What Methadone Does to Your Brain Chemistry

What Methadone Does to Your Brain Chemistry

Methadone is used to fend off withdrawal symptoms

Methadone has been used to treat opiate addiction in the US for over fifty years. While it is very effective when used this way, the drug can also be used recreationally and contributes to the death of around 5,000 people in this county each year. The only legal use of methadone is in specially licensed opiate treatment clinics, but diverted supplies are frequently available on American streets.

How Methadone Works

Methadone is a synthetic opiate, or “opioid” that works on the same part of the brain as heroin, prescription painkillers and other narcotics. It binds to the same chemical receptors and blocks the transmission of pain signals throughout the nervous system. Unlike heroin, however, methadone does not give addicts the high that other opiates provide. This allows addicts to use the drug to fend off withdrawal symptoms as they undergo extensive psychological rehabilitation.

Addicts on methadone treatment must report to a clinic every day or two to receive their treatment. As long as they stay on the drug they will not experience any of the following opiate withdrawal symptoms:

  • Intense pain throughout the bones, joints and muscles
  • Fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other flu-like symptoms
  • Panic attacks, anxiety and strong psychological cravings

Individuals on methadone replacement therapy should not drink alcohol or use any other drugs because dangerous or even deadly interactions may occur.

While opiate addicts will not experience a high while using methadone, non-addicts can. Many people experiment with methadone as a way to get a milder high that they believe is less risky than taking heroin. Tolerance grows very quickly and many of these users will escalate to heroin or other narcotics as a result of their use of methadone.

Getting Off of Methadone

Whether using the drug illicitly or as a part of a treatment program, eventually methadone addicts will need to wean themselves off the drug. This should never be attempted without close medical supervision. It is important for all underlying or co-occurring psychological distress (depression, anxiety, compulsive behaviors, PTSD, etc) to be identified and treated before detox from methadone is attempted. Specialized programs offer the following tools for overcoming methadone dependence:

  • Individual counseling of various strategic types
  • Support group meetings
  • 12-Step program elements
  • Medically supervised detox
  • Nutritional and other holistic supports
  • Quiet, restful environments
  • The strong encouragement of healthy people

Methadone is not a therapy in and of itself. It is a part of a more comprehensive treatment program that takes advantage of the emotional relief it offers while the more complicated psychological healing is pursued.

24 Hour Methadone Helpline

If you would like more information about finding a methadone clinic, or safely ending your current methadone dependence, we can help. Call our toll-free helpline any time, we’re available 24 hours a day, for immediate answers to all of your questions and access to the best methadone recovery programs in the world. We are here for you whenever you are ready to call. Whether you’re looking for help for yourself or a loved one, we are ready to help. Call now.