Opiate Addiction And Methadone
Opiate addiction, which encompasses addiction to heroin, morphine and prescription pills, is a global issue that affects the social and economic welfare of all societies. According to the World Drug Report 2012, it is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, whereas around 2.1 million people in the United States suffer from addiction to prescription opioid pain relievers and an estimated 467,000 are addicted to heroin.
According to IMS Health, the total number of opioid pain relievers prescribed in the United States has shot up in the last 25 years. The number of prescriptions for opioids (like hydrocodone and oxycodone) has escalated from around 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013, with United States as the biggest consumer globally, accounting for almost 100 percent of the world total for hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin) and 81 percent for oxycodone.
Opioids attach themselves to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract and other organs in the body. Once attached to these receptors, opioids reduce pain and produce a sense of well-being. However, this euphoric feeling is often accompanied by drowsiness, confusion, nausea and constipation. Repeated consumption of opioid drugs (prescription or heroin) causes the signaling mechanism of opioid receptors to adapt, which often results in withdrawal symptoms.
Keeping in mind the brain alterations that opiate addiction causes, drug abuse treatment must address these changes both in the short and long term. When people addicted to opioids first quit, they undergo severe withdrawal symptoms. Medications can prove to be helpful in this detoxification stage, easing craving and other physical symptoms that might trigger a relapse episode. This can allow opiate-addicted individuals to regain control of their health and lives.
Agonist medications were developed to treat opioid addiction by working through the same receptors as the addictive drug. The difference is they are safer and less likely to produce the harmful effects characteristic to addiction. This is largely because the rate at which they enter and leave the brain is much slower.
Methadone is a primary example of an agonist medication. Even though it is an opioid itself, methadone reduces withdrawal symptoms in individuals addicted to heroin or other narcotic drugs without causing the “high” characteristic to drug addiction. Methadone is commonly used as a pain reliever and has proven to be a significant part of drug addiction detoxification and maintenance programs. It is only acquired by certified pharmacies.
Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) is a program in which addicted individuals receive daily doses of methadone. The development for this program was initiated during the 1960s as part of a broad, multi-component treatment program that emphasized socialization and vocational training.
Important benefits are often associated with methadone maintenance treatment for addicted individuals and society. The benefits include:
• reduction in the use of injection drugs
• a significantly reduced risk of overdose and decreased risks associated with acquiring or transmitting diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B or C, bacterial infections, endocarditis, soft tissue infections, thrombophlebitis, tuberculosis and other STDs
• lower mortality — the median death rate of opiate-dependent individuals in MMT is just 30 percent of the rate of those not in MMT
• an improvement in family stability and employment potential
• improved pregnancy outcomes
It’s important to realize that if taken in larger doses than prescribed or abused, methadone can easily result in overdose and possible death. Methadone also runs the risks of causing breathing problems and fatal irregular heartbeats (long QT interval), which is why it is important to notify doctors of any history of asthma or heart problems before getting a prescription.
Common side effects include weakness, constipation, swelling, nausea, stomach pain, mood fluctuations, trouble urinating or sleeping, decreased sexual drive and missed menstrual periods.
Addiction treatment centers in California provide some of the best healing modalities if you or a loved one is seeking recovery. The California Drug Abuse Helpline is available to you 24/7 for any queries and admissions. Our representatives will guide you towards the best California drug rehabilitation center that offers treatment programs best suited for your needs. Call us at 855–254–1818.