Long-Term Effects

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methadone addictionThough it is possible to become addicted to methadone through using the drug on a recreational basis, most people who are dependent upon the substance are on methadone maintenance for recovery from an opiate addiction – usually an addiction to heroin.

Methadone can be instrumental in helping people to break free from the shackles of heroin addiction and all the risks that come with it, but it is an addictive medication in its own right, and over time, it can lead to problems of its own. The benefits of using methadone as a detox option include:

  • Avoiding the risks of needle usage
  • Avoiding the risks associated with the ever-changing purity levels of heroin
  • Increased medical care that helps the patient to avoid relapse and/or overdose
  • The blocking dose provided by a high dose of methadone that helps some patients avoid relapse
  • The increased clarity and focus that come with an open schedule no longer dedicated to finding more drugs

But what are the risks if methadone maintenance goes on too long – or indefinitely? Health problems, stagnation in recovery, risk of relapse, and more.

Intellectual Function Issues Associated With Long-term Methadone Use

According to Science Daily, long-term use of methadone negatively impacts the brain. Users of the drug may experience a decreased attention span and a decreased ability to focus that suggests an alteration of brain cells due to methadone use. Because patients in recovery need their cognitive function as well as their physical health to be successful for the long-term, this is a serious issue. Patients may find it more difficult to maintain employment, make smart decisions that prioritize their well-being and that of those they love, or have functional relationships.

Physical Issues of Methadone Maintenance

Undue stress on the liver and kidneys is an issue with long-term use of methadone just as it is with other drugs in the opioid family. However, patients are most bothered by a string of uncomfortable physical symptoms that intrude into their lives on a daily basis, including:

  • Sleep disruption, including insomnia
  • Heavy sweating
  • Weight gain
  • Water retention
  • Constipation
  • Frequent rashes

Though minimal in comparison to the serious physical withdrawal symptoms that come with a “cold turkey” opiate detox, the physical issues related to methadone use can be uncomfortable enough to encourage many patients to more quickly navigate the weaning process and get drug-free as soon as possible. However, it can also have the opposite effect of exacerbating the emotional and psychological discomfort and self-esteem issues that many have in early recovery, making it more difficult for them to avoid choosing to attempt to escape the whole situation through relapse.

Stagnation in Recovery

Though many people find comfort in the routine of taking methadone each day, it can serve as an obstacle to experiencing the true freedom that comes with being drug-free. Many patients feel ostracized from the recovery community because they continue to take methadone and ultimately have little to no support as they journey toward sobriety. Others struggle with the “fuzzy-headedness” that the drug causes and find it difficult to make strides toward building a productive and positive life for themselves.

Weaning Off Methadone Maintenance

While some patients value the assistance that methadone offers in early recovery, most patients will do better to get through the tough withdrawal symptoms under the guidance of a medical professional who can help them to mitigate their discomfort so they can turn their attention to emotional and therapeutic growth and healing.

Learn more about opiate addiction recovery here at Alta Mira when you contact us today.