Taking Methadone for a long time

Patient

Q: My wife has been dealing with herniated discs for 10 plus years. Doctors have prescribed her all sorts of medications throughout the years also stress medications and steroids. She is now taking methedone and functions almost normally now. Her doctors decided they no longer want her to be on this medication and are trying to cut her off. Is it dangerous to be on ths medication if it helps, and is it dangerous if they just take it away from her.

Doctor

A:    Methadone is an opioid (a synthetic opiate) that was originally synthesized by German pharmaceutical companies during the second world war. It was first marketed as ‘Dolophine’ and was used as an analgesic (a painkiller) for the treatment of severe pain. It is still occasionally used for pain relief. Methadone is now primarily used today for the treatment of narcotic addiction. The effects of methadone last longer than those of morphine-based drugs. Methadone’s effects can last up to 36 hours, permitting administration only once a day in heroin detoxification and maintenance programs. Methadone generally entails the entire spectrum of opioid side effects, including the development of tolerance and physical and psychological dependence. Other symptoms are: constipation, nausea or vomiting, sedation, vertigo, edema. As an opiate, regular use of methadone causes physical dependency, and once you stop , you will experience a withdrawal. The physical changes due to the drug are similar to other opiates (like heroin); suppressed cough reflex, contracted pupils, drowsiness and constipation. Some methadone users feel sick when they first use the drug. In women using methadone may not have regular periods , but they are still able to conceive.

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