It is normal for anyone to want to know the length of a course of treatment before embarking on medical treatment. When it comes to methadone, it is difficult to give one straight answer. Why should you be worried about the length of methadone treatment? For a number of reasons: it is addictive, good outcomes are reliant on sufficient treatment length and it has both short and long-term side effects.
However, the first pointer to these dilemmas is that the use of methadone in medical treatment is safe. You do not have to worry about the aforementioned concerns when you adhere to prescriptions as given by your doctor. The major risk associated with methadone is overdose. This should be avoided at all costs. A number of issues are considered when deciding the duration of methadone use. Be keen and follow these instructions.
Understanding Methadone and its Use in Addiction Treatment
According to substance abuse and mental health services administration, methadone works by altering how the brain and nervous system responds to pain. It blocks pain, the euphoric effects of feeling high and other symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Due to these effects it is often used in the medical treatment of a number of opioid addictions in a process called medication-assisted treatment (MAT) or methadone maintenance treatment.
Medication Assisted Treatment, MAT works with a combination of therapy and taking part in support groups. It provides a comprehensive addiction treatment program. SAMHSA insists that for an individual to receive methadone treatment for opioid addiction, they must be taking part in a drug treatment program actively. Methadone can only be obtained and used through a certified opioid treatment program.
Methadone gives you a similar feeling as the one experienced when you use other opioids and prevents withdrawal symptoms. Some experts call it replacement therapy because it replaces the opioids in the body of an addict with milder effects.
The duration of methadone use will depend on the response to treatment and ability to complete stages of methadone treatment successfully.
Stages of Methadone Treatment
As a patient continues to respond to treatment, the doctor may decide to reduce the dosage of methadone administered as a way of gradually discontinuing its use.
· Acute or Induction phase
In this primary stage of methadone maintenance treatment, the patient’s dosage is adjusted until the patient gets to a comfortable level with the drug cravings and symptoms relief. During this phase, the patient will begin taking part in other treatments such as auxiliary counseling and health programs alongside the methadone.
· Rehabilitative and Maintenance Phase
After you have achieved a stable and comfortable level of dosage, you need to continue with your methadone intake on a daily under a doctor’s watch in a clinic or a care center. The doctor will continue to monitor your compliance to the program such as not taking illicit drugs or demonstrating a positive change in your lifestyle.
Once the doctor is satisfied with your compliance, you will be allowed to have take-home doses per week. For instance, after two years of maintenance treatment, the doctor can consider giving you month-long take-home doses.
Suddenly stopping methadone use could lead to withdrawal symptoms. In spite of the good uses for methadone, it can cause addiction. The risks of methadone withdrawal could cause discomfort and increase chances of relapse. Therefore, there is a medically devised procedure of getting-off methadone. It involves slowly reducing the dosage of methadone administered to a patient until they have safely stopped using it. This method is called tapering.
Patients can start tapering their dosage to get off methadone any time. However, most rehabilitation doctors advise tapering at least a year into the methadone maintenance treatment. According to National Institute of Drug Abuse, prolonged duration of treatment tends to give better outcome. Good outcomes are reliant on sufficient treatment length.
Tapering can take varying lengths, such as weeks and months. The tapering process needs to be slow and comfortable. Slower schedules administered in longer intervals between more regular dose drops, are considered more comfortable than hastened tapering.
How Do I Know That Am Ready To Taper My Methadone Dosage?
It is not possible to expressly know when any person is ready to taper. Some people never reach a comfortable point when they want or are able to taper the methadone use. Progression to each stage depends on the patient’s response and compliance to treatment. However, generally anyone on methadone maintenance treatment must be on the program for a year before the expert can consider tapering or discontinuing use.
Tapering is associated with a significant higher risk of relapse to illegal opiate use and addiction. Therefore, it is really important that no one is forced into beginning their tapering process whether by a clinic personnel, employer or family member.
You can however use this simple guideline to determine the characteristics of patients that are ready to begin tapering their methadone use:
· A reliable income person with a stable home and family life
· Shows a lengthy history of compliance to maintenance treatment program
· Has an available primary methadone counselor, with a workable timing and readiness for the tapering process
· Proves commitment to resume methadone maintenance treatment in case of a relapse
· Avoids abuse of any alcohol or other substances
How Long Should I Stay on Methadone Treatment?
There is no one answer for the definite period that one should stay on methadone. Since methadone is addictive, to stop its use, you need to follow a process. The period of use will depend on the ability to progress well and successfully with different stages of treatment. Also the patient must feel ready to begin the tapering process to stop the medication.
According to NIDA, a couple of patients benefit from methadone use for many years. So the use can continue as long as the patient needs it. They also recommend using the treatment for at least 12 months before considering discontinuing use. It is upon the patient and the doctor to determine whether it is the right time to stop its use. If you would like to get the right support during your methadone treatment program, reach out to us for more information.