Oxycontin, heroin, fentanyl, and other opiates like oxycodone, are painkillers known as opioids. Highly addictive, these drugs are prescribed to help people deal with pain, but they are commonly abused due to their habit-forming nature and the euphoric high produced when taken recreationally. This makes these opiate drugs, which are derived from the poppy plant or made synthetically, quite dangerous because as addicts become accustomed to their effects, more and more of the drug is required to produce the same effect. As tolerance and the quantity consumed increases, so does the risk of abuse and long-term dependence.
Dependence vs. Addiction
If a person abuses opiates regularly, which can be defined as using several times a day for several weeks, a physical dependency is the common result. The person will require the drug simply to avoid going into withdrawal symptoms. This can be contrasted with other forms of addiction that can be said to be more psychological in nature, or at least lacking in the kind of severe physical withdrawal symptoms that cause narcotic addicts to continue compulsively seeking their drug despite the serious adverse consequences associated with doing so.
Withdrawal symptoms associated with cessation of, or reduction in the consumption of, opioids like oxycontin, heroin, fentanyl and other opiates include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Muscle pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chills and fever
- Involuntary leg spasms
How Methadone Aids in Opiate Withdrawal
Understandably, many people addicted to opiates are afraid to even attempt to stop using them because of the intensely painful withdrawal. However, for many people, continuing to use opiates is not an option. The intense ongoing personal, social and health consequences are too great. One of the most effective ways for patients to treat their withdrawals of oxycontin, heroin, fentanyl, and other opiates is with the methadone maintenance program.
Methadone is a drug that acts upon the same receptors in the brain as heroin, fentanyl and other opioids do, but with a much slower onset. This means a person taking methadone doesn’t become sedated or ‘high’, but their withdrawal symptoms are suppressed. The doses are intended to slowly decrease (taper) to the point that the patient is no longer taking any methadone, although for some patients, a maintenance dose continues for an extended period of time.
Methadone is effective because it helps a person to stop abusing opiates by providing medically safe doses of the drug, suppressing withdrawal symptoms and eliminating cravings, while the patient undergoes treatment and other therapies that are intended to promote healing.