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What is Methadone?

Methadone is a narcotic pain relief drug and is grouped among similar drugs under the collective term opioids. Opioids have similar chemical structures, and take similar effects on the human body as morphine. Methadone is used to reduce heroin addicts, and other such narcotic users’ withdrawal symptoms. This is caused without the high that comes with use of these drugs.

It has a cross-tolerance (term used for the decrease in patient reliance on certain drugs by being exposed to another drug) with drugs such as morphine and heroin, and has a longer-lasting effect. Basic oral doses of methadone can stabilise a patient’s withdrawal symptom. A higher dosage can quash the euphoric effect of illegal drugs.

Therefore, properly dosed methadone patients can reduce their dependence on Class A drugs or altogether rid their addictions. Part of methadone’s success as a treatment comes from the fact that it does exactly what heroin and other such drugs do but without the harmful methadone side-effects and life-threatening addiction.

It is synthetically manufactured meaning the doctors who prescribe it to their patients will know exactly what is entering their body, rather than the heroin the addicts will buy off the streets which are often mixed with other substances.

Another part of methadone’s success is that its effects can last much longer than heroin’s. For example a single dose of methadone can remain effective for approximately 24 hours; the euphoric high given off by heroin lasts for a couple of hours, which leads to the addictive nature of the drug – methadone usually takes around 2-4 hours just to reach its peak. Methadone accumulates in the body, meaning that a greater effect can be felt for a longer period without having to increase the dosage. Being an opioid, methadone can also be sometimes prescribed to those without an addiction but who are suffering with a severe pain as an alternative form of pain relief.

Methadone can be used to suppress dry cough for example in people with terminal illnesses such as lung cancer. Coughing is a reflex response to irritation of the airways. Methadone withdrawal may be used to block the cough reflex in situations where the cough serves no purpose (eg dry persistent cough due to lung irritation in lung cancer). It suppresses cough by decreasing nerve messages from the brain that cause cough.

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