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

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Addiction to heroin carries risks such as contracting diseases, developing liver problems, overdosing or consuming very toxic products mixed with the drug, in addition to greatly interfere with the functioning daily.

To treat this addiction, substitute therapies with methadone, a synthetic opiate with milder side effects than heroin, codeine, or morphine.

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What is methadone?

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

The term "opiate" is currently used to refer to any psychoactive substance that has agonistic effects at opiate receptors in the central nervous system. In contrast, opioids are endogenous substances in the brain with analgesic effects, particularly endorphins, enkephalins, and dynorphins.

Heroin is especially well known among opiates

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for its addictive potential; Immediately after being consumed, this drug concentrates in the brain, causing a feeling of euphoria. Shortly after, it spreads through other tissues, causing sensations related to sedation.

Methadone is a synthetic opiate that is consumed 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 progressively remits between 5 and 7 days after the interruption of consumption.

  • You may be interested: "Types of drugs: know their characteristics and effects"

History of opiates and methadone

The ancient Greeks, Arabs and Egyptians already used opium, the dried resin of the plant known as poppy, to treat pain and diarrhea. Its use became popular in England in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it reached the United States with railroad workers from China; the typical opium dens of this time are famous.

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

Methadone was created synthetically in Germany in 1937 in response to this country's need for easy-to-develop opiates. It was found to have significant addiction potential, although its minor sedative and depressant effects suggested that it could be used as a medication.

Ten years later methadone began to be marketed as a pain reliever in the U.S. In addition, its usefulness in treating opioid withdrawal syndrome was detected, so it began to be investigated its efficacy as a component of alternative therapies in cases of drug addiction. heroin.

What is it for?

Methadone is used primarily to reduce withdrawal symptoms in people in the process of detoxification of the use of opiates, especially heroin. For this purpose, it is usually prescribed in the context of replacement therapy.

Contingency management programs that use methadone (or naltrexone, an antagonist opioid) have been shown to be effective for heroin detoxification, according to scientific evidence available. In general, it is much more difficult to maintain abstinence from this drug without the use of compensatory drugs.

Methadone is often given to people who cannot maintain abstinence without the help of a substitute. Although ideally the consumption of this substance is only maintained for a few months, in some cases treatment lasts for life to prevent the use of other substances with more serious side effects and the possible spread of diseases.

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 opioids because its effects are longer lasting, which reduces the frequency of administration and therefore the addictive potential.

Side effects of methadone

The side and adverse effects of methadone they are very similar to those caused by other opiates. In addition to the risk of developing physical and psychological dependence, the most common are drowsiness, feeling dizzy, vomiting and sweating.

Other signs and symptoms that may appear are diarrhea, dry mouth, difficulty urinating, the drop in blood pressure, physical weakness, the feeling of chronic fatigue, confusion, memory loss and hallucinations. Miosis (pupillary constriction) is also a characteristic sign of opioid use.

Chronic methadone use can reduce breathing capacity and alter heart rhythm. On the other hand, it is estimated that approximately 25% of deaths from opiate poisoning in the United States occur as a result of methadone consumption.

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

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