Methadone is a rigorously
well-tested medication that is safe and efficacious for the treatment
of narcotic withdrawal and dependence. For more than 30 years this
synthetic narcotic has been used to treat opioid addiction. Heroin
releases an excess of dopamine in the body and causes users to need an
opiate continuously occupying the opioid receptor in the brain.
Methadone occupies this receptor and is the stabilizing factor that
permits addicts on methadone to change their behavior and to
discontinue heroin use.
Taken orally once a day,
methadone suppresses narcotic withdrawal for between 24 and 36 hours.
Because methadone is effective in eliminating withdrawal symptoms, it
is used in detoxifying opiate addicts. It is, however, only effective
in cases of addiction to heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs, and
it is not an effective treatment for other drugs of abuse. Methadone
reduces the cravings associated with heroin use and blocks the high
from heroin, but it does not provide the euphoric rush. Consequently,
methadone patients do not experience the extreme highs and lows that
result from the waxing and waning of heroin in blood levels.
Ultimately, the patient remains physically dependent on the opioid, but
is freed from the uncontrolled, compulsive, and disruptive behavior
seen in heroin addicts.
Withdrawal from methadone
is much slower than that from heroin. As a result, it is possible to
maintain an addict on methadone without harsh side effects. Many MMT
patients require continuous treatment, sometimes over a period of
treatment provides the heroin addict with individualized health care
and medically prescribed methadone to relieve withdrawal symptoms,
reduces the opiate craving, and brings about a biochemical balance in
the body. Important elements in heroin treatment include comprehensive
social and rehabilitation services.