A synthetic opioid with analgesic activity. Methadone mimics the actions of endogenous peptides at CNS opioid receptors, primarily on the mu-receptor and has actions similar to those of morphine and morphine-like agents. The characteristic morphine-like effects include analgesia, euphoria, sedation, respiratory depression, miosis, bradycardia and physical dependence. However, the detoxification symptoms between morphine-like agents and methadone differ in that the onset of methadone’s withdrawal symptoms is slower, the course is more prolonged and the symptoms are less severe.
- People who use methadone for longer-term maintenance have better outcomes than people who use methadone as a part of a shorter term detox protocol.
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends a minimum of one year in methadone maintenance treatment for best outcomes.
- People on higher doses of methadone stay in treatment for longer periods of time, and have better outcomes, than do people on minimal doses of methadone. A recent medical study compared the treatment outcomes of people on 40 mgs of methadone a day and those who were taking 75 mgs of methadone a day. They found that higher doses of methadone are associated with significantly higher treatment retention (in this case a doubling between those who take 40 mgs and day and those who take 75mgs a day).
- Every person has unique dosage needs. People can metabolize methadone quite differently, and thus dosages should not be capped by maximum recommendations. Instead, the healthcare provider who is supervising the methadone maintenance treatment should evaluate the reduction of withdrawal symptoms reduction the cessation of drug cravings in order to determine the ideal methadone dosage.
- If people stay on methadone for longer than two weeks, there is an 80 percent chance that they will stay with their methadone maintenance treatment for six months or longer.
- Studies show that methadone maintenance treatment dramatically reduces illicit opiate use, criminal behavior, risky sexual practices, and the transmission of HIV.
- In 2005, more than 4,000 people fatally overdosed on methadone or methadone and other drugs together. Many of these people were using high doses of methadone in an unsupervised effort to treat pain, or were illicitly using methadone for recreational purposes.
- Unlike Suboxone or Subutex, methadone has no ceiling of effect. Even people with very heavy heroin habits can get full withdrawal symptom relief from methadone.
- Methadone does not harm any major organs, even if taken for decades.
- People in methadone maintenance treatment programs have 30 percent the mortality rate of opiate users who are not in methadone maintenance treatment
Methadone Works Well, but It’s Not an Overnight Solution
Although methadone is sometimes used in a short-term detoxification protocol, methadone has shown its best results when used as a long-term maintenance medication for opiate addiction.
Methadone withdrawal can be difficult, but the medication works very well to keep you stable, free from pain, and free from drug cravings as you rebuild the infrastructure of a broken life.
Eventually, most people feel stronger and ready to slowly taper down off of methadone, but some people continue to use the drug for many years, or even for life. Methadone maintenance treatment is not a “quick fix,” but it does offer the opportunity to heal the scars of previous addiction and build a sober life.