Methadone: Pain Relief and Addiction Treatment
At some point in your life, you may experience pain severe enough that it can’t be treated with over-the-counter medication, and your doctor might prescribe an opioid painkiller to help manage your pain. Methadone can help reduce pain, but it also has applications for treating opioid addiction.
What is Methadone?
Methadone is a synthetic opioid that is often prescribed to combat severe pain. Like other opioids, it interacts with the opioid receptors in your body, reducing your experience of pain. Unlike some other opioids, it is a long-acting drug. It doesn’t produce a euphoric high and instead produces a slower, steadier effect.
Methadone is an agonist, so unlike other opioids, it binds with the opioid receptors in your body in a different manner, producing a different effect. While it is used as a pain killer, methadone’s primary use for the last several decades has been as a treatment for opioid addiction. As an agonist, methadone reduces withdrawal symptoms and blunts the euphoria often associated with other opioids.
How is Methadone Important for Addiction Treatment?
Opioids can be incredibly useful for treating pain, but they can also be highly addictive. When you take an opioid, it interacts with the pain receptors in your body, helping to limit pain. However, as you continue to take the painkiller, your body grows accustomed to the influx of opioids and undergoes chemical changes that alter the way your brain works.
This dependence can develop into addiction when these biochemical changes confuse your body into believing opioids are vital for your continued existence. When an opioid is taken, the body is rewarded with a rush of endorphins, and this pattern of need and reward is continued.
Due to methadone’s long-acting nature, it can also be used to treat addiction to other opioids, including heroin. Heroin acts quickly and creates an intense, almost immediate high. As a longer-acting medicine, methadone doesn’t produce the same high as other opioids.
Because of this, it can be used to wean someone struggling with addiction off opioids. It helps manage withdrawal symptoms and regulate cravings. When your body begins craving the high associated with opioids, methadone can satisfy the body’s need without the same drastic effect. Many people who struggle with opioid addiction successfully manage their addiction through methadone treatment.
Are There Risks to Using Methadone for Addiction Management?
Methadone can be helpful for overcoming opioid addiction, but it’s not a miracle drug. There are still some risks that correspond with methadone use, and it can be addictive. Because it is an opioid, methadone treatments are highly regulated by the government. Methadone can only be provided by an authorized opioid treatment program. This is designed to prevent abuse of a drug that is meant to help overcome addiction.
After a period of reliability, it is possible for a patient to take methadone outside of the designated program visit. As with any medication, it’s vital to follow your doctor’s prescription. If you feel like it isn’t having an effect, you should discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
Methadone can be a beneficial medication for opioid addiction treatment, but it must be taken with care.