How Methadone is used for treatment
PIDARC wants you to clearly understand the medication you will be taking. Methadone is a medication that has been used in the treatment of opiate substance addiction since the late 60’s. Opiates are derivatives of opium, a naturally occurring substance in heroin obtained from poppies. Opioids are synthetic opiates and include codeine, dilaudid, oxycontin and related prescription drugs.
The initial goal of methadone treatment is to free a person with opioid use disorder (OUD) from the severe withdrawal symptoms that prompts the regular use of illicit opiates and prescription drugs. A person may be physiologically addicted if they have been taking heroin or opioids daily for extended periods of time and exhibit symptoms of withdrawal when they stop using these drugs. Along with irritability and cravings to use opiates within eight hours of discontinued use, the most common signs of opiate withdrawal are runny nose, large pupils, eyes tearing, sweating, chills, diarrhea, yawning, nausea, cramps, insomnia, joint pain, and gooseflesh.
Methadone is a long-acting synthetic medication that was developed during World War II as a substitute painkiller when morphine was in short supply. It was first used in the United States in the 1960s to treat drug addiction. Clinical research showed that the drug could be used effectively to treat opioid withdrawal syndrome by replacing morphine or heroin with methadone. Heroin last 4-5 hours after use whereas methadone lasts 24-36 hours after ingestion. Today methadone is still considered to be the preferred treatment for many patients when combined with a holistic treatment regimen consisting of substance abuse education, group and individual counseling, and case management services that address mental and physical health, family relationships, housing, legal problems, and work or recreational activities.
Methadone is effective because it keeps the patient from going into withdrawal and blocks the effects of opioids. Dosage varies from patient to patient and is adjusted during the initial course of treatment. Once it has been determined that the patient’s medication is at therapeutic dosing level, patients are able to remain comfortable, free from cravings, and better able to focus on other aspects of their recovery; adjustments to medication dosage may be made from time to time throughout the course of treatment as needed to ensure the patient’s ongoing stability while in the methadone maintenance phase of treatment. For more information about methadone, click on the “Frequently Asked Questions” tab.