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      Sober Nation

      Putting Recovery On The Map

      09-27-15 | By

      Methadone Increases The Risk Of Death For Those Seeking Treatment For Opiate Abuse

      methadone study

      Are you or a loved one about to do into drug treatment for an addiction to opiates or prescription painkillers? If you are, you need to beware of the use of methadone during the detoxification process. According to information taken from a recent study done in England, the use of methadone increases the risk of death in those who are seeking treatment for opiate drugs in comparison to other treatments such as buprenorphine.

      Behind the Numbers

      Recently, researchers from the University of Bristol in London, England published a study in which they reviewed the records over over 32,000 patients who had entered drug treatment for opiate addiction between 2001 and 2010. In this sampling of treatment clients, researchers studied the course of treatment between those patients who started treatment with methadone and those who used buprenorphine.

      Researchers found those who used methadone in the first four weeks of treatment were five times more likely to die when compared to those who used alternative medications such as buprenorphine. However, after the four week mark of treatment, there was little or no difference seen regarding the risk of death between the two medications.

      Why Is Methadone Dangerous in Recovery?

      If we look at the results of this study at face value and see that methadone increases the risk of death in early recovery, the obvious follow-up question that is in the forefront of our minds is ‘why is this medication dangerous?”. For decades, methadone was the main medication administered to addicts to help wean them off of opiate drugs such as heroin.

      In recent years, however, alternative medications such as suboxone and buprenorphine have gained favor in the treatment community. This is due to the fact that while methadone is an effective medication, this effectiveness can come with consequences for those seeking treatment.

      Methadone itself is a powerful opiate drug. While it doesn’t produce the euphoria that opiates like heroin do, it is similar in the way is affects the body. The danger lies in the fact that methadone stays in your body for up to 36 hours–and this timeframe is even longer in those that have underlying kidney and liver problems. If a person who is addicted to opiates relapses while on methadone the risk of overdose and death dramatically increases.

      Additionally, methadone is a drug that has what is called a narrow therapeutic range. This means that it is difficult to get the correct dose that will provide benefit without someone overdosing. Therefore, if too much methadone is administered during the detoxification phase of treatment, addicts can experience an overdose.

      A Dilemma Emerges…

      While methadone increases the risk of death in those seeking treatment, treatment centers do face somewhat of a dilemma. Researchers of this recent study note that while medications such as buprenorphine are safer, people who take those medications have higher treatment dropout rates. As a result, drug treatment professionals must find ways to reduce patient risk while increasing the chances that addicts complete treatment.

      The researchers of this current study have suggested a “stepped” approach to detoxification where patients would be administered buprenorphine in the first critical weeks of the treatment process then switch to methadone if needed. Another critical component that can’t be overlooked is the necessity of performing a comprehensive medical evaluation during during the detox process to screen for any underlying conditions that could make certain medication interventions more risky.

      For more information on methadone, buprenorphine and other medications that are used in the drug treatment process, be sure to visit Sober Nation. As the world’s premier internet addiction and recovery resource, we provide you with the insightful and informative blogs and articles that will help you become better informed.

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