Methadone Addiction TreatmentMethadone was first synthesized in Germany during 1937. It is still prescribed in a variety of forms for chronic pain patients, and it’s the main molecule used in opioid substitution therapy maintenance programs. Methadone is a current treatment for heroin and opiate dependence. Many people who become addicted to heroin, go through a series of detox and rehab attempts in a revolving-door manner, eventually give up, and switch over to some form of maintenance. Other than buprenorphine, methadone is the most popular form of opioid maintenance. Methadone Maintenance Programs where a synthetic, long-lasting opioid is substituted for heroin, were pioneered by the husband and wife team of Vincent Dole M.D., and Dr. Marie Nyswander. Their maintenance programs revolutionized addiction medicine during the 1960s; before their work the conventional medical theory was that narcotic addicts suffered from intractable moral and ethical defects, in short: psychological problems were responsible for addiction.
Opioid maintenance programs have their pros and cons, but after most people become stabilized and get their lives back together again, many want to break free. Unfortunately, this medication does not cure the illness, but is a substitution therapy for the illicit drug. It merely replaces self-administration of illegal substances, with regulated use of a highly-addictive, legal replacement. While this paradigm provides motivated individuals with at least partial stability and allows some degree of social re-integration, it does nothing to address the underlying disorder. The street term for methadone is “liquid handcuffs.” You’ve replaced your dependence on one opioid drug, for dependence on an even more addictive substitute that happens to be legal. Methadone is extremely physically addictive, particularly when it is taken in high doses. While there’s no one right road for everyone, and methadone can be used to treat opiate addictions, it can also lead some users into another dead end, having traded addictions rather than ended them. If methadone is taken frequently, tolerance to the drug rapidly ensues, just like it does with other drugs. Tolerance means the user needs more just to achieve the same effects as before. If you were physically dependent on opioids prior to switching to methadone, you are still just as – or more – addicted, to a similar molecule as the one you replaced.
Side Effects and Long-Term Use of MethadoneIt’s a huge triumph for anyone to beat an illicit opioid addiction. Unfortunately, the way this happens for many people is via substitution: as part of a harm reduction theory, we substitute methadone addiction for addiction to heroin or OxyContin, for example. However, if you’ve already made this switch, you know this isn’t exactly a silver bullet. Now that you’ve gotten your life back on track—as much as you can while maintaining a methadone addiction—you may be hoping to take the next step toward a true detox. If so, you’re not alone—and it’s a sensible train of thought. Methadone addiction is also an opioid addiction, and there are many health risks associated with long-term use, in particular. Physical side effects from a methadone addiction an run the gamut from head to toe. Physical problems caused by methadone addiction that touch your gastrointestinal system may include: abdominal or stomach pain, clay-colored stools, severe constipation, diarrhea, gas; loss of appetite; nausea and vomiting; and unusual weight loss or gain. Methadone addiction can also impact your circulatory system. Some of those side effects may include: bloating or swelling of the arms, face, feet, hands, or lower legs; fast, pounding, irregular, weak, or racing pulse or heartbeat; feeling of heat or warmth, redness or flushing of the skin, especially on the neck and face; swelling or puffiness around eyes, lips, face, or tongue; and sunken eyes. The lymphatic system can also be affected, causing painful, swollen, or tender lymph glands in the armpit, neck, or groin. Methadone addiction troubles the respiratory system, as well. Some of those side effects may include: chest pain; chronic cough; choking and gagging; fast, irregular, shallow, or slow breathing; and pale or blue fingernails, lips, or skin. Your senses are also affected by methadone addiction, because it may cause blurred vision or difficulties in perceiving things around you. The central nervous system (CNS) is absolutely affected by a methadone addiction. Some CNS side effects include: cold, clammy skin, cold sweats; convulsions; difficulty with swallowing; dizziness, fainting, lightheadedness; dry mouth, increased thirst, bad breath; extreme weakness or fatigue; headache; loss of consciousness; shakiness in the arms, feet, hands, or legs; sweating; or tingling or shaking in the feet or hands. Long-term methadone addiction wreaks havoc on the renal system. Some of the problems it can cause include: difficulty with urination, including decrease or increase in the frequency of urination; decrease in urine volume; painful urination; difficulty passing urine (dribbling); blood in the urine; dark urine; and sensations of burning, itching, crawling, prickling, numbness, tingling, or “pins and needles” while urinating. Of course, although your methadone use might be more controlled than, for example, heroin use, it is still entirely possible to experience an overdose. Symptoms of overdose include: chest pain; decreased responsiveness; extreme sleepiness; inability to move; loss of consciousness; pinpoint, constricted, or tiny pupils; and irregular or slow heartbeat. And, like all opioid overdoses, a methadone overdose is potentially fatal.
Chronic Health Risks and Methadone AddictionWith ongoing, repeated use characterized by methadone addiction can result in chronic, serious health problems. As you already know based on your thoughts about detoxing, methadone is a toxin. This means that it’s difficult for the body to process large amounts of methadone all of the time. That’s why methadone addiction, can, over the years especially, lead to kidney and liver disease and failure. And, as mentioned above, chronic respiratory and heart ailments are also often part of a long-term methadone addiction. Long-term methadone addiction can make it harder to treat pain as your body experiences it. Hyperalgesia, a chronic increased sensitivity to pain, is more common for people who use opioids, including methadone, over a longer period of time or in high amounts. Hormonal dysfunction is another long-term effect of methadone addiction; you may experience changes in your menstrual cycle and reduced libido and fertility if you are a woman. For men, the most common side effects from these hormonal changes include testosterone depletion, loss of sex drive, and sometimes impotence. Immunosuppression, the weakening of the immune system that renders it less able to fight off infections and disease, is one of the most serious consequences of methadone addiction. Opioid-induced immunosuppression can mean increased risk of cancer, increased susceptibility to infection, and an increased risk of viral infections such as HIV and hepatitis.
Methadone Withdrawal in FocusOnce your body becomes reliant on methadone, you will find you need the drug just to function normally; this is methadone dependence and the end-point of methadone maintenance programs. If you have reached this stage, you will experience methadone withdrawal should you stop taking it, which may lead you to wonder what the best way to get off methadone might be. This isn’t an easy question to answer, especially when the discomfort and pain of methadone withdrawal symptoms are in full force. There are many different medical methadone detox centers out there – as opposed to methadone maintenance programs, which do not try to detox patients, but rather offer a perpetual substitution therapy paradigm where patients are expected to remain addicted indefinitely — most of which simply offer patients a way to taper down in their use as they are monitored. This is because the methadone withdrawal process can be fraught with unpleasant side-effects and adverse symptoms that can make it feel impossible to stop without extra help. Of course, the methadone rehab process is different for each patient; the length of time it takes to go through methadone withdrawal symptoms and what those symptoms feel like varies depending on the length and severity of the addiction along with the tolerance and unique biochemistry of each individual user. Beating methadone addiction is similar to quitting other opiates such as morphine and heroin in many ways, but symptoms of methadone withdrawal are usually somewhat less intense—which is counter-balanced by the length of time they persist. At a minimum, going through methadone detox without any special treatments like ibogaine means experiencing psychological stress and severe flu-like symptoms that last for months of time. And be aware that everybody’s biochemistry is unique, even though methadone has an extended half-life, if you are a fast metabolizer you may well experience methadone withdrawal symptoms even though you are taking the drug as prescribed; this can happen even if you’ve only taken it for a short time. Common symptoms of methadone withdrawal include: aches in the bones or muscles, agitation, anxiety, chills, depression, diarrhea, dilated pupils, excessive yawning, fever, goose bumps, hallucinations, insomnia, irritability, nausea, paranoia, rapid heartbeat, runny nose, stomach pain or cramps, strong cravings, sweating, tearing eyes, and vomiting. Having a severe methadone dependence, with a very high tolerance for the drug, greatly increases the duration and intensity of the withdrawal process. The standard methadone withdrawal timeline — the one people going without ibogaine assistance can expect — looks like this. Methadone withdrawal symptoms begin to surface at about 30 hours after the last dose. Acute withdrawal symptoms may persist for 3 to 4 weeks, and typically will not improve until the after the 2nd week of abstinence. After the acute methadone withdrawal phase, post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) sets in for nearly all individuals. Long-lasting methadone withdrawal symptoms which can persist for a period of many months following cessation of use, include: cognitive difficulties, fatigue, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and irritability. Ibogaine provides a highly effective detox from methadone. Methadone is an opioid with a longer half-life than heroin, which tends to mean opiate withdrawal symptoms are less severe during the acute phase, but last much longer than with short-acting opiates such as heroin. However, unlike buprenorphine, methadone is a pure agonist (like heroin) and extremely compatible with ibogaine therapy for opioid dependence.
With ibogaine opiate treatment at Clear Sky Recovery’s Detox Center in Cancún, we have successfully treated hundreds of methadone dependent individuals with a high rate of success. Ibogaine detox eliminates the vast majority of opioid withdrawal symptoms and provides tremendous relief from PAWS (post acute withdrawal syndrome). Methadone is metabolized via CYP2D6; cytochrome P450 2D6 is the same system your body uses to metabolize ibogaine. We will switch you to a different short-acting opioid (SAO), prior to receiving ibogaine treatment. We can generally do this once you arrive at Clear Sky Recovery’s ibogaine detox and treatment facility in Cancun. While methadone has a longer half-life than morphine, heroin, or oxycodone, it is a relatively “clean” molecule, that acts as a pure agonist at opiate receptors. Methadone does not present the complications that are present with buprenorphine.