The FDA approved Methadone, a long acting synthetic opioid, in 1947 to treat opioid addiction. Methadone acts in a way that is similar to heroin and other opiate medications, but does not cause euphoria and reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms for 24-36 hours. Methadone Treatment has been clinically shown to significantly reduce the physical reasons for continued use of other opiates and is free of contaminated substances that illicit opiates may contain. It is a safe, legal, and effective medication that is prescribed or approved by a physician. In this treatment program, Methadone is provided in liquid form and taken by mouth.
How does Methadone Treatment work?
The goal of Methadone Treatment is to stop illegal opiate use and the crime, death, disease and other negative consequences associated with addiction. Treatment is intended to eliminate opiate use among individuals who are addicted by stabilizing them on Methadone for as long as necessary to help restore their lives and avoid returning to previous patterns of illegal and dangerous drug use. Methadone Treatment is recognized as an evidence-based practice by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
How Effective is it?
Methadone is the most effective treatment for opiate addiction according to SAMHSA, “Research shows that when treating substance-use disorders, a combination of medication and behavioral therapies is most successful.” The World Health Organization (WHO) also states, “Of the treatment options examined, opioid agonist maintenance treatment, combined with psychosocial assistance, was found to be the most effective.”
Research has demonstrated that Methadone Maintenance Treatment is an effective treatment for heroin and prescription narcotic addiction when measured by:
Reduction in the use of illicit drugs
Reduction in criminal activity
Reduction in needle sharing
Reduction in HIV infection rates and transmission
Reduction in commercial sex work
Reduction in the number of reports of multiple sex partners
Improvements in social health and productivity
Improvements in health conditions
Reduction in addiction treatment
Reduction in suicide rates
Reduction in lethal overdose
Effectiveness and success are not only measured by statistics, what one person may define as success will look different than what success looks like to another. We believe that decreasing risky behaviors, preventing crime within our communities, improving health status, being productive members of the community, being a positive and present mother or father and establishing long term employment are all indicators of effectiveness and success.
You will feel some relief from withdrawal symptoms within an hour of dosing. Complete relief can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks however, most people report feeling much better within hours. Our medical team will work diligently to ensure your safety and comfort.
How long will I need to be in treatment?
As opiate dependence is a medical condition that requires proper healing for a successful recovery, there is no set time. Your treatment is individualized through the use of medication, education, and counseling. Ultimately, you with the aid of our treatment team will decide when you are ready to discontinue treatment.
What is Methadone Maintenance?
Methadone Maintenance is the long-term use of Methadone to treat addiction to opioids. When used in maintenance, Methadone is taken by mouth daily at a steady dose. This will assist you in living a normal life, one that is not influenced by fear of cravings or withdrawal. By participating in this program, achieving a stable dose, and participating in counseling, life should become more manageable, likely, exposure to communicable diseases will decrease, criminal activity will decrease, you will be more likely to get or maintain a job or go to school and the health and well-being of you and your family will improve. Being stable in a treatment program can be the foundation on which people build a way of life away from drugs.
Am I just substituting one drug for another?
Opiate addictions, like most any other addiction, functions as a disease that grows progressively worse with time. Considering the type of damage opiate abuse causes, opiate addiction requires a targeted treatment approach that gives the body time to heal while weaning itself off opiate effects. In a sense, Methadone Maintenance Treatment works in much the same way insulin therapy treatments for diabetes help to restore a person’s blood-sugar metabolism functions. Insulin doses essentially compensate for low levels of insulin in the bloodstream. Likewise, Methadone compensate for the body’s inability to produce its own natural opiate-like chemicals. Without this replacement/substitution function, recovering addicts are left to fend off persistent drug cravings and withdrawal effects through sheer force of will. From a therapeutic standpoint, Methadone produces long-acting effects while drugs like heroin and opiate pain-relief medications have short-acting effects. When administered at the proper dosage levels, persons recovering from addiction gain relief from cravings and withdrawal effects for up to 36 hours at a time. Compared to the emotional ups and downs experienced from short-acting, addictive opiates, a person can lead a stable productive life while participating in Methadone Maintenance Treatment. This in turn allows persons recovering from addiction to take an active part in their recovery process while at the same time participating in work, family and social activities.
Are there side effects?
Side effects may vary from person to person and generally last between 2-3 weeks. Not everyone will have side effects from Methadone, however, it is not unusual to experience one of more of the following: constipation, sweating, upset stomach, sedation, aching muscles and joints, irregular menstrual cycles, decreased libido, or other sexual side effects. All of the above side effects may vary from person to person and according to the size of your dose and length of treatment. Speak to your counselor or medical staff if one or more of these side effects is interfering with your activities of daily living, ability to attend work or schooling, interfere with your ability to attend your clinic dosing / appointments, or cause you concern. In rare instances, Methadone can cause an abnormal heart rhythm. As a precaution, prior to beginning a Methadone regimen, all patients undergo an EKG (heart rhythm evaluation) to make sure that no underlying heart problems exist. As a follow-up precaution, each patient undergoes a second EKG after 30 days of treatment to verify that the Methadone is not affecting the patient’s heart rhythm. Should any patient be prescribed a dosage of 150mg or greater, another EKG is performed to ensure the patients safety and lastly, every patient undergoes an annual EKG (each year) at the time of their annual physical.
Note: Methadone has not been proven to cause weight gain. People on Methadone often begin Methadone Maintenance Treatment at a low weight; appetites are often suppressed by the use of heroin or other opiates. During Methadone Treatment, your appetite will return, which may in turn cause weight gain, thus it is important to exercise and eat a healthy balanced diet.
Methadone and Pregnancy
Research has shown that Methadone Maintenance Treatment is safe for pregnant women and offers you a much greater chance for a healthy baby. Because Methadone Maintenance Therapy helps reduce the use of illegal opioids and the abuse of other harmful drugs, it offers a number of proven advantages:
• Helps you escape from a drug-seeking lifestyle • Reduces the risks of contracting HIV, hepatitis and other infections • Prevents erratic blood levels of drugs that put the unborn baby through dangerous withdrawal • Improves your nutrition, leading to a healthier weight and condition of the baby • Allows you to prepare for the birth, take baby care classes, and begin homemaking • Reduces medical complications both before and during childbirth allowing for a healthier baby
There is no single best dose for pregnant women. Your maintenance dose needs to be individually determined for your needs, to control drug cravings and prevent withdrawal symptoms. Because of changes in your body during pregnancy, you may need an increased Methadone dose at some point. This can be the case no matter how high your dose was to begin with and does not harm the unborn baby. Even mild withdrawal can put stress on the unborn baby, causing miscarriage, premature delivery, or even death in the womb. If necessary, discontinuing Methadone should only be done under close medical supervision. Please inform clinic staff if you are pregnant upon admission or if you become pregnant at any time during treatment.