If your heroin detox or rehab center offers a methadone treatment option, it's important to understand your choices and make an informed decision. As a heroin user who wants help, you've already decided that sobriety is more important than heroin's short-term appeal. You may have even completed the initial stage of a medically assisted detox, gradually ridding your body of heroin's effects in order to survive without it.
Now, you must decide whether to replace your heroin habit with a methadone regimen or lead a completely drug-free life. Learn why methadone may not be your most productive choice, especially if your goal is to have more control over your own behaviors.
Both drugs are opioids, or pain-killing drugs derived from the opium poppy. Methadone is essentially a synthetic version of morphine, while heroin is a chemically altered, more powerful version of morphine. Rehab centers often offer to "wean" patients off their usual doses of heroin by replacing them with gradually smaller doses of methadone. However, this "gradual" solution sometimes takes years, and as a detox option, that just doesn't make sense.
Before you quit heroin, your body may legitimately depend on it to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Medical detox is the smartest option if you want to safely weather the withdrawal symptoms that result when heroin is suddenly absent from your system. Methadone may even be a part of this gradual process. However, once the physical detox is over the only lingering effects are those you choose to prolong within your own thoughts processes and choices. Long-term methadone use actually enables you to avoid complete independence from drug use.
Because methadone is legally available — and because the medical community accepts it as a legitimate treatment option for "substance use disorder" — it may seem safer and more acceptable than your previous drug of choice, heroin. However, millions of people take excessive amounts of prescription pills or drink heavily, and they're not breaking the law either but being legal doesn't make it their best option.
After your body is cleansed and your brain no longer expects high amounts of opioids to function correctly, your sobriety depends on your personal choices moving forward. Introducing methadone into your rehab regimen is simply another way to continue going through the motions of your habit, and to continue to be dependent on a drug rather than being free of substance use entirely.
If someone else administers methadone and monitors your dosage, you're not even actively participating in or preventing your own overdose or overindulgence. Methadone may be medically administered, but it's still incredibly potent. It causes up to a third of all painkiller overdoses in the United States, and withdrawal symptoms may be even more severe than those caused by heroin.
Essentially, methadone is a short-term solution for a long-term problem. As a heroin substitute, it may seem like an ideal stepping stone toward eventual sobriety. However, it's a substitute for a reason. If it is used in detox for a limited period of time it can be useful, but beware of its use for extended periods of time. Methadone is a strong substance that may alter your moods and interact with your brain chemistry in long-term ways. It's difficult to focus on your original reasons for using heroin if you're still experiencing a similar high on a regular basis.
All-in-all, deciding to end a dependence on one drug shouldn't involve becoming dependent on another even if it's legal. Detox fully and work through your substance use habit with a Cognitive Behavioral Learning Program that can help you determine the kinds of thought and behavioral patterns that keep you stuck in thoughts and behaviors that are limiting and no longer serve you. If you'd like to learn more, call one of our Guest Service Consultants for more information.