What is Methadone (meh·thuh·down)?
Methadone is a type of synthetic opioid medication. While it can sometimes be prescribed to help patients manage moderate to severe levels of pain, it is also frequently used to treat opiate addictions. In particular, Methadone is used to help heroin addicts overcome their addiction and get their life back.
While it is used under the direction of a medical professional and often helps people overcome a serious and potentially fatal addiction to heroin and other hard drugs, it can also lead to a dependence to it since it is a Schedule II drug under federal guidelines. When used illegally, Methadone will have similar consequences to any other opiate or opioid medication – potentially leading to serious addiction which in turn can cause physical, psychological, and emotional health issues and have a negative impact on virtually every aspect of a user’s life.
As an opioid, methadone works to change the way in which the central nervous system and the brain react to pain. Although it is an opioid medication, when used properly, methadone could be used as part of a detoxification program for drug addictions. That’s because the medication can reduce the withdrawal symptoms typically experienced when someone is trying to quit heroin or other opioids. The most common brand-name prescription of methadone is Dolophine.
Use of Methadone
When used to combat pain, Methadone works like other opioids. It will bind to the pain receptors in the brain and prevent it from receiving the pain signals from injuries. It can be used in this way to help manage pain after surgery or injury, but often other medications are used for chronic, serious pain. Methadone’s main use is to help heroin addicts wean themselves off the drug and find freedom from addiction.
This is because Methadone does not trigger the euphoric effects that heroin and morphine create. Instead, it actually blocks the pleasurable sensations that those drugs create – and even stops those drugs from creating the same level of high that it would normally create. But, it is an opioid medication. Many people take Methadone in the hopes of getting ‘high’, and its use can help to combat the effects of withdrawal since it fulfills the body’s craving for opioids when dependence is an issue. Those who are already using and addicted to drugs like heroin have a higher risk of abusing Methadone due to their history of dependency. Addiction can occur quickly, and treatment is often necessary to help one beat the drug.
Effects of Methadone Abuse
Methadone abuse can have negative impacts on the lives of those who abuse it. Methadone addiction is often a topic that is avoided since it’s generally used to help addicts recover from addictions, but it is something that can lead to significant addiction. In fact, Methadone deaths increased dramatically over the last twenty years, often linked to the drug’s use as a pain medication instead of just to help with addiction. It is involved in a third of all pain reliever overdose deaths.
Short-term effects of Methadone use can lead to side effects that include itching skin, nausea, sexual problems, reduced breathing rates, and more. But over time, if an addiction develops it can lead to much more serious problems with one’s life. In addition to physical health issues, problems with someone’s life may occur as well. Issues like school or work problems, negative impacts on social interactions, and even criminal activity can all occur due to the abuse of Methadone.
Symptoms of Methadone Abuse
Methadone use can bring on many physical and psychological symptoms as well as several behavioral issues that can impact not only health but one’s general life as well. The very nature of Methadone means that users don’t usually get the ‘high’ that it is abused for, but it does still have a propensity for addiction. The initial symptoms of abuse are closely aligned with the side effects of the drug including things like:
- Itching skin
- Sexual problems
- Trouble breathing
But as the drug use increases, problems go past physical and mental wellbeing. Social and behavioral changes can occur as well and lead to significant problems in one’s life. Things like withdrawing from social activities, a sole focus on nothing but getting and using the drug, missing work or school, and more can all have a major impact on your life.
Testing for Methadone
Methadone testing is commonly available in 10 panel drug tests and most other drug tests with expanded panels. It is not available in a 5 panel drug test. Specimens used for methadone testing include urine and hair.
Methadone has a half-life of just 30 hours on average, and it is excreted from the body through urine. As such, most drug tests that focus on Methadone will be urine tests. National Drug Screening offers testing for Methadone with a 10 panel drug test or any panels higher than 10 panel. Methadone can be detected in these tests up to 7 days after the last use. Hair drug tests will often allow the drug to be detected for up to 90 days after its last use. National Drug Screening offers a hair drug test for Methadone with a 9 panel hair drug test or any panels higher than the 9 panels.
Testing for Methadone use isn’t often done in an initial, standard panel screening since it is not a drug that is commonly abused. However, it may be tested to gain an understanding of a patient’s other drug abuse – higher levels of Methadone could suggest a more serious addiction. Additionally, Methadone addiction can lead to safety risks at work as well as the potential for theft. As such, employers may choose to add Methadone testing to a panel in order to get a clear look at what a subject’s history of abuse is. Be aware that the standard 5 panel drug test does not include Methadone.
Warning Signs of Methadone Abuse
Initially, identifying Methadone abuse can be quite difficult for those around the user. Signs like trouble sleeping, muscle pain and cramps, nausea, and fatigue are usually experienced by the user themselves, but there is a chance that you may notice problems occurring in their lives as well.
The most common red flag to look for is behavioral change. Things like them prioritizing the drug over everything else, for example, is a clear sign that an issue exists. Missed days at work, withdrawing from social settings or family functions, and other similar activity could be a sign that Methadone abuse is a problem. Issues like theft can occur as well, leading to more serious consequences in the life to the user.
Those who know that their loved one has a history of drug abuse or that Methadone use has occurred to help beat a heroin addiction may be more alert and able to spot the warning signs. Being able to identify an issue could be the key to helping those addicted start taking steps to get help.