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What Is Methadone?

a person puts their hand on their head as they wonder what is methadone

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction is an evidence-based approach to treatment that is often misunderstood. Many traditional or step-based programs believe that using medications like methadone as part of addiction treatment is like trading one addiction for another. While it is true that these medications have the potential for abuse, when used properly, they are highly effective.

At Evoke Wellness at Cohasset, we believe addiction is a disease and that utilizing MAT is no different from using medicines to treat chronic diseases like high blood pressure or diabetes. Our methadone clinic in Massachusetts provides highly supervised care by a multidisciplinary treatment team who are experts in substance use disorders (SUD) and mental health.

MAT using methadone is not for everyone. If you have questions about whether or not MAT is appropriate for you or your loved one, call 866.931.6429 to speak to one of our admissions counselors.

What Is Methadone?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid medication primarily used for the treatment of pain and managing opioid dependence, particularly in the context of addiction treatment programs. As a full opioid agonist, methadone activates the same receptors in the brain that natural opioids, like heroin and morphine, do.

When taken as prescribed under medical supervision, methadone can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid dependence, allowing patients to stabilize and work toward recovery.

What Are the Goals of Methadone-Assisted Treatment?

Methadone-assisted treatment for opioid dependence and addiction began in the 1960s. In the 1970s, the U.S. government began monitoring methadone use more closely because of its potential for diversion and misuse. Federal and state agencies monitor today’s methadone clinics to ensure proper administration and monitoring.

With this rise of the opioid epidemic, methadone-assisted treatment and other opioid replacement therapies have been increasingly recognized as essential tools for harm reduction and addiction treatment. Among the goals of methadone-assisted treatment are the following:

  • Reducing withdrawal symptoms
  • Suppressing cravings
  • Providing stabilization
  • Preventing overdose
  • Providing a path to recovery

Methadone-assisted treatment is not without risk, but it has been shown to be effective in:

  • Reducing opioid use
  • Improving social functioning
  • Decreasing criminal activity among individuals with opioid addiction
  • Increasing active participation in treatment
  • Restoring physical and psychological ability to participate in treatment
  • Improving physical health
  • Stabilizing mental health

Methadone-assisted treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution to opioid use disorder (OUD). The appropriateness of methadone-assisted treatment is determined individually and depends on a patient’s medical history, substance use history, and treatment needs.

Methadone-Assisted Treatment and Withdrawal

Most people with OUD have experienced withdrawal at some point. Symptoms can range from mild discomfort to extreme pain, depending on the level of OUD. The fear of withdrawal symptoms is a common reason people continue to abuse opioids even when they know the risks and want to stop.

Individuals who try to stop using opioids without professional help rarely succeed because of the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. There are four stages of opioid withdrawal:

  1. Anticipatory – Begins three to four hours after the last use and is marked by increasing anxiety or fear about experiencing withdrawal and cravings.
  2. Early acute – Begins eight to ten hours after the last dose. Symptoms include anxiety, restlessness, and flu-like symptoms. Cravings and drug-seeking behaviors intensify.
  3. Fully developed acute – Occurring one to three days after the last dose, symptoms are at their peak, with tremors, muscle spasms, insomnia, and digestive issues. Cravings are the most intense during this phase.
  4. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) – Can last up to 24 months after the last dose. Acute symptoms decrease, but individuals may experience anxiety, depression, mood swings, insomnia, and more. Cravings still occur, and individuals are highly susceptible to triggers for relapse.

Methadone-assisted treatment is not a singular approach to treating OUD. Instead, it can be part of a comprehensive treatment approach that includes evidence-based and holistic therapies.

Call Evoke Wellness at Cohasset to See if Methadone-Assisted Treatment Is Right for You

At Evoke Wellness at Cohasset, our methadone clinic is staffed with a highly-trained team of doctors, counselors, and psychiatrists dedicated to helping end the opioid epidemic. We believe that effective treatment of OUD should be accessible to all. If you have questions about methadone-assisted treatment, call 866.931.6429 to speak with an admissions counselor or reach out through our form.