Sometimes, patients come to First Step® after beginning a methadone program for heroin addiction somewhere else, because they are now hooked on methadone. This is clearly a cruel irony, especially if the methadone treatment has helped a patient to reduce his or her heroin use. First Step® doesn’t prescribe methadone to help with detox because our professionals understand the dangers of the addictive drug. However, for clients struggling with a methadone addiction, we offer a detox from methadone program that can help.
Cruel Irony to Have to Detox from Methadone
While Methadone can allow some patients to stop their Heroin or Oxycontin use, the success rate is low because patients are not really drug-free. Methadone patients are still dependent on a strong mood altering drug and so they continue to have strong cravings. What is worse is that methadone is much harder to detoxify from than heroin or oxycontin. Even a very slow taper off methadone produces very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. This drives patients to use drugs during the tapering period in order to relieve the discomfort. Many clinics and their patients give up and elect to stay on methadone maintenance. But this is not a good solution either, since methadone maintenance doesn’t usually stop other drug use, and it is much harder to detoxify oneself off methadone than any other opiate. This reality has led First Step® to modify our highly successful Accelerated Detox program to help Methadone users to completely detox from methadone in only eight days and help them stay clean.
Methadone does not have to be the way of life for former heroin addicts. Methadone is a case of a cure being worse than the disease. Critics point out that methadone patients are still addicts and that methadone therapy does not help addicts with their personality problems. In many cases multiple drug use and a strong psychological dependence undermine the gains made. Some addicts manage to resell the methadone they receive in order to buy heroin; this and other illegal diversion have resulted in methadone joining the group of addictive drugs sold on the street.
Fraudulently acquiring methadone is becoming common practice among many individuals with drug addictions and detox from methadone may be necessary. Addiction to methadone can take several forms:
- conning a doctor into prescribing a higher dosage than is required
- taking more than the recommended dosage
- taking methadone in combination with other drugs, including alcohol
- using methadone as a “top up” drug while continuing to take heroin
- selling prescribed methadone in order to buy heroin
In blind trials, users who were given both drugs orally were unable to distinguish between the effects of heroin and methadone. An added problem for those using methadone to recover from heroin addiction is withdrawal. Withdrawal from heroin should be over after seven to ten days. Withdrawal from methadone though, can take up to a month or even longer.
Ironically, methadone used to control narcotic addiction is frequently encountered on the illicit market and has been associated with a number of overdose deaths. Tolerance and addiction to methadone are a dangerous threat, as withdrawal results from the cessation of use. Many former heroin users have claimed that the horrors of heroin withdrawal were far less painful and difficult than withdrawal from methadone and detox from methadone.
A serious problem with much of the methadone prescription in the past was that heroin addicts were often given sufficient methadone to last one week – or even one month. As a result, addicts commonly sold their prescribed methadone in the illicit drug market. School children have been found in possession of this drug and several have died. It is more common practice today to require addicts on methadone maintenance programs to collect their prescription from a clinic or pharmacy daily – and to swallow this under observation. This is to prevent methadone from entering the illicit market.
Patients addicted to methadone are eligible for an extended form of our Accelerated Detox program, which will take about eight days. To be eligible for this methadone detox treatment, patients will need to be in good general health, willing to attend on a daily basis, stay in the local area, agree to not drive, and agree to be fully supervised by someone during the treatment program until the Naltrexone Therapy has begun. This program works amazingly well.
Adverse Reactions to Methadone
Deaths occur more frequently at the beginning of treatment in methadone programs; they are usually a cause of excessive doses (i.e. erroneously estimated tolerance) and they are affected by concomitant diseases (hepatitis, pneumonia). Methadone generally entails the entire spectrum of opioid side effects, including the development of tolerance and physical and psychological dependence. Respiratory depressions are dangerous. The released histamines can cause hypotension or bronchospasms. Other symptoms are constipation, nausea or vomiting, sedation, vertigo, and edema.
Symptoms of Methadone Overdose
Body as a whole: muscle spasticity; Respiratory: difficulty breathing, slow shallow and labored breathing, stopped breathing (sometimes fatal within 2-4 hours); Eyes, ears, nose and throat: pinpoint pupils, bluish skin, bluish fingernails and lips; Gastrointestinal: spasms of the stomach and/or intestinal tract, constipation; Heart and blood vessels: weak pulse, low blood pressure; Nervous system: drowsiness, disorientation, coma
What is Methadone Dependency?
As an opiate, regular use of methadone causes physical dependency — if you’ve been using it regularly (prescribed or not) once you stop you will experience a withdrawal. The physical changes due to the drug are similar to other opiates (like heroin); suppressed cough reflex, contracted pupils, drowsiness and constipation. Some methadone users feel sick when they first use the drug. If you are a woman using methadone you may not have regular periods – but you are still able to conceive. Methadone is a long-acting opioid; it has an effect for up to 36 hours (if you are using methadone you will not withdraw for this period) and can remain in your body for several days.
First Step currently admits patients for methadone detox where their daily consumption does not exceed 40 mgs.