Can maintenance drugs be abused during the addiction recovery process? This question doesn’t have a simple answer. It depends on many factors. Drug maintenance medications have inherent qualities that make them good choices for this kind of treatment. For example, both methadone and the opioid component of Suboxone, buprenorphine, tend to cause far less of the desired subjective opioid effects like euphoria. This is due, in part, to the way these two opioids interact with the brain’s opioid receptors. The short answer to the above question is yes and no. Read on to learn more.
Abuse of Methadone
Programs that administer drug maintenance therapy are designed at their very core to prevent abuse of the both the drug used and the program itself. For example, methadone maintenance treatment can only be obtained at specially licensed clinics. Other doctors cannot legally prescribe it to their patients for this purpose. Do not confuse this with some doctors, usually pain management specialists, who may prescribe the five and 10 milligram methadone tablets for pain relief. This is permissible. It’s also common. Methadone is an extremely effective analgesic, and it’s also relatively inexpensive. But it’s unpredictable and difficult to properly dose. This is why its use is mainly limited to pain management doctors experienced in its use and MMT clinics, which are also very familiar with it. MMT is a common abbreviation for methadone maintenance treatment.
Clients participating in a MMT program must comply with all program requirements at all times. If they do not, they risk expulsion from the program. Common requirements include:
- Drug testing for illicit opioid use
- Mandatory counseling sessions
- Breath tests for alcohol use
MMT clinics are typically only open at certain hours that are often inconvenient. The client must either appear at these times or forego their dose until the next day. Since unpleasant withdrawal symptoms would be likely to occur in the interim, it behooves the client to appear on time. The methadone itself is always in liquid form. It’s measured by staff members and passed in a tiny plastic cup to the client, who must swallow it under direct observation. Since it’s near impossible to open your mouth for inspection and conceal a colored liquid at the same time, clients cannot sneak the substance out of the facility. This eliminates the possibility of saving up doses to be sold or used together at a later time.
Methadone doesn’t cause a lot of euphoria, especially in those already used to opioids. It may cause a feeling of satisfaction, but this is desirable. The idea is to satisfy the craving for opioids and eliminate any opioid withdrawal symptoms. These may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Bone and muscle pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Restless leg syndrome
- Sneezing and runny eyes
Proper dosing of methadone should prevent all of these symptoms from occurring and keep the client physically comfortable throughout the day.
Abuse of Suboxone
Suboxone contains buprenorphine, a synthetic opioid with little euphoric effect when taken orally by people already tolerant to other opioids. It simply stimulates the brain’s opioid receptors just enough to relieve withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. It also contains naloxone, an opioid overdose rescue agent, in about a four to one ratio. In other words, an eight milligram oral strip of Suboxone would contain eight milligrams of buprenorphine and two milligrams of naloxone. At this dosage level, naloxone has little to no effect when taken orally. However, should the user try to dissolve the strip in water to inject it intravenously, which they could do, the naloxone would then have a major effect and probably prevent any possible euphoria from the injected buprenorphine. It would be very difficult to abuse Suboxone, at least not by any practical means. However, abuse deterrents are just deterrents. They cannot positively prevent abuse in all circumstances. For the most part, though, the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone work well together as the medication part of a drug maintenance program.
Do you Need Help?
If you have a problem with opioid abuse, you may have thought of trying MMT or Suboxone for yourself. Or perhaps you’re concerned about a friend or loved one. We can help you with that. We are professional counselors available to serve you at all hours, seven days a week. Just call us at 833-610-1174, and we will be happy to answer your questions and help you find a drug maintenance program that best fits your needs. Remember, there is always hope.