Methadone: what is this drug and what is it used for?
Heroin addiction carries risks such as contracting diseases, developing liver problems, overdosing or consuming very toxic products mixed with the drug, in addition to interfering greatly in daily functioning.
Substitutive therapies are usually used to treat this addiction. methadone, a synthetic opiate with milder side effects than those of heroin, codeine or morphine.
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What is methadone?
Methadone is a drug in the family of opiates, substances used to treat pain, such as codeine, or recreational purposes, such as heroin. Opioids are also known as narcotics , although sometimes this term includes cocaine, which has stimulant effects.
The term "opioid" is now used to refer to any psychoactive substance that has agonistic effects on the opiate receptors of the central nervous system. In contrast, opioids are endogenous substances of the brain with analgesic effects, in particular endorphins, enkephalins and dynorphins.
Heroin is especially known among opiates for its addictive potential ; immediately after being consumed this drug is concentrated in the brain, causing a feeling of euphoria. Soon after, it is distributed through other tissues, causing sensations related to sedation.
Methadone is a synthetic opiate that is consumed orally, in liquid or capsule form, or injected. It is used to treat withdrawal syndrome of opiates, which causes symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, vomiting, fever, muscle pain, diarrhea and dysphoria. It remits progressively between 5 and 7 days after the interruption of consumption.
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History of opiates and methadone
Ancient Greeks, Arabs and Egyptians already used opium, the dried resin of the plant known as opium poppy, to treat pain and diarrhea. Its use became popular in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and came to the United States with railroad workers from China; The typical opium dens of this period are famous.
During the 19th century, codeine, morphine and heroin appeared, the three most popular opium derivatives. These drugs they were useful to treat pain symptoms , diarrhea and cough, as well as in the detoxification of other more potent substances, but they entailed a high risk of addiction in themselves.
Methadone was synthetically created in Germany in 1937 in response to the need of this country to get opioids easy to develop. It was discovered that it had a significant addiction potential, although its lower sedative and depressant effects suggested that it could be used as a medication.
Ten years later methadone began to be marketed as an analgesic in the U.S. In addition, its usefulness to treat opioid withdrawal syndrome was detected, so its efficacy as a component of substitution therapies in cases of heroin addiction began to be investigated.
What is it for?
Methadone is used primarily to reduce withdrawal symptoms in people in the process of detoxification of opiate use, especially heroin. For this purpose, it is usually prescribed in the context of substitution therapy.
Contingency management programs that use methadone (or naltrexone, an opiate antagonist) have been shown to be effective for heroin detoxification, according to available scientific evidence. In general, it is much more complicated to maintain abstinence from this drug without the use of compensatory drugs.
Methadone is usually administered to people who can not maintain abstinence without the help of a substitute. Although ideally the consumption of this substance is only maintained for a few months, in some cases the treatment lasts for life to prevent the consumption of other substances with more serious side effects and the possible contagion of diseases.
In recent years the use of methadone has extended to the treatment of chronic pain , especially the neuropathic type; in these cases it may be more recommendable than other opioids because their effects are more lasting, which reduces the frequency of administration and therefore the addictive potential.
Side effects of methadone
Side effects and adverse effects of methadone They are very similar to those caused by other opiates.In addition to the risk of developing a physical and psychological dependence, the most common are drowsiness, dizziness, vomiting and sweating.
Other signs and symptoms that may appear are the diarrhea, dry mouth, difficulties urinating , the decrease in blood pressure, physical weakness, the feeling of chronic fatigue, confusion, memory loss and hallucinations. Miosis (pupillary contraction) is also a characteristic sign of opioid intake.
Chronic methadone use may reduce respiratory capacity and alter heart rhythm . On the other hand, it is estimated that approximately 25% of deaths from opiate poisoning in the United States occur as a result of methadone consumption.
The interruption of the intake of this substance can cause akathisia (intense restlessness and discomfort), fever, dizziness, tachycardia, tremors, nausea, photophobia (sensitivity to light), anxiety, depression, auditory and visual hallucinations, suicidal ideation, deliriums and chronic insomnia.