Methadone: what is this medicine and what is it used for?

Heroin addiction carries risks such as contracting a disease, developing liver problems, overdosing or consuming highly toxic products mixed with the drug, as well as significantly disrupting daily functioning.

To treat this addiction, replacement therapies with methadone, a synthetic opioid with milder side effects than those of heroin, codeine or morphine.

    What is methadone?

    Methadone is a drug in the opioid family, substances used to treat pain, such as codeine, or for recreational purposes, such as heroin. Opiates are also known as narcoticsAlthough sometimes this term includes cocaine, which has stimulating effects.

    The term “opiate” is currently used to designate any psychoactive substance having agonist effects on the opiate receptors of the central nervous system. In contrast, opioids are endogenous substances in the brain with analgesic effects, especially endorphins, encephalins, and dinorphins.

    Heroin is particularly well known among opiates for its addictive potential; immediately after consumption, this medicine is concentrated in the brain, causing a feeling of euphoria. Soon after, it spreads to other tissues, causing sensations related to sedation.

    Methadone is a synthetic opioid that is taken 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 gradually returns between 5 and 7 days after stopping consumption.

      History of opiates and methadone

      The ancient Greeks, Arabs and Egyptians already used opium, the dried resin from the plant known as rubble, to treat pain and diarrhea. Its use became popular in England in the 18th and 19th centuries and arrived in the United States with railway workers from China; the typical opium smokers of this period are famous.

      In the 19th century, codeine, morphine and heroin appeared, the three most popular opium derivatives. these drugs they were helpful in treating pain symptoms, Diarrhea and cough, as well as in the detoxification of other more potent substances, but in themselves they carried a high risk of addiction.

      Methadone was created synthetically in Germany in 1937 in response to the country’s need for easy-to-develop opiates. It was found to have significant addictive potential, although its weaker sedative and depressant effects suggest it could be used as a medicine.

      Ten years after methadone began to be marketed as a pain reliever in the USA. In addition, its usefulness in the treatment of opioid withdrawal syndrome was detected, so it began to study its effectiveness as a component of substitution therapy in cases of heroin addiction.

      What is this for?

      Methadone is particularly helpful in reducing withdrawal symptoms in people undergoing detoxification use of opiates, especially heroin. For this purpose, it is usually prescribed as part of replacement therapy.

      Emergency management programs using methadone (or the opioid antagonist naltrexone) have been shown to be effective in heroin detoxification, according to the available scientific evidence. It is usually much more complicated to abstain from this drug without using compensatory drugs.

      Methadone is usually given to people who are unable to maintain abstinence without the help of a substitute. Although, ideally, consumption of this substance lasts only a few months, in some cases, treatment lasts a lifetime to prevent the consumption of other substances with more serious side effects and the possible spread of disease.

      In recent years, the use of methadone has been extended to the treatment of chronic pain, Especially the neuropathic type; in these cases, it may be more recommended than other opiates because its effects are longer lasting, which reduces the frequency of administration and therefore the addictive potential.

      Side effects of methadone

      Side and unwanted effects of methadone they are very similar to those caused by other opiates. Besides the risk of developing physical and psychological dependence, the most common are drowsiness, dizziness, vomiting and sweating.

      Other signs and symptoms that may appear are diarrhea, dry mouth, difficulty urinating, Decreased blood pressure, physical weakness, feeling chronically tired, confusion, memory loss and hallucinations. Miosis (pupillary contraction) is also a hallmark of opioid use.

      Chronic methadone use can reduce breathing capacity and change heart rate. On the flip side, it is estimated that about 25% of opioid poisoning deaths in the United States occur as a result of methadone use.

      Stopping this substance may cause akathisia (intense restlessness and discomfort), fever, dizziness, tachycardia, tremors, nausea, photophobia (sensitivity to light), anxiety, depression, auditory and visual hallucinations, suicidal ideation, delusions and chronic insomnia.

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