Who Needs Methadone Maintenance Therapy?
For most of the people who are addicted to heroin or prescriptions painkillers, there is an overwhelming desire to feel “normal” again and to escape the whirlwinds of opiate addiction. They will go through multiple attempts to stop using only to relapse again and again and each time, the next attempt to quit is more difficult.
With the opiates having the highest risks of relapses, deaths, and overdoses over almost every other psychoactive drug, methadone maintenance therapy has the longest successful track record in treating opiate addictions.
Why Choose Methadone Maintenance Therapy?
Methadone is a long acting opioid agonist drug that works in similar ways to the shorter acting opioids heroin, morphine, and other opioids. These drugs quickly convert to morphine and flood the brain with dopamine which causes the euphoria, numbing, and relaxation that most addicts are seeking when they use. With regular and repeat episodes, the brain becomes reliant on the artificial dopamine increases to make the person feel a sense of “normalcy” and without them, addicts suffer withdrawals which are often the catalyst to repeat use.
The cycles of intoxication, drug seeking behaviors, and withdrawals take such a toll on the person physically and mentally, they may be unable to hold a job, become inclined to use the drugs intravenously, risk contracting and spreading diseases, and often suffer social, environmental, legal, domestic, and other harmful consequences as a result of their continuous need to use opiates.
Methadone, however, is metabolized slowly and stored in the liver and blood stream until it is needed. It can be taken once a day to stave off withdrawals and cravings, while blocking the effects of shorter acting opioids to deter their abuse. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Comprehensive, long-term opioid agonist maintenance remains the treatment with the best track record of controlling opioid use and saving lives.”
Benefits of Methadone Maintenance Therapy
Methadone maintenance therapy combines the dispensing of methadone in appropriate doses with psychotherapy, counseling, psychosocial support services, and the monitoring of drug use to help the addict recover in a stable and progressive manner and improve behaviors by:
- Reducing cravings and withdrawals and blocking the effects of shorter acting opioids to deter their abuse for 24-hour intervals between doses.
- Improving health and stabilizing overall functioning capabilities so the addict can pursue productive and worthwhile activities such as employment or education.
- Preventing or reducing consequential harms to health such as IV use and needle sharing, the spread or contracting of diseases, infections, overdose and mortality, relapse, and mental health disorders.
- Reducing crime and other dangerous activities such as prostitution.
- Managing doses daily and monitoring drug use
- Providing counseling and psychosocial services to help the addict progress toward their treatment goals.
- Retaining the addict in treatment for an adequate period of time to prevent relapse and regain social functioning.
A Day in the Life of an Opiate Addict
Struggling with an opiate addiction is more drudgery than many people realize. The first thing an opiate addict must do in the morning is take enough medication to rebalance the opiate chemical processes in their brains enough for them to function. They may be weak, nauseas, in pain, disoriented, or disgusted and feeling ashamed, guilty, anxious, or depressed until they get their fix and it all seems to melt away.
They may end up having to do this several times a day and in between, they must find resources to get the drugs, find the drugs, find the paraphernalia to do the drugs, find a place to do them at, and when the dose is taken, they may or may not feel the euphoria they were looking for depending on their levels of dependence.
Within minutes, they will probably be obsessing over how to get their next dose. They know that they will need to start right away because in just a few short hours, they will again, begin withdrawing. Such is a day in the life of an opiate addict who may feel they must resort to immoral, unjust, unwanted, or dangerous behaviors just to survive.
Who Needs Methadone Maintenance Therapy?
The need for opiate addiction treatment continues to grow as the widespread use of prescription painkillers and increased heroin potencies plague our society. According to the United Nations World Drug report 2014, “Opiates and opioids top the list of problem drugs that cause the most burdens of disease and drug-related deaths worldwide.”
Opiate addicts who need methadone maintenance therapy are:
- Those with a clear history of opiate abuse and dependence.
- Those who spend a lot of time, money, and effort in seeking, using, or dealing with the consequences of opiate use.
- Those with a history of repeat relapse or are at risk for future relapse.
- Those who have been unsuccessful in prior opiate addiction treatments.
- Those who have attempted harm to themselves or others due to opiate use.
- Those who use opiate intravenously or are at risk of contractict or spreading diseases such as AIDs, Hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis, or other infectious diseases.
- Those who have compromised physical or mental health issues that can be exacerbated by opiate use or increase their risks of overdose or death.
- Those who engage in immoral, illicit, illegal, or dangerous activities due to opiate use.
- Those who have suffered legal, social, familial, or environmental consequences such as homelessness, arrests, or job loss sue to opiate use.
How Long Does Methadone Maintenance Treatment Last?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, authorities “advocate for maintenance treatment as as long as the patient (1) continues to benefit, (2) wishes to remain, (3) is at risk of relapse, (4) suffers no significant side effects, and (5) stays in treatment as long as treatment is needed, as determined by the clinician.”