The Real Impact of Methadone on Your Brain
Taking methadone can seem scary at first.
This might be because you don’t know how it works.
You might be tired of feeling out of control because of drugs. For once, you want to be in control of your body and your life.
Thankfully, because methadone is a controlled drug, scientists know exactly how it works in your body and brain.
By taking the time to learn more about the real impact of methadone on your brain, you won’t have anything left to be afraid of.
You’ll realize just how safe and how helpful methadone maintenance treatment can be for your addiction.
Attaching to the Opioid Receptors
Once you ingest methadone, it begins to circulate into your brain. In particular, it goes into the reward pathway – the area of the brain which includes the central nervous system and the neurotransmitters that communicate between these areas.
Once in this area, it begins to attach to some of the regions’ mu opioid receptors. These are located throughout the central nervous system.
Normally, these centers transmit chemicals when they are stimulated in order to produce pleasure. They are usually stimulated in situations that promote wellbeing, such as eating or sexual activity.
However, by taking opioids, it can stimulate these receptors regardless of what behavior you are doing, leading to constant pleasurable satisfaction.
How Methadone Is Different Than Other Opioids
When ingested, studies have shown that methadone typically binds to specific areas of the central nervous system, such as the thalamus, amygdala, insula, and anterior cingulate cortex.
These regions are taxed with regulating pain, emotion, fear, and pleasure, which is what causes the oh-so-familiar effects of other opioid drugs.
However, because methadone does not attach to all of these receptors, it does not cause as severe euphoric side effects as other opioids. Because the receptors aren’t occupied, they are still able to perform their normal tasks and prevent you from feeling high.
Additionally, because methadone has such a long half-life, it will occupy these receptor sites longer than other opioids, allowing your brain to stabilize and recover from the overpowering rush of fast-acting opioids.
Methadone and the Fetal Brain
Because their brains are still developing, things work a little bit differently in fetuses and children.
One study exposed baby rats to methadone through the placenta and in their maternal milk for a period of 14 days after birth.
The study found that methadone interfered with certain brain cells, oligodendrocytes in particular. These cells are typically responsible for producing myelin, which is a substance allows the brain to communicate through electric signals.
The rats were found to have more mature myelin that their normal counterparts, suggesting that their brains might have developed too quickly and might not have normal connectivity.
These results have not been studied in humans, but it’s something to think about if you’re pregnant and on methadone.
We know that understanding exactly how methadone works can be a little confusing. However, hopefully this clears things up for you a little.