Doesn’t Methadone Treatment Just Prolong the Heroin Withdrawal Process?
Methadone, one of a handful of drugs used to treat opiate addiction, is the very first of its kind, having opened up a whole new approach to helping addicts overcome the effects of heroin addiction. First developed in the 1960s, methadone treatment exists as one of the most heavily regulated treatment approaches with ample restrictions placed on authorized prescribers and specified protocols for administering the drug.
Methadone belongs to the opiate class of drugs, which is also heroin’s drug class. This boldface similarity has been the source of much controversy regarding the role methadone plays as well as its overall purpose in helping addicts overcome the heroin withdrawal process.
With heroin being one of the most powerful opiates in existence, the need for some form of medication therapy becomes plainly apparent in light of the widespread damage left behind from chronic heroin abuse.
The Effects of Chronic Heroin Abuse
Heroin produces short-acting effects that essentially force the brain’s cells to secrete unusually high levels of endorphin chemicals. As an opiate, heroin’s presence in the brain goes unnoticed due to strong similarities between heroin’s chemical makeup and the brain’s own endorphins, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Heroin exerts powerful effects that work to deplete endorphin supplies over time and weaken brain cell functions. After so many months or years of heroin abuse, the brain can no longer function normally in the absence of the drug.
For help finding methadone treatment programs, call 800-891-9360(Who Answers?).
The Heroin Withdrawal Process
The degree of damage and dysfunction left behind by chronic drug abuse leaves recovering addicts inside a perpetual state of heroin withdrawal that can last for months or even years into the recovery process. In effect, brain cells have undergone considerable structural damage making it all but impossible for endorphin levels to return to normal during the early stages of recovery.
As long as chemical imbalances persist, a person will continue to experience residual withdrawal effects in the form of:
- Severe depression
- Anxiety episodes
- Ongoing insomnia
- Inability to experience any form of emotion or sense of contentment
Not surprisingly, ongoing heroin withdrawal effects account for the high rates of relapse associated with heroin addiction.
Methadone Treatment Effects
As a treatment drug, methadone picks up where the brain’s functional capacity leaves off in terms of helping to support damaged brain cell functions and restoring a normal chemical balance, according to National Academies Press. Unlike heroin, methadone produces long-term effects that last up to 36 hours, which helps the brain produce needed endorphin supplies while extinguishing drug-using behaviors in the process.
Rather than prolong the heroin withdrawal process, methadone acts as a type of medication therapy, much in the same way insulin treatments help keep diabetes symptoms in check. Once endorphin levels return to normal, a person experiences considerable relief from heroin withdrawal effects and starts to feel normal again.
Ultimately, without some form of physical support, those in recovery face an ongoing battle that leaves them at high risk for relapse and continued heroin use. If you or someone you know struggles with heroin withdrawal and have more questions about methadone treatment, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-891-9360(Who Answers?) to speak with one of our addictions specialists.