What should people know about maintenance drugs before treatment? Maybe you have wondered about this for yourself. Perhaps it was regarding a friend, child, sibling or parent. The truth is that maintenance drugs are an invaluable tool. They have changed millions of lives for the better by allowing former drug abusers to function in normal society again. They have restored hope and self-respect for countless people who may have once thought their situation was hopeless. However, like all drug treatments, maintenance drugs have risks and benefits. Only a drug treatment medical professional can decide which ones may be the best for you.
There are many benefits of drug maintenance treatment:
- Reduction of health risks
- Reduction of overdose risk
- Return to productive society
- Resuming family life
- No longer spending large amounts of money on drugs
- No longer risking arrest for drug use or associated illegal activities
- No longer worrying about being sick when drugs aren’t available
- Able to return to work or school
The Options: Methadone
Methadone is a synthetic opioid first developed in Germany during World War II. The Germans were concerned about pain relief for their troops in the likely event that the Allies would cut off their access to raw opium products. These products are necessary for the production of such analgesics as morphine and oxycodone. Oxycodone was in common use in Germany at the time, having been developed by a German chemist in 1916. This chemist was looking for non-addictive alternatives to morphine and heroin. He reasoned that because oxycodone is derived from thebaine, a non-addictive alkaloid found in opium, it would serve as an effective painkiller without the risks of addiction posed by morphine and heroin. He was wrong. Taken orally, oxycodone is at least fifty percent stronger than morphine.
Methadone is entirely synthetic. It’s not derived from opium or any other natural source. It’s created totally through synthesis in a laboratory. It’s a premium analgesic and is effective by mouth. It’s also highly physically addictive. However, it doesn’t seem to create the high that most opioid users are looking for. It has a strong analgesic and sedative effect, but it doesn’t tend to create the feelings of euphoria so associated with opioid use. It also has an extremely long half life. This means that it has a very long duration of action in the body. Because it tends to not produce a high and lasts a long time, it’s ideal for MMT, or methadone maintenance treatment.
Methadone is administered in special licensed clinics once a day. This dose should easily keep the former opioid user comfortable until the next dose. Some clinics allow clients to earn take-home doses so daily visits aren’t necessary.
The Options: Suboxone
Suboxone is a combination of two drugs. One is buprenorphine, a synthetic opioid. The other ingredient is naloxone, which is used to reverse opioid overdoses. It’s there to discourage intravenous abuse of buprenorphine. The buprenorphine affects the brain’s opioid receptors much like heroin does, but not as completely. Oral buprenorphine seldom causes a high in users tolerant to opioids. Instead, it simply satisfies opioid drug cravings and keeps withdrawal symptoms at bay. It’s effective in very small doses. It can be prescribed by a doctor and taken at home. Only specially licensed physicians may prescribe it for drug maintenance purposes. These physicians are only allowed a certain number of buprenorphine maintenance patients at one time. Sometimes, this makes it hard to find someone near you who can take you as a patient. Buprenorphine may not work for everyone, especially people with high-dose, long-term addictions to very powerful opioids like fentanyl.
Vivitrol is a time-released form of naltrexone, which is an opioid antidote drug. It’s given once a month. It occupies the brain’s opioid receptor sites and prevents any other kind of opioid from producing feelings of euphoria and other desired effects. It requires total opioid abstinence for at least 10 days before the first injection. Anyone with an active physical dependency on opioids will become very ill from Vivitrol. Vivitrol is effective at preventing impulse use of opioids, but the user must be motivated to continue therapy on their own volition. If they decide to skip an injection, they are once again able to feel the effects of opioids. Worse, their tolerance level may have fallen, making them prone to death by accidental overdose.
Maintenance drugs are a viable option for many. If you’re struggling with opioid substance abuse, contact us at 833-610-1174. We are trained professional counselors who can help you find the help you need to get your life back on track. There is always hope. We hope to speak with you soon.