There are more than 6,000 fatalities attributed to methadone overdoses each year according to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Methadone is used in medication assisted or drug replacement treatment for opioid addiction or in medical detox.
Methadone is an opioid. As a medication used in assisted treatment for opioid addiction, methadone is a full agonist that stimulates opioid receptors and it is very effective at preventing other opiates and opioids such as Fentanyl, heroin, Vicodin, or OxyContin from being processed by the body. In this case, methadone blocks the other drugs by filling up the opioid receptors in the brain first. As a result, the individual will experience a sense of contentment and euphoria. Methadone continues to work in the body for up to 59 hours, but it comes with a high risk potential for dependency when not used under strict supervision.
Methadone use in medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction is not without a certain amount of side effects which may include:
The use of methadone for opioid addiction holds appeal for substance users because it is low cost and may be used in controlled inpatient and outpatient clinic settings. The drug has also proven to be helpful to individuals that have had multiple detox and rehab attempts for opioid dependency. Additionally, methadone has been used in working with individuals with dual diagnosis of opioid dependency and mental illness diagnoses.
When methadone is used in medical detox, the starting dose is generally set at 30 to 40 mg per day, broken into 4 doses. In medical detox, the individual should be monitored for side effects such as drowsiness and respiratory failure. If the individual exhibits troubling side effects, then the dose would be reduced until the appropriate dose for the individual is set. Because individuals are uniquely different, as is their drug use and withdrawal symptoms, there is no one size fits all methadone dose.
Methadone clinics have been the target of scrutiny regarding the use of the drug on an outpatient basis. Methadone clinics allow the individual to self report and to receive the drug to take at home. When the clinics provide monitoring and sufficient safeguards, they can allow the individual to detox from opioid use and still maintain their daily routine. Unfortunately, a combination of misuse of the drug and a lack of controlled regulation of and monitoring in methadone clinics has enabled some individuals to have access to as much as 200 mg of methadone per day. The excess amount of methadone, beyond an individual's personal need for maintenance use, is often traded for other drugs or taken by the individual to get high.
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