Methadone is a type of opioid that has been used to treat pain. Other names for this drug include “jungle juice”, “junk”, “meth”, or “dolls”. It was actually created by doctors during World War II. At that time, the drug was used to treat extreme cases of pain but now it used to help treat addictions, including addictions to painkillers or more commonly, heroin. It can be taken illegally or prescribed by a doctor. In either case, methadone comes in the form of powder, liquid, or a tablet.
This opioid has the ability to change the way the brain and the nervous system react to pain. Medicinally, post-surgery or injury, a doctor might prescribe it to treat pain. It also has the ability to block the high that comes from heroin, oxycodone, morphine, or codeine. For addicts, it can help treat addiction because it still can provide a similar feeling but does not have the withdrawals symptoms. This is called maintenance therapy. Therefore, methadone works a replacement to the more serious drug of choice. It is not a cure all for addiction but can be used as part of a treatment plan. It can take a year or more to actually effectively treat or fight off an addiction, but this depends on how each individuals body responds.
Methadone isn’t the miracle drug. There are side effects such as itchy skin, restlessness, nausea, heavy sweating, constipation, trouble breathing, chest pain, or even hallucinations. Long term use can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle. Just like other drugs, the body does build a tolerance. The body can adapt and need more and more to feel the effects. Methadone can be abused and become habit forming.
It is estimated that 1 million Americans are addicted to heroin, and about 120,000 of these people use methadone to assist their addiction. About 20% of methadone uses, remain on the drug for 10 or more years. When a person is trying to alleviate their heroin addiction, they in turn become addicted to methadone. The search for the high is still there. A person becomes dependent and avoid activities and situations that will cause distress or interrupt their access to methadone. Eventually a person will try to stop taking methadone completely, but as with other drugs, there are withdrawal symptoms. A person may become agitated, irritated, and have the chills, as the body tries to live without dependency. Professional treatment is available. Methadone is often thought as replacing one addiction with another, but when heroin is life threatening and leading to high risk situations, this drug becomes the lesser of two evils. The thinking of an addict might not change, and that is the dilemma that one becomes powerless to until proper help and sought after and worked through.