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What is Opiate Addiction?

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a primary, chronic, neurobiological disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. Addiction is characterized by behaviors that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and cravings.

The Science of Opioid Addiction

Can it be Treated?

Addiction is a treatable disease. Discoveries in the science of addiction have led to advances in drug abuse treatment that help people stop abusing drugs and resume their productive lives. Treatment must address the whole person. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction's powerful disruptive effects on brain and behavior and regain control of their lives.

Treatment model

The Matrix Model is the only specific treatment model listed by the National Institute of Drug Addiction as a scientifically based approach in the Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment, with 20 years of testing and excellent outcomes when Counselling is combined with the Medical Disease Management Model.

To put addiction treatment another way and in the context of chronic disease, first, one must stabilize presenting symptoms (such as withdrawal) and then keep the symptoms, such as cravings, in check as much as possible by a combination of medical, psycho social and mental health treatment while focusing on a life style change and self-management skill building that will be used for the individuals entire life.

Medications used during the treatment process

  • 1 Subutex
  • 2 Suboxone
  • 3 Methadone tablets

About Methadone

Methadone is a synthetic opioid drug used to overcome addiction to semi-synthetic opiates and heroin. This drug balances the chemicals in the brain and body while reducing cravings and physically painful withdrawal symptoms. The objective behind methadone maintenance is to prevent high-risk drug-seeking behaviors while making vast improvements to an individual's health, safety and quality of life.

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What is it used for?

Methadone is mainly used in the treatment of opioid dependence. It has cross-tolerance with other opioids including Oxycontin, Percocet, Lortabs, morphine and Heroin. Oral doses of methadone are used to stabilize patients and prevent withdrawal. Higher doses of methadone block the euphoric effects of other opiates. As a result, Patient at a therapeutic dose level are able to reduce and stop using short acting pain medications or heroin altogether.

Who can be on methadone?

Adults 18 years or older. The adult must also have a demonstrated opioid history of 12 months or more.

Is Methadone Right For You?

How long does it take?

The duration of treatment for an individual depends on the type and degree of his or her problems and needs. Research indicates that most addicted individuals need at least 3 months in treatment to significantly reduce or stop their drug use and that the best outcomes occur with longer durations of treatment. Recovery from drug addiction is a long term process and as with other chronic illnesses, relapses to drug abuse can occur and should signal a need for treatment to be reinstated or adjusted

Why do people stay on it for so long?

Methadone has a long half life--one of the reasons it works well for addiction treatment as you do not have the big ups and downs you get with short acting opiates. However, this also means that it stays in your body much longer and takes a longer time to taper off. Here's why....

Long term opiate users often shut down the brain's production of endorphins (natural opiates). The brain simply recognizes that it has plenty of opiates on board and there is no need for it to make any, so it stops. This is why, when you stop using, you feel so awful. Endorphins regulate mood and control pain, and enable us to feel pleasure, joy and happiness. Without them, we feel severely depressed, anhedonic (unable to feel pleasure), anxious, exhausted, highly irritable, and desperate to feel "normal" again. Even after the initial withdrawal symptoms of diarrhea, chills, sweats, etc subside, this continues for weeks. Often people relapse while trying to stick it out--but if they can hold on long enough, usually sometime within that first year the endorphins will begin to slowly start working again as the brain realizes that you are not going to be doing its job for it anymore. But for a significant portion of long term opiate addicts, this NEVER happens. The damage done to the brain chemistry is permanent. Endorphins are never again produced normally, and the patient continues to feel the way they did shortly after ceasing opiate use without getting any better, no matter how much time passes. This almost always leads to chronic relapses, as a life without being able to feel normal joy, pleasure and happiness is not much of a life.

Methadone restores a normal balance to the brain without causing a high or euphoria in stabilized patients. The patient feels normal and can work, drive, and live a normal life without impairment. Unlike most opiates, methadone does not cover all the opiate receptors, leaving about 30% open to encourage natural production of endorphins if the brain is still able to do so, thereby promoting healing of the brain chemistry while still in treatment. Some are able to taper off in treatment and do well--many find that they need to remain on treatment for an indefinite period--even for life. Addiction after all, is a chronic, biological disease. Some diabetics, for example, must take insulin daily for life because their pancreas no longer manufactures it, and some addicts take methadone daily because their brain no longer makes endorphins.

Results-Does it work?

Ask anyone who has tried to quit smoking cigarettes and succeeded and they will tell you Nicotine inhalers, patches or the gum help by reducing withdrawal and control cravings. Methadone works the same way, and has been used by thousands to stop prescription drug abuse or heroin. The facility has an 80% abstinence rate from all illicit drug use for those maintained in treatment for 3 months or longer.

More Methadone Questions and Answers

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