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Author: Justin Mckibben
In the fight against opioid addiction many have turned to medication maintenance programs as a means to help them curb their substance abuse. Methadone is one of the more commonly utilized medication maintenance drugs. However, the system is not without its inherent and relatively serious risks. In fact, methadone abuse is common.
While methadone may not produce the same high in the same manner as heroin, it can be abused to cause the same effects as most opiates, including:
When considering methadone, there are a lot of reasons to do your research and make sure you fully understand how methadone is used and what the dangers are. Dosing of methadone will depend on a few factors, including:
- Age of the individual
- General condition and medical status of the patient
- Other medications being taken
It is very important to note that methadone can have side-effects when interacting with other medications, such as:
- Narcotic pain medications
- Muscle relaxers
- Medicines that can cause drowsiness or slow your breathing
- Diuretics(water pills)
- Heart or blood pressure medications
- HIV medicines
- MAO inhibitors
- Seizure medication
If methadone is taken with some other medicines the combination can cause serious medical problems. Looking at the side-effects of methadone, one should talk to their doctor about any other medications they take.
What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone: Common Side-Effects
Methadone is a narcotic used as a pain reliever, and is also used as part of drug addiction detoxification and maintenance programs. Methadone hydrochloride is the generic form. Common side effects of methadone hydrochloride include:
- Sleep problems
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased sex drive
Some of these more common side-effects may not be especially dangerous, but they can lead to much more serious complications.
What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone: Serious Side-Effects
When experiencing these serious side-effects, immediately contact your doctor or seek emergency medical treatment if you experience serious side effects of methadone hydrochloride including:
- Chest pain
- Muscle pain or cramps
- Bleeding gums
- Difficulty swallowing
- Blurred vision
- Blood in urine or stool
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Extreme fatigue
One of the most critical mistakes many people make is assuming there is no danger in relying heavily on methadone as a means of recovery from opioid abuse. The reality is, approximately 5,000 people die due to abuse of methadone each year.
Admittedly, this is often more likely when methadone has been mixed with other substances, including alcohol and benzodiazepines. However, it is absolutely possible to overdose on methadone.
What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone: Overdose
It is possible to overdose on methadone, just as with any other powerful prescription opioid medication. Again, methadone is a narcotic and many of the overdose symptoms for methadone are the same as with other opioid medications, such as:
- Difficulty breathing/shallow breathing
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Twitching muscles
- bluish fingernails and lips
With drug overdose, especially with such strong substances, death is a possible side-effect. Therefore it is extremely important that all side-effects are taken seriously and that someone trying to utilize methadone consults with their doctor about the risks.
What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone: Mental Health
While the physical side-effects of methadone can be very difficult to deal with, methadone also has a tendency to cause some psychological side-effects, such as:
The truth is, these psychological side-effects can be just as serious as physical side-effects, and some people have more difficulty dealing with the psychological aspect of methadone.
Also, people who already struggle with other co-occurring mental health disorders may experience some side effects more intensely. It is important to make sure both mental and physical health is taken into account with every form of drug treatment.
What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone: Withdrawal
The reality that makes the use of methadone seem self-defeating is that methadone does indeed come with its own set of withdrawal symptoms that become more severe with prolonged use. These withdrawal symptoms are often similar to those from other opioid drugs, such as heroin. The most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle pain and aches
- Rapid heartbeat
- Stomach cramps
Quitting methadone “cold turkey”, meaning abruptly without a safe medical taper or detox, can cause more severe withdrawal symptoms.
What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone: Detoxing from Methadone
Detoxing from methadone is safest and most efficient when done under the supervision in a medical detox of a drug treatment facility or hospital. Most medical detoxes provide a tapering off of the drug in order to reduce the severity of withdrawals. Quitting cold turkey is much more painful and difficult to do.
Drug treatment programs like Palm Partners also utilize the combined expertise of therapists and medical physicians in order to design a personalized treatment plan in order to give the individual the best opportunity for lasting recovery, and anyone who has been using methadone for an extended period or developed a tolerance to it should pursue an inpatient treatment option. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
Suboxone is a medication meant to treat opiate and opioid withdrawal. It is one of two forms of the medication buprenorphine, which is an opiate agonist originally developed to treat pain problems. Suboxone works by binding to opiate receptors in the brain, which are the same receptors that morphine, heroin and other opiates bind to.
Is Suboxone Safe: How Suboxone Works
In order to better understand the risks of Suboxone use, it is important to understand how this medication works. Let us be clear, Suboxone is a narcotic. It is a semi-synthetic opioid made from a combination of two drugs:
This compound is intended for the treatment of pain, as well as for combating opioid addiction. However, what many people don’t realize it that buprenorphine is itself an opioid.
DEA reports show that the substance can be 20-30 times more potent than morphine as an analgesic; like morphine buprenorphine can create a dose-related euphoria. Like other opioids commonly abuse, buprenorphine is capable of producing a significant “high” and thus has been abused in various ways.
Now, all products containing buprenorphine are controlled substances. Given the nature of this powerful opioid, the other primary compound of Suboxone is added.
Naloxone is a pure opioid antagonist medication used to block the effects of opioids. It works by reversing the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. Narcan is a brand name for the medication that is commonly utilized as an overdose antidote.
But beyond being used to reverse overdoses, the addition of naloxone to products like Suboxone is with the intention of blocking the euphoric high resulting from the abuse of opioids by injection, like buprenorphine.
So when a drug like Suboxone is taken orally, just the opioid has affect. Naloxone blocks the impact of the opioid when it is injected. The primary purpose of naloxone in Suboxone is to deter intravenous abuse.
Is Suboxone Safe: How is it used?
Suboxone acts as a partial opioid agonist and diminishes cravings as well as prevents other opioids from reacting to the brain’s receptors. The drug has become a frequently utilized substance for trying to combat opioid addiction. Suboxone can come in tablet form, or in the form of a film taken sublingually, meaning dissolved under the tongue.
When taken orally or sublingually as directed, the naloxone is not absorbed and the buprenorphine acts uninhibited. However, the formulation still has potential for abuse. Published data has shown that the opioid receptor’s binding affinity to buprenorphine is higher, so the opioid typically overrides the antagonist, causing many reports to argue that naloxone is an insufficient deterrent for the injection of Suboxone for recreational abuse.
Serious dangers of Suboxone
While Suboxone may have become a mainstream tactic for combating opioid addiction, the question has become if it is as safe and effective as producers would have us believe. So when presented with the question of ‘is Suboxone safe?’ must look at a few factors.
Is Suboxone Safe: Adverse side-effects
The fact remains that Suboxone is an opioid narcotic. Therefore, the side-effects of Suboxone are essentially the same as other opioids.
Most common minor side-effects include:
- Mild dizziness
- Stomach pain
- Redness, pain or numbness in the mouth
- Trouble concentrating
Most common major side-effects include:
- Cough or hoarseness
- Feeling faint or lightheaded
- Feeling of warmth or heat
- Fever or chills
- Lower back or side pain
- Painful or difficult urination
Major side-effects suggest the individual should check with their doctor immediately.
Is Suboxone Safe: Withdrawal symptoms
The irony is that Suboxone is typically used because people are trying to stop abusing other illicit or prescription opioids but want to have something to curb the withdrawal symptoms. Yet, Suboxone is known to have its own withdrawals, and for some they are even worse.
Symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal can include:
- Body and muscle aches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Drug cravings
- Digestive distress
The physical withdrawals can peak in the first 72 hours after the last dose, and some of the more psychological symptoms can last much longer.
Is Suboxone Safe: Interactions with other drugs
Taking other drugs while on Suboxone, especially other opioids or sedatives, can actually be fatal. Combining Suboxone with other drugs can cause a very dangerous reactions that many also ignore. Drugs that are particularly dangerous with Suboxone are:
- Benzodiazepines (Benzos) such as Xanax
- Older Antihistamines
- Antipsychotics such as Zyprexa
Cocaine is also an extremely hazardous drug to combine with Suboxone because they are opposites on the spectrum of stimulant vs depressant. When you combine cocaine with Suboxone, it actually reduces the amount of buprenorphine that is in your bloodstream. With less buprenorphine in the body the effects of opioid withdrawal symptoms can be felt.
Combining cocaine with Suboxone also increases the risk of overdosing on cocaine.
If you would like more information on Suboxone, download our free E-book: 5 Things No One Tells You about Suboxone.
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Is Suboxone safe?
Suboxone may be a legal and popular alternative to some other opioids, but that doesn’t necessarily make it all that ‘safe’ to rely on. It is of course possible to overdose on Suboxone. As we said before, Suboxone combined with other drugs can also be incredibly dangerous. And at the end of the day, you can still become psychically and psychologically dependent on the drug.
In truth, Suboxone has been useful to some who have tried to get off of drugs like heroin and other dangerous opioids by providing a buffer and some method of harm reduction. But the often overlooked aspect is that Suboxone is only intended for short-term use and not long-term maintenance. When individuals use the substance for long periods of time, they become dependent on it just like any other potent narcotic. Experts insist that Suboxone and similar drugs are only effective in combination with comprehensive treatment or cognitive behavioral therapy.
For more information, read our
A safer and far more healthy and sustainable approach to recovery from opioid addiction is with holistic treatment that offers much more than an opioid substitute with its own adverse effects. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
Addiction is not an easy problem to address. It is a complex issue with many variables, so of course there is no simple answer to fix it. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; no monopoly on the right kind of treatment. It is understandable that there is a degree of effectiveness with utilizing any medical means available to try and address addiction, but are maintenance drugs really the answer?
Surely medication assisted treatment is useful, and it helps a lot of people. Most inpatient treatment programs utilize some form of medication to ease withdrawal symptoms and other side-effects of long-term drug use. The detox period of treatment usually focuses on medically assisting someone struggling with drugs in this transition.
However, is getting people off of one drug by making them dependent on another really the best case scenario? It seems now insurance companies are putting more effort into using maintenance drugs to treat addiction. Is this really a better strategy?
Firstly, let us make a clear definition of what maintenance drugs are. Typically, the definition of maintenance drugs is along the lines of prescriptions commonly used to treat conditions that are considered chronic or long-term. These conditions usually require regular, daily use of medicines.
Examples of common maintenance drugs are medications such as:
- Fluticasone and salmeterol (Advair Diskus) which is used to treat asthma
- Insulin glargine (Lantus) used to treat diabetes
If you consider these examples the point is that people use these medications to “manage” their illness, not to overcome or remedy it. So looking at the issue of addiction, there are some well-known maintenance drugs, specifically concerning opioid addiction.
These medications can be effective, but they also present a level of danger themselves. Even though doctors prescribe them to combat withdrawals, they actually can create their own devastating withdrawals, especially with long term use.
Aetna Aims for Maintenance Drugs
Aetna is one of the nation’s largest insurance companies. In a recent Aetna report, the company is prepared to remove a major restriction for patients seeking maintenance drugs for opioid addiction. The change is set to begin this coming March. Aetna is the third major health insurer to announce such a shift in policy in recent months, now in league with Anthem and Cigna insurers.
To be more specific, this insurance company will stop requiring doctors to seek approval before they prescribe particular medications that are used to combat withdrawal symptoms. One of these medications is suboxone, a well-known medication that many people use to fight opiate addiction.
The common insurance practice is known as “prior authorization”. The reason they are seeking to eliminate this policy is because it sometimes results in delays of hours to days before a patient can get the medications.
This new approach to regulation of maintenance drugs impacts all its private insurance plans, an Aetna spokeswoman confirmed.
Advocates of Maintenance Drugs
Addiction treatment advocates to support having expanded access to maintenance drugs. Dr. Corey Waller, an emergency physician who chairs the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s legislative advocacy committee, states:
“It’s a first-line, Food and Drug Administration-approved therapy for a disease with a known mortality. [For] every other disease with a known mortality, the first-line drugs are available right away.”
Essentially, the idea that parity laws require insurers to cover addiction treatments at the same level as other kinds of healthcare means these kinds of medication should be available for immediate access. This should be the same for all forms of addiction treatment.
Opinion: Treatment over Maintenance
While many would argue that maintenance drugs are a form of treatment, it is still a relevant argument that maintenance drugs are also imperfect and could actually be harmful if they become the cookie-cutter answer implemented by most insurers.
While harm reduction is understandable, and maintenance drugs can help people struggling with heroin or other dangerous opioids avoid other serious risks, the fact is many maintenance drugs include their own side-effects. Some often become subject to abuse themselves.
For instance, suboxone can be useful as a harm reduction tactic, but it can also be abused. Many people who have used suboxone as a long-term solution have found themselves battling suboxone withdrawal symptoms. The dangers of suboxone are very relevant.
The same, if not worse, has often been said about methadone maintenance drugs. While they may keep someone alive to get treatment, there should still be a strong emphasis on treatment itself. Maintenance drugs are most effective when part of a program. They are not a substitute for a treatment program.
Treatment should focus on finding solutions, not prolonging the suffering. Drug and alcohol addiction treatment should come from a holistic approach that addresses more than just physical ailments. Holistic treatment focuses on providing extensive and personalized therapy, combined with physical and emotional heal. If insurance companies want to focus on combining rational medical resources with comprehensive treatment, then this could be a great thing. However, if the focus becomes a quick-fix drug option opposing a full recovery through treatment, it only adds to the danger.
Maintenance drugs have support from the recovery community, but typically they must be accompanied by therapy and other means of treatment. Maintenance drugs are just that- drugs. They are often powerful narcotics, and are true to their title- “maintenance,” not a permanent solution.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
Wednesday evening, 9 Frederick County residents in Area 31 in downtown Frederick went in front of a camera. But this wasn’t any ordinary photo shoot. Not some promotion for a new shoe or the next big diet plan. These 9 brave individuals went under the spotlight to divulge some of their darkest memories of addiction, to spread home for recovery.
The filming is for a new video on recovery awareness. Stories like these of struggles and survival are incredibly powerful.
The Face of Addiction
The project has the title “I Am the Face of Addiction.” This in-depth film is intended to showcase progressive and empowering narratives from individuals in recovery. Ultimately, the hope is to inspire other residents of the area struggling with substance abuse.
The dream behind the film and a lot of the work put into it comes from Pam Knight, a Libertytown resident. When talking about how the project came to be, Knight stated:
“We just want to break the stigma of the term ‘drug addict,’…This is a major epidemic, but there are still so many people who are too ashamed or too embarrassed to admit ‘my life is out of control.’”
Knight, a former special education teaching assistant at Linganore High School, has her own history with addiction. That history puts her in a unique position to know the power of perspective.
In active addiction, at face-value Knight’s life seemed flawless. Her husband, Daniel, owns a successful hair salon in Frederick. The couple has three adult children and three grandchildren. To some this sounds like the American dream, but many wouldn’t know there could be nightmares behind the scenes.
Under it all, Knight was hid a pill addiction for years. She says it began in 2011 after falling off the bleachers at her son’s high school football game. After she was prescribed Vicodin for pain, she began taking more and more. While in the beginning she said the pills made her feel “like Superwoman,” she later describes the experience of addiction as “purgatory.” Knight stated,
“Towards the end, there was no high anymore. You have to have it to make your brain feel normal. The first thing I would do in the morning is pop my pills.”
It didn’t take long before Knight graduated from Vicodin to Percocet. After experimenting with opiates she began doctor-shopping to obtain prescriptions. She admits that her final years of addiction she found herself buying pills off the street.
Her drug of choice was Roxicodone — known as “Roxys” on the street — an opioid-based painkiller. She would purchase quantities of 30 milligram tablets and take multiple doses at a time. Knight said,
“If I didn’t have them, I would get horrible shakes.”
Seeing the Signs
Knight’s husband and her oldest daughter, Loren Maxwell, admit that Knight’s gradual descent into addiction was easy to brush off in the beginning. The signs were somewhat there, but not easy for her family to see for what they were.
Her husband Daniel said he would notice days when she seemed especially manic or sweaty, but Knight always had an explanation.
Maxwell said her mother’s ability to function made her addiction harder to spot. Many people don’t acknowledge the dangers of ‘functioning addiction’ because they don’t understand it.
During this time the family said the signs were simple to dismiss unknowingly or miss altogether. Now that Pam Knight has gone through recovery, Daniel Knight said,
“I see them everywhere.”
Family Fight Knight
Like many people have experienced, the fight with addiction can often be a family affair.
Knight’s youngest son, Connor, was also struggling with addiction at the same time as his mother. Like Pam Knight, Connor said his problems started with the opioid painkillers prescribed for his football injuries. His struggles with opiates graduated much quicker. At 17 years old, Connor first snorted heroin with a bandmate, and his progressive addiction took off.
After years, both Pam and Connor finally found a new chance through rehabilitation at treatment centers in Florida.
Pam has been sober for three years; Connor for 11 months.
Pam Knight’s motivation for sharing the gritty details of her experience for this film is to show that recovery is possible. Knight currently speaks in Frederick County Public Schools as an advocate for addiction recovery. She says she hopes to screen the finished video for these audiences to spread more of this story.
Other participants in the film also hope their contribution will inspire recovering addicts. A huge part of inspiring others is to help overcome addiction stigma. Statistically we know that far too many addicts prolong their suffering and lose their lives because they don’t know of a better option, or because they are afraid of the assumptions and stereotypes attached to addiction. Breaking those stereotypes is exactly why we need such powerful stories, such as Pam Knights. A mother, a wife and a miracle who has persevered through a great deal of difficulty. We celebrate her and the others involved in this project helping to reach out and change lives by showing people the true face of addiction is not always what you would expect.
Sharing your story isn’t always easy, but once you have a chance to rewrite your story it can be more powerful than you can imagine. It isn’t always easy to change that story, but it is always possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.
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Author: Shernide Delva
New stricter legislation on opioid prescriptions aims to reduce the amount of prescription pills roaming the streets of New Hampshire. New Hampshire has one of the highest opioid death rates in the country. In an attempt to reduce the devastation, the legislation will require medical professionals to conduct a patient risk assessment before writing a new prescription. There are a variety of other changes implemented as part of the new legislation.
With the new legislation, patients must sign an informed consent form showing they understand the risk of addiction from the drugs they are receiving. The request is then checked against a database compiled by the prescription drug monitoring program.
In addition to the above precautions, the legislation requires pain patients to be prescribed the lowest effective dose of pain medications. It also forbids doctors in emergency rooms and urgent cares from writing a pain prescription for longer than seven days. Additionally, the law requires patients who are on opioid medication for more than 90+ days to undergo random urine analysis designed to ensure they are still benefiting from the drug.
Overall, the new legislation in New Hampshire will:
- Require patient risk screening before writing a new prescription
- Ensure all patients prescribed pain medication understand the risk of addiction
- Limit the dosage of pain prescription to the lowest effective dose
- Forbid doctors in ER and Urgent care from prescribing a prescription longer than seven days
- Requires patients on pain prescriptions 90+ days to take a urine analysis designed to ensure they are still benefiting from the drug
Will This Work?
The objective of the new legislation is simple: prevent misuse of prescription drugs.
“By putting fewer pills out on the street there’s less chance for diversion and misuse,” Dr. William Goodman, chief medical officer at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, told WMUR.
The prevalence of prescription opioids has been a major issue in New Hampshire, as it has the rest of the country.
“We know that—[with] this crisis we’re in now with the opioid epidemic with people suffering addiction and overdoses and so on—we know that looking back, the number of prescriptions has quadrupled since about the year 2000,” Goodman said.
The New Hampshire program is similar to programs implemented in other states including New York, New Jersey and much more. While New Hampshire had a prescription drug monitoring program since 2012, the new regulations are aimed to have a bigger effect.
“What’s being done here has been shown to be effective elsewhere. And we hopefully will have the same success in seeing fewer pills on the street and fewer people suffering from the side effects of opioids,” Goodman said.
Along with the new legislation, Goodman encourages doctors to find alternatives to opioid pills for treating pain and other chronic conditions.
“Some of the safer and very effective alternatives are often difficult to afford, either because they’re too expensive or health insurance companies don’t support their use.”
There are a variety of treatment options deemed as alternatives to prescription opioids; however, they often are not utilized. Some of these alternative routes include medical marijuana, nerve blockers, or herbal remedies like capsaicin. There are a variety of reasons why alternatives are not common including, costs, the uncertainty of efficacy, and the lack of incentives compared to prescribing opioids.
The country is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Any step to reduce the impact of this epidemic is a step in the right direction. Do you think the new legislation will help in reducing the amount of dependence seen in this country to opioids? If not, what other methods should be sought out? If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please call now.
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