The United States has an opiate problem. From heroin to codeine-infused cough syrup, opiates are a growing problem that accounts for thousands of deaths and hospital visits annually. One of the toughest opiates to get over is the powerful methadone, which has been prescribed and abused for decades. Let’s learn more about the risks of methadone including what methadone is, why it was developed, and what to do if you think you or a loved one has a methadone problem.
What is Methadone?
Methadone is a synthetic narcotic derived from opium found in the poppy plant. Methadone was originally developed by Nazi scientists in 1930s Germany as an alternative to morphine for soldiers, but the drug never received much use and was forgotten about during the fall of the Third Reich.
The drug regained popularity to help treat hundreds of heroin-addicted soldiers returning to the U.S. from Vietnam. Up until methadone tapering, there were virtually no successful ways to effectively treat heroin and other types of opiate addiction.
Methadone, an opiate, was given to heroin addicts to help wean them off the more dangerous heroin and was further developed to treat chronic pain due to its powerful effects and long life in the body. These long-lasting effects make methadone a dangerous opiate – even when prescribed.
Why is it Prescribed if it’s Dangerous?
Methadone is a Schedule II and not a Schedule I drug because there is believed to a medical use for it. Methadone prescriptions were once handed out to just about any heroin addict who wanted one, and doctors still use the drug for debilitating and chronic pain conditions. Methadone has become much less prescribed in recent years as its damaging effects have been realized and other alternatives to opiate addiction have become more popular.
There are many terrible things that come with methadone, but a debilitating addiction is the beginning of most other risks associated with the drug. Many begin a methadone regimen to treat more immediate and dangerous conditions like heroin, then find themselves addicted to the methadone. Others might start their addiction with a doctor’s note for pain. Some take methadone for the first time to enjoy its effects. No matter what causes it, methadone addiction can happen quickly and can take over all parts of your life almost overnight.
Injury / Death
Methadone was developed to prevent pain and increase the quality of life, but for many methadone can cause a dramatic decrease in quality of life and could cause some serious pain.
Methadone is a central nervous system depressant, which carries dangers when abused. Small amounts of methadone are usually safe when prescribed by treatment professionals or licensed physicians, but anything other than very small amounts of the drug on a controlled schedule is very dangerous.
Large or even moderate amounts of methadone can cause shallow breathing, dangerously low blood pressure, erratic heartbeat, coma, and even death. The scariest part? You can overdose and die from methadone abuse the first time you try it.
You won’t die from withdrawing from methadone – but you might wish you were dead. Opiate withdrawal causes a variety of physical and mental symptoms including fever, aches and pains, confusion, lethargy, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and much more. Withdrawal symptoms can cause disruptions in daily life and can make the future seem bleak. Unfortunately, if you must withdraw from methadone, you’re likely in for a bumpy ride. Methadone is notorious for its terrible withdrawals since the drug remains in your body for weeks even after discontinued use.
Withdrawal from popular opiates like OxyContin or Percocet may only last a few days but withdrawal from methadone could last several weeks and even months, depending on the amount used and history of abuse. Terrible withdrawal symptoms, known more commonly as being ‘dopesick’ are what lead many people right back to the drug, even if they’re ready to get clean. It will be nearly impossible for you to ‘survive’ methadone withdrawal without the help of professional treatment.
Methadone isn’t cheap, and a methadone addiction can quickly wipe out what you’ve been working to build for years. Methadone addicts have been known to pawn, steal, and blow away their savings due to the drug’s powerful addiction and withdrawal symptoms. If you want to see a magic trick you can watch your savings dwindle from multiple digits to zero in a flash with the help of methadone.
Methadone is a Schedule II narcotic. It is illegal for anyone without a prescription to possess methadone and it is illegal for anyone other than licensed professionals to distribute methadone. If you are caught with unprescribed methadone, you could see the inside of a jail cell for months to years. Even just one arrest for unlawful possession or distribution of methadone can derail your entire life.
A methadone addict ends up in one of three places if they don’t treat their addiction – jail, an institution, or six feet under. Luckily there are great resources and treatment centers across the country. Let’s find out why a treatment center can help end the risks or methadone abuse.
What to Do with a Methadone Addiction
If you or a loved one is suffering from a methadone addiction, or are ready to break free from their prescription, professional treatment is your smartest choice. Modern addictions centers and detox facilities use a combination of tapering, pharmaceuticals, health and nutrition, counseling, and more to both help you break your addiction, and to build yourself a future free of this debilitating drug.
Getting off any opiate is difficult, but methadone is notoriously difficult to break due to its long-lasting effects and withdrawal symptoms. Even those suffering from chronic methadone addiction can find help at a recovery center or detox centers that will help you treat your addiction in a safe, comfortable, and controlled setting. Methadone may have gained popularity as a treatment for addiction, but its own addictive tendencies make it a risk for everyone.
Contact us right now. We will work with you to develop a treatment plan unique to your needs so that you can comprehensively address all of your needs. Let us help you.
Chris Clancy is the in-house Content Manager for JourneyPure’s Digital Marketing team, where he gets to explore a wide variety of substance abuse- and mental health-related topics. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist and researcher, with strong working knowledge of hospital systems, health insurance, content strategy, and public relations. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two kids.