Can I Drink Alcohol While in Methadone Treatment?

People coming off a long history of opiate addiction often face a lengthy recovery process that may well include methadone treatment. Since methadone treatment is specifically designed to treat opiate addiction, one might wonder if it’s alright to consume alcohol while taking methadone.

The truth of the matter is, even though your addiction problem may reside solely with opiates and not alcohol, alcohol can still pose a problem as far as your recovery progress goes. Understanding how methadone works can go a long way towards helping you avoid the pitfalls of alcohol use while in methadone treatment.

Methadone Treatment Purpose

After months or years of opiate abuse, the brain’s chemical network undergoes considerable damage, especially the cells that produce essential neurotransmitter materials.

In effect, the brain has taken on a completely different configuration, both chemically and structurally, that relies on opiates to function. Once a person stops using drugs, this new configuration makes it especially difficult for a person to maintain abstinence on an ongoing basis.

As a synthetically made opiate, methadone’s treatment effectiveness stems from its ability to interact with the brain’s chemical network in ways similar to addictive opiates without posing a high risk for abuse or addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In the process, methadone treatment relieves the persistent withdrawal and drug cravings effects that make ongoing abstinence so difficult to maintain.

Methadone’s Mechanism of Action

Drink Alcohol

Alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of methadone, often causing withdrawal symptoms.

By the time a person develops opiate addiction, he or she requires multiple “fixes” throughout the day in order to maintain a “high” and ward off uncomfortable withdrawal effects. As a treatment drug, methadone produces slow-acting effects and so only requires once-daily dosing as opposed to the repeated dosing that comes with addictive opiates.

According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, as a slow-acting drug, methadone treatment effectiveness relies on the body maintaining a certain metabolism rate. This means anything capable of altering the body’s metabolism processes can potentially impair methadone’s therapeutic effects.

Alcohol’s Effects

As an addictive substance in its own right, alcohol acts as a depressant, slowing down chemical processes throughout the brain and body. Considering the overall purpose of methadone treatment works to restore a normal chemical balance in the brain, drinking alcohol while taking methadone can easily counteract methadone’s effects.

Under these conditions, a person will likely start experiencing withdrawal effects and drug cravings in response to methadone’s reduced effectiveness. Alcohol also interferes with the body’s metabolism processes, essentially slowing down metabolism rates. This too can interfere with methadone’s intended effects.

The Addiction Aspect

Addictive substances, by nature, take a toll on the brain’s functional capacity, creating chemical imbalances that breed dependency. These interactions take shape over time creating conditions that inevitably skew a person’s thinking, emotions and behaviors towards the compulsive drug-using behaviors that characterize addiction.

In effect, drinking alcohol while in methadone treatment only works to kick-start the addiction cycle on both a physical and psychological level. While alcohol and opiates may seem like completely different substances, their effects on the brain are the same.

If you or someone you know are considering methadone treatment and have more questions, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-891-9360 to speak with one of our addiction specialists.

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