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Addiction Is an Illness, Not a Character Flaw


methadone treatment program

In recent years, society has made considerable progress towards destigmatizing mental health issues. Addiction, though recognized by the National Institute of Mental Health, has not benefited as much as others, which often makes diagnosis and treatment more difficult than necessary. Heroin addiction, especially, is too often viewed as a moral failing or weakness, even by those afflicted, when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

As with other mental illnesses, the belief that addiction can be overcome with sufficient willpower is a major barrier to treatment. When self-discipline fails, depression inevitably follows leading to loss of motivation and generalized despair about the prospects of recovery. There is, nonetheless, good news for the treatment of heroin addiction, but sufficient attention has not been paid to it.

Methadone, a synthetic opioid medication, used to treat chronic pain, is an extremely efficient and potent therapeutic regimen for the devastation of heroin addiction. Regrettably, methadone is one of the treatments for heroin addiction that has been viewed as suspect and discounted by countless patients. Often, with heroin addictions having begun with prescribed drugs, many patients may be reluctant to treat one opiate addiction with another opiate.

However, methadone is considered safe when administered with screening and under supervision, is regulated by the DEA and is only administered for addiction treatment through an approved opioid treatment program (OTP).

Does methadone work? Often the first question on the minds of patients and loved ones. For more than half a century, it has been one of the front line treatments for heroin addiction.

Methadone is a full agonist opioid, meaning it triggers a physiological response when combined with a receptor, and acts similarly to other opioids but does not create the euphoric "high." Instead, it diminishes the physical withdrawal symptoms that are often felt when opioids are no longer present in the system. Methadone also possesses certain opiate blocking properties that check the effect of other opioids, while methadone is present.

A single therapeutic dose of methadone typically lasts 24-36 hours, which is why it is vital in controlling the cravings that can cause a relapse in recovery. This allows patients, even early on the road to recovery, to make at least one visit to the treatment program each day. When withdrawals and cravings are controlled, patients can exclusively focus on addressing the genesis of their addiction and recovering some measure of control over the chaos in their lives.

For those further along the road, it proves invaluable in buying time to repair the damage from addiction to their physical systems which may include hepatitis, cellulitis and other infections from repeated use of injection equipment.

The therapeutic dose of methadone varies from person to person and is usually reached when opiate withdrawal symptoms are no longer impossible to withstand. The cost varies, usually by state location but it is broadly expected to be the least expensive medication for opiate addiction. Insurance coverage fluctuates by state and ability to pay.

Administering methadone can only be undertaken by trained medical professionals. Care for the acute physical reactions of withdrawal symptoms and treatment for the emotional symptoms of anxiety and insomnia is tailored to individual needs and adjusted based on the response of the patient. Besides medical treatments for heroin addictions, cognitive behavioral therapy can also be provided as an additional foundation to prepare the patient for long term recovery.

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