is imminent when they don't get their opiate fix.
Methadone is a form of medication maintenance available to people who are struggling with a substance abuse addiction. It aids in recovery by allowing its user freedom from withdrawal symptoms. Without the fear associated with quitting, a person can successfully change their pattern of destructive behavior, and rebuild a healthy life. Thus allowing them to be more successful when they stop taking medications completely and reducing the chance of relapse.
With opiate addiction growing rapidly in many areas, I wondered why more people don't utilize this recovery assistance? So I went in search of answers and asked a wide range of people what they thought about Methadone! The answers were truly astounding!
I found that most people have a giant aversion to this form of treatment because of one or two myths they have heard about Methadone. Crazy, something that may not even be true, is meaning the difference between help and further addiction. I also uncovered the reasons why more family members of addicts don't agree with this as a form of treatment, and it also traced back to a myth more often then not.
People are uneducated about the true risks associated with Methadone! Any medication could have negative side effects, but are the risks greater then the one your putting yourself in danger of everyday as an addict?
There is a public need for understanding and acceptance among addicts, and the only way to get that is to educate people about the treatment options available. Let's look at the most common myths about methadone, and the truth behind the curtain!
1. Methadone kills people!
Dose methadone come with its own set of risks and side effects? Yes, of course it does. Every single medication in the world has a long list of possible negative effects, but they are usually rare. You must take this medication with the same caution as you would take Tylenol or NyQuil, too much could kill you, but taken correctly it can help aid in recovery.
People who are against methadone would tell you that there are twice as many methadone related deaths as their are heroin related deaths. This is true, but you must look at the reasons why this is true. There are several reasons why a person may have a negative reaction while taking methadone, but the biggest reasons are as followed.
- Methadone is prescribed more for pain management then for symptoms of drug abuse withdrawals. In one year 750,000 people were prescribed methadone for pain and only 250,000 were given it to curb withdrawal symptoms. Methadone has a long half-life and can stay in a persons system for almost 60 hours. It can decrease withdrawal symptoms for up to 24 hours with just one dose, but only suppresses pain for 4-8 hours. This causes the need to take more throughout the day to relieve pain, but since the drug has not cleared from their body yet it builds up, sometimes to a toxic level. People who have not been exposed to long term opiate use take longer to clear methadone from their system. This puts them at a much higher risk of overdose. Methadone has been used safely as a treatment for heroin dependency since the 1960's but only recently became a leading cause of overdose deaths. Why? Because of its increased use as a painkiller among people who have never been exposed to opiate medications before.
- Deaths that are related to the use of methadone to treat addiction, usually involve a mixture of substances. When a person is taking methadone it is imperative they do not take any other depressant to their system. Even alcohol can be deadly when mixed with methadone. Unfortunately, people think they can handle it or that their tolerance is somehow high enough that it will not affect them in the same way. Methadone clinics are very strict about the use of any other type of depressants and will closely monitor patients for the use of other drugs. If they suspect a person is taking alcohol, marijuana, or benzodiazepines they will stop treatment right away.
- People who acquire methadone from an illegal source, or try to treat themselves for opiate addiction, are putting themselves at a much higher risk of overdose. Many addicts believe they can take the same milligram of methadone as they have been taking of another opiate medication. This is not true and how most people end up overdosing. If you have a 200mg a day opiate addiction you cannot expect to take 200mgs of methadone safely. This is why it is so important to enroll in a medication maintenance program so you can be monitored and safely dosed by trained healthcare professionals. It is not safe to prescribe methadone for yourself or purchase it on the street to cure your addiction.
2. Methadone Gets You High
Actually, methadone was formulated to provide a long lasting effect without the user feeling the "high" that other opiates give. It was purposely designed to work in parts of a persons brain and spinal cord to block those feelings of euphoria. If a person is experiencing a high from Methadone they are probably taking way more then they should be, and even then it is more sedation then a "high".
3. Methadone Causes Sedation and People On It Cannot Function Normally
This is perhaps one of the most common myths about methadone and the biggest reason addicts are afraid to take it. There is a widespread belief that methadone causes a person to sleep all day, nod out constantly, or just become a zombie who is unable to function normally in life.
If a person is acting this way while taking the medication, they need their dose changed and quickly! Methadone should work as a substitute for normal and healthy brain functions, until an addict no longer needs it to get through their day. It should never cause you to feel sedated or lethargic, and if you are nodding you are taking way more then you should be! Some addicts will continue to have their dose increased so they can experience these sedative effects, but that should not be the face of treatment.
4. Methadone Will Make You Sick
The medication itself should never make you feel sick, cause vomiting, or any other signs of illness. Generally, when a new user feels this way it is due to the withdrawals from other opiates because when you first begin treatment you may not be on a high enough dose to block withdrawals completely. If you have reached a stable dose, and still feel sick, you may have an intolerance for the medication and should stop taking it, but this is not common.
5. Methadone Will Ruin Your Teeth
Some doctors will say that methadone will not ruin a persons teeth, and that the problem began because of neglect to dental hygiene while in active addiction. However, hundreds of recovering addicts will tell you that they never had problems with their teeth until they began taking methadone. So what gives, does methadone cause tooth decay or not?
Unfortunately, this is one myth that may have a tiny bit of truth behind it. The medication itself has not been proven to ruin teeth or have any connection with dental conditions. However, it can cause dry mouth which makes it easier for acids to eat away at your teeth because they are not being washed away by saliva.
Methadone can also cause a person to crave sweets and if you sit around all day eating sugary things you will notice more problems with your teeth.
There are people who have been on methadone for years who claim to have no dental issues at all. If you are going to begin Methadone treatment, I would advise you to pay more attention to your dental health. Make sure you visit your dentist regularly, brush after every meal, floss on a daily basis, and make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to combat the effects of dry mouth.
The choice to begin Methadone treatment doesn't have to be a choice to lose all of your teeth, but you should be mindful of the problems that some users say they experience.
6. If You Take Methadone You Will Gain Weight
Unfortunately, this is another common myth that has some roots of truth. People do experience weight gain when they take methadone, but it is less a side effect of the medication and more a side effect of getting sober.
Methadone may slow a persons metabolism down a little and that could cause a bit of weight gain, but it should not cause large amounts of weight to be gained. It can also cause water retention but again that should not cause significant weight gain.
When an addict is in active addiction their entire lives revolve around the drugs. They can go for days without eating, either because they do not have an appetite or they do not have money for food. People who use drugs intravenously tend to have very slender builds which is one of the common identifying factors of drug use.
So when a person quits drugs and begins living a better lifestyle they are going to become healthier, and this could mean gaining back a normal amount of weight. When you add a craving for sweet food and a possible lower metabolism with the absence of diet and exercise, you may notice an increase in your weight.
7. Methadone is Harder to Quit
Many people are afraid to begin methadone treatment because of the myth that methadone is harder to quit. They are afraid that they will experience much worse forms of withdrawals when it comes time to taper off the medication. Methadone is an opiate medication with its own withdrawal symptoms but the tapering process is highly monitored and customized to make each patient comfortable.
When taken correctly and on a stable dosing system, methadone users do not experience any bad withdrawal symptoms. That is the design,of this treatment, to ease an addicts fear of withdrawals.
If a person has to stop taking methadone suddenly for some reason, they would experience the same withdrawal symptoms as they would on any opiate medication. While Methadone can cause people to experience bone pain when coming down from it, it is not any worse then the initial withdrawals would be.
8. Your Still An Addict Just Getting It Legally
Addiction is more then the substance you are taking. It is the destructive pattern of behaviors an unhealthy person will exhibit. While in active addiction a person will do almost anything to get their fix, and will sometimes do things they would have never done before.
Methadone is an opiate but it is not intended to get its user high, which is what drives an addiction. Instead it allows its user to escape the fear of withdrawals while feeling normal enough to build a healthy life once again. Then once they have built a good support system then may begin to taper off the medication.
Medthadone is not an addiction because it doesn't give its users anything to be addicted to. There is no high for an addict to crave and it dose not lead a person to do unsavory things to get it everyday.
Tell Us What You Think!
Tell Us Your Story!
Meagan Ireland (author) from Maine on August 17, 2017:
I guess I didn't realize you had said coming off all at once! Yes, that is probably worse then most opiates. When I said it was painless I was referring to the taper process being done correctly and slowly.
It really is not intended to be taken and then stopped and it is absolutely a commitment. Much like sobriety is a long commitment! Some people decide they don't like going everyday and stop themselves and that would be hard! However, if you do it slowly over time it really is nowhere near as uncomfortable as any withdrawals I have ever had!
I do feel bad for anyone who has been forced to come off it quickly (inability to pay, insurance reasons, jail sentences etc) I don't imagine that would be easy! I guess when you make the choice to begin Methadone you have to be making a commitment that could last several months!
Methadone cannot just be taken for a couple weeks and stopped and you are magically healed! On the other hand, people get so eager to be done they try to come off it too fast, end up experiencing withdrawals, and relapse. Your counselor or medical provider should explain all of this to you, and prevent you from tapering to quickly.
The rule of thumb is 10% of whatever dose you are on. If you are one 180 you should only drop 18 mg. If you are on 30 mg you cannot drop 10 mg and feel ok because 3 mg is what you should do and that is sometimes pushing it! When done this way I can personally attest to its success at management of my withdrawals but everyone is absolutely different!
Thank you for commenting and I'm sorry you didn't have a good experience! I hope your recovery didn't suffer! I would be interested to know what you did instead? Cold turkey or another form of taper? Anyways, I am rooting for you! We are all in this together! Thanks for the read, and taking the time to share your experience with us!
AK on August 16, 2017:
Must say #7 is just not accurate at all. In a magic world the taper process would be painless but it isn't and it takes forever. Much longer than opiates. Stopping all at once has sever side effects for a week or 2 and gets easier after 30 days. Still you don't feel better or back to normal for 9 month to a year.
That has been my experience.
Meagan Ireland (author) from Maine on August 04, 2017:
You are one hundred percent correct and in hindsight I should have touched more on that! Methadone is only one item in a big bag of recovery tools, and needs to be used along with counseling and support! You really said it perfectly! Thank you for commenting!
Linda Courtney from Bloomsburg, PA on August 04, 2017:
As someone who has family members who are/were opiate addicts I found your article really interesting. Methadone does work best in a rehab/recovery setting under the guidance of professionals. Methadone alone doesn't always work. Most addicts need help from outside professionals and fellow former users. Thanks for all the information! Hope it helps someone.