Sometimes known on the streets as “chocolate chip cookies” or “wafer,” methadone is a powerful narcotic that can wreak havoc on its users. Its original use as a pain killer has made it a popular prescription medicine. When a drug comes into frequent use as a medical treatment, it often drifts out into the streets as well.
Methadone is prescribed today not just as a pain-killer but as a treatment for addiction to heroin and other powerful opiates. Methadone itself is an opioid and can lead to an addiction of its own. Proper medical supervision is needed to keep patients from overdosing or entering methadone withdrawal too quickly for their systems to handle.
Heroin provides a good example of how a legitimate prescription medicine can lead to drug abuse. By the 1800s, heroin was used by doctors around the world as a treatment for pain. It was the medicine of choice.
Because of its popularity as a medicine given by doctors, it became widely known for its ability to ease its users out of their physical and psychical pains. People began to take it without doctors’ care. Thus heroin addiction became a major problem as early as the 19th Century.
Addiction is blind to social classes and walks of life. Many people become addicted based on an original medical reason for taking a drug. When prescription drugs move out into the unregulated marketplace, danger goes along with them.
On the streets, methadone and other desirable drugs may be mixed with other substances. Some of these such as tranquilizers can overpower a person’s nervous system and lead to coma and death. If methadone is cut with something that has little effect, the user may rush into unexpected withdrawal symptoms. The unknown purity of the street version can led to medical crisis
Federal and state laws govern methadone. When it is prescribed as a pain killer, it comes under the general regulations for all controlled substances. Used as a medicine to help wean addicts off heroin and other illegal drugs, more stringent laws apply.
Using it on the streets means major trouble with the law for those who are caught. But those simply caught in addiction to it are in plenty of trouble as it is. There are severe risks to health and life associated with methadone abuse.
The synthetic opioid was developed in German laboratories in the late 1930s. On the verge of the second World War, German government officials ordered scientists to create alternate painkillers for the opium-based medicines that Germany would be cut off from during the war. At the time of its creation by chemical company I. G. Farben, the synthetic product was called Amidon.
Later following Germany’s defeat in the war, its patents on all prescription medicines were cancelled. The United States offered methadone under the name Dolophine in 1947. Soon everyone called it simply “methadone.”
By the start of the 21st Century, methadone was widely used in licensed clinics to help heroin and other narcotic addicts leave behind their addictions to illegal drugs. Doctors essentially replace the addict’s other drug with methadone. It comes in several forms including tablets, discs, oral doses, and liquid to be injected.
Its ease of use and ready availability helped it find its way out of the clinic into the hands of dealers. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says that government officials have been seizing increasingly larger numbers of items that are related to methadone use. Eleven years ago, approximately 2,865 such items went in for analysis at forensic labs. Five years ago, 262 per cent more, or 10,361 items had been seized.
Deaths from methadone overdose are on the rise. Some of these fatalities come from people combining methadone with other substances such as alcohol. Other deaths occur when addicts prescribed a certain amount take more than what is appropriate for their size, age, and addiction situation.
Serious side effects and other deaths result simply from people seeking a high and ingesting too much methadone. It is a powerful medication and needs supervision for its users to avoid serious complications. Its popularity on the streets is a cause for concern across the U.S.
When people learn more about methadone, they may become more wary of it. It is extremely useful for those addicts who want freedom from illegal drugs. It becomes a problem when it is treated as a recreational drug or a means of easing pain without the guidance of a physician.
The glow that methadone imparts can be short-lived compared to its power to addict. Although it is an effective weapon to help people overcome addiction, methadone when abused becomes a dangerous substance that does more harm than good. Anyone addicted to methadone can get help at the very clinics that dispense it as a treatment for addiction to other drugs.