What is methadone?
Methadone is a synthetic (man-made) opioid that was first synthesized in the late 1930s. Among its various uses, methadone blocks the receptors in the brain that are affected by addictive opiates such as morphine and heroin – which means that, when taken as part of an approved and medically supervised program, methadone enables addicted individuals to end their dependence upon these drugs without experiencing painful (and often dangerous) withdrawal symptoms.
Is methadone safe?
The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) describes methadone as "a rigorously well-tested medication that is safe and efficacious for the treatment of narcotic withdrawal and dependence."
If you are taking methadone as part of an approved program (under the supervision of a qualified healthcare provider), research indicates that you are not putting yourself at risk for any significant long-term health risks.
How does methadone work?
Methadone works by blocking the receptors in the brain that are affected by dangerous opioids such as morphine and heroin. Methadone reduces the drug cravings that often lead to relapse in recovering opiate addicts without create the disorienting euphoria that results from abusing morphine, heroin and related substances. Thus, methadone patients are able to function in society without being hampered by drug cravings, withdrawal symptoms or the incapacitating effects of opiate abuse.
Methadone’s effects last between 24 and 36 hours, meaning that one daily dose is usually required to receive the maximum benefit from this medication.
Is methadone effective?
Yes, it is. According to research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), weekly heroin use decreased by 69 percent among outpatient methadone maintenance patients.
The ONDCP reports that a 1994 California study "found that rates of illegal drug use, criminal activity, and hospitalization were lower for [methadone maintenance] patients than for addicts in any other type of drug treatment program."
What side effects will I experience if I begin taking methadone?
Decades of research have revealed no serious side effects associated with the medically supervised use of methadone.
When they first begin taking methadone, some people have experienced effects such as constipation, water retention, drowsiness, skin rash, excessive sweating, and changes in libido – but in the vast majority of cases, these symptoms have subsided once the proper dosage has been determined and the patients have developed a tolerance to the medication.
Isn’t methadone maintenance just the substitution of one type of addiction for another?
Not at all. Individuals who participate in a medically supervised methadone maintenance program are not "swapping addictions" – they are exchanging a debilitating addiction for an approved course of treatment that frees them from the chains of chemical dependency.
If I’m taking methadone, can I pass a drug test?
Methadone will not result in a positive test for commonly abused opiates such as morphine or heroin. The only way for a company or other organization to detect methadone is to test for it specifically – which is not a common practice.
Also, it is important to remember that people who are participating in approved methadone maintenance programs are not abusing an illegal drug – they are taking legal medication with the approval and supervision of a qualified healthcare provider. Methadone patients are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – which means that methadone use cannot be used to deny employment.
If I take methadone, can I legally drive a car?
Yes. Methadone’s effects do not include intoxication or other forms of disorientation, and there are no laws preventing methadone patients from operating motor vehicles or other forms of machinery.
Once I start taking methadone, will I ever be able to stop?
Yes, you will. One of the many benefits of methadone maintenance programs is that methadone can safely be taken for a long period of time. But safe withdrawal from methadone is definitely possible – though, as with any type of long-term medication regimen, ending methadone use must be done slowly, carefully and with the support and supervision of your healthcare provider.
How can I learn more about methadone maintenance?
For more information about methadone maintenance – and to learn about treatment centers near you – call (866) 575-8187 or complete the confidential online contact form on the right side of this page.
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