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Dangers of Mixing Methadone and Heroin

Methadone has been used as a form of medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, to address heroin addiction for decades. This is because it helps ease the withdrawal symptoms while also helping your body adjust to abstaining from heroin use. While methadone rarely provides heroin users with a high due to heightened tolerance, there are severe dangers from mixing methadone and heroin since these are both opioids.

We will explore what methadone is, why it’s commonly used for heroin MAT, whether methadone can make you high, and the dangers of mixing methadone and heroin.

What Is Methadone?

You might be surprised to hear that methadone is an opioid substance just like heroin. You might be wondering why heroin is dangerous while methadone is considered beneficial and used medically to assist with heroin use disorder. There is one major difference between methadone and heroin that has proven useful in overcoming cravings.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, methadone has a long half-life when compared to heroin. Heroin only temporarily binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, so many people need to use heroin several times throughout the day as the effects reduce.

Methadone has a relatively long half-life. This means that it binds to the opioid receptors typically for several days. It doesn’t result in the strong high associated with heroin while also ensuring that your brain has the opioid amount that it’s grown accustomed to. This should reduce biological cravings as your brain’s opioid receptors remain stimulated for days rather than hours.

Other Uses

Methadone has become synonymous with MAT, but NAMI reports that methadone is also used for other medical purposes. It is a relatively inexpensive painkiller compared to other opioids. This means that it can be prescribed by your doctor if you are experiencing pain.

Addiction and Improper Use

Some people believe methadone itself cannot lead to addiction or make you high. This thought makes sense because methadone is used to treat these very issues. The problem is that methadone is useful for easing heroin use but still comes with risks. According to WebMD, methadone use can become addictive. The possibility is significantly lower when compared to heroin use because the cravings aren’t as strong, but the possibility still exists. This is why it’s important to involve a doctor and only use as much as they prescribe.

In addition, methadone can produce a high feeling if you use too much. The feeling is considered weaker than if you use heroin, however. This is especially true if you have developed a tolerance to heroin or other strong opioid substances. That part is important because those who have developed a tolerance usually won’t feel much when using methadone.

While the addiction potential and high feeling are much lower than heroin, the possibility still exists. If you are using methadone for MAT or other prescription purposes, then it is important that you do not exceed the dose that you were prescribed. Not only that, but you have to consider the long half-life of methadone compared to heroin. Methadone’s effect lasts for days. That means that you could sustain this feeling for days, which can severely reduce your ability to function socially, at work, at school, and in many other environments.

Continued Heroin Use

You might be wondering why people would consider mixing methadone and heroin. If methadone binds to the opioid receptors and your body no longer needs it, then what is the point of using heroin?

While the cravings are reduced, methadone creates somewhat different feelings. According to NCBI, methadone is most commonly administered orally, while heroin is frequently injected, smoked, or snorted. Some people might miss the feeling of administration through these routes, which could possibly lead to continued heroin use. Methadone also doesn’t create the rush of euphoria that heroin is known for.

There are also behavioral components. Substance use recovery is about learning to avoid the people, places, and things associated with previous use. Many people who revisit these may activate previous behaviors and use heroin without really thinking about it.

Dangerous of Mixing Methadone and Heroin

There are many potential dangers of mixing methadone and heroin. Some people will continue using heroin despite having methadone. They do not get the high effect they typically do from heroin because their opioid receptors are already stimulated by heroin. This can result in some people using increasing doses of heroin.

According to NAMI, using methadone and any other opioid-like heroin can result in multiple problems.

While you likely won’t feel the effects of heroin while you’re using methadone, your body is still reacting. You can still overdose as the opioids slow your breathing and heart rate. The mixture can also lead to heavy sedation and even death resulting from an overdose. You may not think it’s doing harm because you won’t feel the heroin effects, but it’s still just as dangerous.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

If you are having difficulties controlling your use and cravings with heroin or another opioid substance, then a medication-assisted treatment program can be beneficial. There are several medications that can be used for heroin use, with methadone being the most common, but doctors can help determine if that’s the right one for you.

Methadone should biologically reduce cravings for heroin. While there might still be behaviors and habits present, these can be handled with therapy. A MAT program eases the withdrawal effects from heroin while also taking care of cravings.

If you’re ready to stop using heroin but find it difficult due to withdrawal symptoms and overall cravings, then a MAT program can be beneficial. Tell us your needs, and we can prescribe methadone or another helpful medication that will help with your recovery.

Intensive Outpatient Therapy

Intensive outpatient therapy, or IOP, is often a requirement if you are participating in a MAT program. This type of therapy is beneficial as it gives you enough time to learn about yourself, what led to substance use, and healthier ways to cope with stress. IOP is group therapy, so you will be with several other peers who are also going through a similar recovery journey.

IOP treatment is several hours long, and you will typically meet three times a week. This is considered substantial enough to help you learn new ways of living and recognize the habits behind the addiction. A qualified therapist will lead the group to ensure that everyone keeps up with their recovery.

Outpatient therapy is sometimes combined with IOP when you’re participating in a MAT program, but it’s rarely used on its own. Individual therapy with your counselor can help give you a little extra time to explore yourself and to learn new coping strategies.

Partial Hospitalization and Residential Treatment

If you’re finding it difficult to manage your stressors while living at home or your environment is not supportive of your recovery, then you may want to consider either partial hospitalization or residential treatment. Both of these give you extra time in a caring environment so that you can work on yourself and further your recovery efforts to avoid opioids or any other substances.

Partial hospitalization is a program where you stay at a rehab facility’s premises during the day. You will be able to participate in group and individual therapy, do activities with your peers to help your recovery efforts and get extra attention to help you work on coping skills and stress management. Many people like this program because they can go home at night or continue working while participating in treatment.

If that isn’t quite enough, then consider residential treatment. This allows you to live at the facility both day and night. Much like partial hospitalization, you will also participate in various treatment modalities and activities while living here. This is better for those who are finding themselves highly stressed from family, work, and their overall environment.

Residential treatment gives you space to work on your recovery without worrying about anything else. You can then go back to your life after you’ve learned the coping skills and strategies needed to refrain from using substances.

Granite Recovery Centers

We were founded over 10 years ago and have helped many people like you in the New Hampshire and surrounding New England area. Our skilled counselors and doctors will lend an empathetic ear to your struggles and help you recover from opioids or any other substance.

Methadone is currently one of the most common forms of MAT for heroin use because it reduces biological cravings. While that takes care of one aspect of treatment, we will also assign you a counselor to help manage your stress, cravings, habits, and anything else that led to and sustained heroin use. Our entire team will work together to help wean you off opioids and move you toward an effective recovery.

If you’re ready to recover from heroin use, then we are here to help. Not only can we administer methadone or other similar medications like suboxone and Vivitrol, but we are also here to provide support groups and therapy to help you with underlying concerns.

We are entirely focused on your recovery, and we know you can do it. Contact us today so that we can hear about your concerns, create an effective treatment plan and start you on the road to recovery.

Conclusion

Methadone is very commonly used as MAT to help with heroin cravings. What you may not know is that methadone is also an opioid medication, but it has some big differences that make it useful for recovery. It has a very long half-life, so it effectively stimulates your opioid receptors and doesn’t usually produce the high feeling more commonly associated with heroin.

At the same time, you should take caution with methadone. If you don’t have a tolerance to opioids or you use too much, then methadone can itself become addictive and make you feel high. That is why it’s always important to use this under doctor supervision. You also don’t want to mix methadone and heroin, as this can lead to an overdose.

If you are interested in using methadone to help with heroin cravings, you are already using methadone and feel that your current prescriber isn’t helping enough, or you just want to discuss your heroin or methadone use in general, then contact Granite Recovery Centers, and we will be there for you. Not only do we offer various levels of treatment, but we treat all our clients with the respect that they deserve. Get in touch today to begin your recovery journey.