Bottle of methadone injection with a syringe

Methadone Addiction and Abuse

Methadone addiction and abuse in France

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Methadone addiction and abuse

Methadone is a synthetic opioid drug that is, most commonly, used under medical supervision to help people manage their addictions. Despite its intended use, because it is an opioid it still carries a risk of abuse and addiction, so usage needs to be carefully monitored and, if necessary, action taken prevent abuse.

The drug was first developed as a pain reliever, which is the main use of most opioid drugs. However, as it is less potent than other pain-relieving opiates, it has developed a niche as a substitute for other drugs to manage withdrawal. While it is still, occasionally, prescribed for pain relief, its use as a substitute now accounts for most of its legitimate use.

The World Health Organization recognizes that methadone, along with other substitution therapies, is the most effective way to treat opioid addiction. Because of this, despite the risks of methadone abuse, it continued to be widely prescribed to help people overcome addictions to more potent opioids.

What is methadone abuse and addiction?

Because methadone has a legitimate medical purpose abuse can be defined as any non-medical use. This may include taking more than prescribed or taking it without prescription. Since methadone is usually controlled, this will also usually mean acquiring it from the black market.

Addiction to methadone works in the same way as any addiction. As an opiate, it works by stimulating the production of endorphins to produce pain relief and, with that, dopamine. The body will develop a tolerance and dependence on the drug, and the neural pathways will adapt to require it, resulting in the addict seeking more.

There is a particular risk because, as a substitute drug for heroin, it is usually prescribed for a long period. This creates a long opportunity for addiction to develop, and is a particular risk because, by definition, the patient is already at risk for addiction. It also means that it’s difficult to ascertain when an addiction has formed because part of the drug’s purpose is to manage the withdrawal symptoms associated with another drug.

The risks of methadone addiction and overdose

Just as it’s possible to become addicted to methadone, it’s possible to suffer the same negative effects of the drug and overdose as with any other opiate. Common side effects of the drug include cardio-vascular effects, problems with motor function and coordination and poorer mental health. And like any addiction it can have a negative impact on the wider life of the addict, affecting their professional life and relationships.

Overdose is possible and will include the typical signs of an opioid overdoes, including loss of cognitive function and coordination, confusion and, in extreme case, respiratory difficulties. A methadone overdose can be fatal, so medical attention should be sought immediately if a methadone overdose is known or suspected.

Some studies have shown that methadone abuse can have prolonged effects, even after withdrawal, it’s therefore important to ensure that any medical regime involving methadone is followed carefully and any suspected addiction is promptly assessed and treated.

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