Some individuals who receive methadone maintenance for the treatment of opioid addiction take the drug under the supervised care of a medical professional or methadone clinics for many, many years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the long-term use of the drug is safe; it’s not toxic, and there no organ systems of the human body that are adversely affected by it. Of course, it is critically important to understand that this applies to those who use it correctly, in the proper amounts and without abusing the drug for recreational purposes.
Long-Term Addiction to Methadone Can Change the Brain
It is difficult to study the effects of a drug like methadone on a healthy population, according to research highlighted in an article published by Science Daily. Methadone is a synthetic opioid drug and giving it to someone who does not have a medical need for it would be unethical. However, it was possible to study the long-term effects on rats, and the results were interesting. Not only were the rats unable to concentrate well while under the influence of methadone, they were unable to concentrate well once the drugs had worn off. How this will translate into human beings isn’t entirely clear, but it is an indication that long-term abuse of methadone physically changes the brain cells.
Addiction Effects More Than the Physical Body
Addiction is a chronic brain disease, as defined by the experts at the NIDA. Someone who suffers from this diagnosis may find many long-term effects that are difficult to overcome, both in their personal and professional lives. For instance, some individuals who have used methadone for long periods of time have experienced sexual dysfunction manifesting in a decreased sex drive. There are some professionals who believe this is related to co-occurring psychological disorders, as described in a report from the National Institutes of Health. There are other opinions, however, which reinforce the belief among some methadone users that the drug does affect libido. Clinical Psychiatry News reports that 30 to 100 percent of methadone patients reported they have had some kind of sexual dysfunction.
Still, it is the overwhelming effect on a person’s ability to function and live a normal life when addiction takes hold that can make the most difference. The disease of addiction has several components, one of which is the compulsion to use drugs. This compulsion can make drug use the most important aspect of an individual’s life—more important than one’s children, more important than one’s ability to earn a living, and more important that one’s ability to establish healthy relationships with family and friends. Imagine, living a lifestyle that alienates your son or daughter or your parents. What would life be like if friends you’ve known since you were a child suddenly stopped being a part of your life? What if you didn’t really care that they stopped being a part of your life? Drug addiction can make an individual not care about anything but getting more drugs and using them.
Another risk of long-term methadone addiction is the increased chances of engaging in dangerous behaviors. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, responsible use of methadone does not necessarily affect one’s ability to drive, for instance. However, long-term abuse and addiction, which often includes abuse of other depressants that can enhance the effects of methadone, can seriously impair one’s ability to drive a car. Those suffering from addiction may choose to operate a motor vehicle, even while under the influence of drugs. Other dangerous activity may include:
- Dealing with unsavory individuals with criminal histories and tendencies
- Frequenting dangerous neighborhoods or other locations to obtain drugs
- Neglect of one’s children
- Engaging in irresponsible behavior because of the analgesic effects (if one doesn’t feel pain, one may continue with activities that a sober individual would stop doing)
Perhaps one of the most dangerous long-term effects of addiction to methadone and other illicit drugs is the inability to stop using the drug in any given setting. According to the official diagnostic criteria for substance abuse dependence, or addiction, an individual may use more of the drug than they intend to use, and for a longer period of time than they intend to use it. For example, an individual may intend to take one dose of methadone and go to bed. Instead, they find they need more of the drug to achieve the effects, so they take another dose. They may then decide that a third dose is in order, and ultimately, they may continue to use the drug until they no longer have any left. This can lead to dangerous levels of the drug in the system, which can result in an unintentional overdose, and even death.
If you’d like information on long-term methadone treatment, or therapies that can help you conquer an addiction to methadone, call us today. We are here 24/7 to help.