Methadone

METHADONE

What is methadone?
Methadone is an artificial opiate prescribed to help someone deal with their addiction to heroin or other opiates.

Why do they prescribe methadone and not heroin?
Methadone is usually prescribed in the form of a liquid that needs to be drunk just once a day. The fact that it is drunk rather than injected or smoked, means that there are far less health risks involved; lung problems, hepatitis C, septicaemia and HIV to name just a few.

You only take it once a day?
Unlike heroin, which lasts four to six hours, methadone remains in the system for up to thirty-six hours and this means that you can take your dose just once a day and not suffer any withdrawal symptoms. This makes it a lot easier to work and hold down a relatively normal lifestyle.

I have heard you don’t get a buzz from methadone?
Absolutely untrue, and I should know! There wouldn’t be much point in prescribing a substitute to someone addicted to heroin if they couldn’t feel it, because no one would take it! It is fair to say you don’t get exactly the same buzz, but trust me you feel it.

I have also heard that methadone is much harder to withdraw from than heroin. Is this true?
If you have been taking methadone for months or even years, the withdrawal symptoms do seem to last somewhat longer than those from heroin and this has made life difficult for people in the past. However, these days it is common practice to switch people being prescribed methadone to another drug, often subutex, when they have reduced the dose and are ready to think about stopping, and this tends to solve the problem since withdrawal from subutex is easier and lasts for less time.

Do I have to pick it up from the chemist every day?
To begin with, yes. However, once you have stabilised on your dose, and assuming that you are not using other drugs or drinking alcohol heavily (both of which increase the overdose risk) arrangements can be made to pick it up every few days. After all, the idea is to help you re-build your life not make it more difficult. It is quite possible that you will be able to pick up your methadone twice a week, or even less.

Is that always the case?
Such decisions are made on an individual basis, and depend on a number of factors. Are you sticking to your prescribed dose? Are you still using other substances? Do you have somewhere safe to store the medication (especially if there are children in the house)? However, the idea is to allow people to live as normally as possible and workers do their best to be flexible around such matters.

How long do I have to wait to be prescribed?
In local services, you should be prescribed within a couple of days of walking into a service and asking for help. It is by no means unknown for people to be prescribed on the same day if there is a medical appointment free and they are able to been seen by a doctor.