How methadone works and what it might mean for your custody
What is methadone?
Methadone, also known as Dolophine, is a synthetic opioid. Its medical use is twofold: Sometimes it’s used as a pain medication, but methadone is more frequently employed as maintenance therapy in people with opioid dependence. In the case of heroin addiction, methadone is not a cure; it is a pharmacological tool designed to mitigate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. It is treatment, not antidote.
Use of methadone is not without controversy. Many critics point to the use of one drug being utilized to combat addiction to another drug. Methadone, however, does not deliver the euphoric high or instant rush of release that heroin or other opioids do, and it has helped many people who are addicted to heroin recover from severe opioid dependence.
How methadone works
Methadone is a long-acting opioid that helps to normalize your body’s neurological and hormonal functions. It blocks the high of opiate drugs and will prevent someone from getting high from opiate use. While some people continue to use opiates while in methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), the effects of the opioids are blocked at doses higher than 100mg. The most compelling benefit of methadone is its ability to prevent the addicted person from experiencing withdrawal so she can be free from symptoms and begin recovery.
MMT bloomed in the 1960s as a way of treating Vietnam veterans who came out of the service with heroin addiction. MMT originally did not include anything but a daily dose of the medication. As the medical field began gaining insight into the nature of addiction, the need for treating the underlying causes of opioid use became apparent. Clinics now offer individual and group counseling in addition to the medication.
To participate in MMT, the client generally has to travel to a clinic. The dose is measured and taken in the presence of medical staff. A doctor and psychiatrist are frequently in attendance during the hours of the clinic’s operation. Twelve step meetings, counseling, and other psychosocial resources are usually available on site.
MMT and Solo Moms
Solo Moms may hesitate to begin MMT for fear of losing their child or children. MMT is making public what may have been a hidden addiction. The courts now see MMT as a positive in parenting, because drug addiction is not a moral failing, it is a medical condition, and methadone is treatment not drug use.
Beginning treatment with MMT is an indication that the parent is taking definite steps toward recovery. Participating in MMT is no different from taking medication to control any medical condition. You can obtain documentation from a clinic to show the court that you are participating in the program as a means of recovery. The clinic will also keep track of your clean drug screens, and you can obtain records and present them to the court as evidence of your commitment to sobriety.
Some methadone facts
- When taken as directed, MMT can improve your overall health and your sense of well-being.
- MMT cannot create euphoria.
- Methadone does not make you sick.
- Methadone does not affect your immune system.
- Methadone does not damage your teeth and bones. (This misconception stems from methadone’s common confusion with methamphetamine.)
- You will not gain weight from MMT.
- Methadone is taken orally, which is much less complicated than intravenous dispensing.
- You cannot get a prescription for methadone; you need to travel to a clinic as it is administered once a day. After a time and with clean tests, some take-home doses are available.
- Withdrawal from methadone can be lengthy and require in-patient treatment.
- Methadone providers are required to be specially licensed and are subject to strict monitoring and reporting regulations. For this reason, the availability of qualified providers may be limited.
- Side effects can include profuse sweating, decreased libido, constipation, and itching among other symptoms.
If you are thinking of trying MMT as a means of treating your opioid dependence, you can get more information at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at www.samhsa.gov or call their national helpline at 1-800-662-4357.
If you would like to visit a clinic, click here for state locations of current methadone clinics.
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