What is Methadone Used For?

Written by Chloe Nicosia

What is methadone used for? Here are some answers.

You may have heard of methadone, but what is methadone, and what is methadone used for? Methadone is a medication that’s used to treat opioid addiction, which is an addiction to heroin or prescription painkillers.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid medication. Created by German doctors during World War II, methadone was originally used to treat severe pain. It can be taken as a powder, liquid, or tablet. When it’s taken illegally, it’s often injected. Methadone is used to treat addiction to opioids through a medication-assisted treatment program, which is available through high quality treatment programs. Medication-assisted treatment has been shown through research to be the most effective way to treat heroin or prescription painkiller dependence and addiction.

What Are Addiction and Dependence?

It’s difficult to answer the question, “what is methadone used for?” without first understanding addiction and dependence.

Addiction is characterized by an inability to stop using a drug even though it’s causing problems in your life. Addiction changes the physical structures and chemical functions of the brain and leads to compulsive drug-seeking behaviors that eventually eclipse all else in life. Because of the nature of the brain changes caused by addiction, people who are addicted develop unhealthy thought and behavior patterns that perpetuate the addiction.

Ending an addiction almost always requires professional help. A high quality treatment program uses a variety of therapies to help addicted individuals re-learn healthy ways of thinking and behaving, address the underlying issues behind the addiction, and develop essential skills for coping with cravings, stress, and other triggers.

Dependence is different from addiction. It’s characterized by withdrawal symptoms that set in when you stop using a drug. Dependence is a physical reliance on drugs caused by changes in brain function.

When you chronically abuse drugs, your brain tries to compensate for their presence by increasing or reducing the activity of certain brain chemicals to counteract the effects of the drug and maintain normal chemical function. This leads to tolerance, which means that you need larger doses to get the desired effects. But as you use more, your brain changes more. At some point, brain function may shift so that it now operates more comfortably when the drug is present. When it’s taken away, normal brain function rebounds, and this causes withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of withdrawal from opioids include intense cravings, nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, hot and cold sweats, and body aches. Most dependent people who try to quit opioids on their own will go back to using very quickly, if only to end the discomfort.

What is Methadone Used for in Treating Dependence?

Since methadone acts on the same brain receptors that heroin and painkillers do, taking methadone prevents the onset of withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking opioids. However, because it’s a different kind of opioid, its effects are much milder, so it doesn’t offer the same level of euphoria and respiratory depression as other opioids.

The alternative to medication-assisted treatment is medical detox, which involves withholding all opioids to get them out of your system altogether so that brain function can return to normal.

What is Methadone Used for in Treating Addiction?

When you quit using opioids “cold turkey,” you’ll experience a number of withdrawal symptoms, but most will disappear within a couple of weeks. Cravings, however, can be extremely intense and last for months or even years after quitting. These cravings can make it very difficult to focus on treatment, and they can quickly lead to relapse once treatment is complete.

Taking methadone keeps distracting cravings at bay so that you can put your entire focus on developing essential skills and improving thought and behavior patterns. It also helps to normalize brain function and reduce compulsive behaviors.

Other Options for Medication-Assisted Treatment

When methadone is used to treat addiction to opioids, it must be administered at a clinic or a physician’s office, which means methadone treatment requires a daily trip to get the dose. Other medication-assisted treatment options include buprenorphine and naltrexone, which can be prescribed and taken at home.

If you’re addicted to opioids, medication-assisted treatment using methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone can dramatically improve your chances of successful recovery for the long-term.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.