Methadone Alternatives for Opioid Withdrawals

Get Options Instead of Methadone at Icarus in New Mexico

More Americans today struggle with opioid addiction than ever before. Public health officials even have a name for it – the opioid dependence crisis. Many clinics use medication-assisted treatment to help people recover. Amid this crisis, healthcare professionals are turning to methadone treatment and methadone alternatives to help their clients heal.

You might wonder why medication-assisted treatment is necessary. Why not just quit? Many ask this question, not fully understanding how wholly and quickly someone can become physically dependent on an opioid drug.

The professional team at Icarus Behavioral Health understands the urgency of this matter. We know that starting treatment is a brave choice. We applaud you for seeking information on recovering from opioid use disorder.

Opioid addiction treatment is waiting for you at our recovery center. Read on to learn more about the severity of the opioid epidemic, methadone treatment, and several alternatives to help our clients recover.

What Is an Opioid?

Oxycodone Is an Opioid

Opioid is a term referring to a highly regulated drug class. Doctors typically only prescribe these prescription painkillers for the most severe pain. They commonly prescribe them after an invasive surgery, for cancer, and during end-of-life care.

Some of the drugs in the class include these familiar names:

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl – This synthetic opioid is legal when prescribed but lethal on the streets.

Opioids are a controlled substance – legal when someone uses them as prescribed by a physician. Some are in pill form, others are injections. However, all alter the proteins in the brain called opioid receptors, creating euphoric effects. Those same receptors also make them more potent than other pain relievers – and likelier for abuse.

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Why Opioid Addiction Happens So Often

Opioids can tamper with the brain’s reward system. That’s because they release a strong hit of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that signals pleasure. After prolonged use, the brain might start to rely on those opioids to release dopamine. That can result in increased drug consumption.

As mentioned, many doctors give these drugs to help patients deal with pain. However, the body quickly becomes physically dependent. That dependence may lead to prolonged use.

After extended use, the body becomes reliant on the drugs. Users can experience painful withdrawal symptoms without it, including intense cravings, nausea, muscle pain, and even anxiety. Plus, they develop tolerance, which means they need to use more of the drug to feel the same high that they used to take only a little bit.

Chronic misuse or abuse could change the same opioid receptors in the brain, as mentioned earlier. This can impair a person’s decision-making ability, regulate mood, and feel joy.

The Opioid Addiction Problem Is Widespread in America

If you struggle with opioids or heroin, the street alternative, you are not alone. Many other people are like you, facing face the same challenges.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is warning the public about the fast-increasing number of opioid users. They warn that over ten million Americans over 12 misused opioids in 2021.

They also call for an array of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) treatment. They note that recovery centers are not accessible to all. They suggest strategies should also include community-wide prevention, education about opioid addiction, and harm reduction strategies.

What Is Methadone and How Does it Work?

 Methadone Opioid Addiction

Methadone is a prescription often used to treat opioid addiction. They’re administered daily from methadone clinics, which prescribe it as substitution therapy for other forms of opioid dependence, such as with heroin or fentanyl.

In other words, methadone clinics reduce a person’s reliance on other opioids and switch instead to methadone.

Methadone works by helping those who struggle with illicit opioids reduce drug cravings and opiate withdrawal symptoms. It also helps clients remove themselves from the dangers of illegally obtained drugs like heroin or fentanyl – both of which create a similar high.

While some are short-acting opioids, methadone is long-acting. That means some people will visit a methadone clinic once daily to receive treatment. Methadone maintenance may also help protect them from the added risks that can result from interacting with street dealers several times throughout the day

Know the Key Signs of an Opioid Overdose

Do you or a loved one use opioids – either street drugs or prescriptions? Knowing these overdose signs could save someone’s life. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration explains why you should watch for these things:

  • Clammy skin
  • A pale complexion
  • Body goes limp
  • Appears to be asleep but can’t awaken
  • Breathing stops
  • Heartbeat slows or stops
  • A blue or purple tint to the lips or fingernails
  • Vomiting
  • Gurgling noises
  • Loss of speech

This is a dire medical emergency. Dial 911 and request an ambulance. The 911 attendant may advise you to start CPR or chest compression, especially if the person cannot breathe.

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Why Some Seek Methadone Alternatives

Why would someone coping with a drug addiction try to find alternatives to methadone?

The answer is simple. Methadone is an opioid, so its use can lead to physical dependence.

If the person stops taking it suddenly, they may develop withdrawal symptoms similar to fentanyl and heroin. Those might include a runny nose, yawning, chills or goosebumps, aching muscles, irritability, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Some other side effects of methadone treatment include the following symptoms:

  • Sleepiness
  • Constipation or difficult bowel movements
  • Weight gain
  • Excessive sweating
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sexual dysfunction or lower libido
  • Dry mouth and accelerating damage to teeth
  • Skin rash or itchy skin
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

Although those may sound alarming, remember you will receive daily care from a specialist. They can help you work through the discomforts. It is more important to treat an opioid addiction than ignore it, even when facing those symptoms.

What Are Some Methadone Alternative Medications?

Methadone Alternative Medications

If you or a loved one needs addiction treatment, here are some alternatives to methadone to talk over with your treatment team:

Buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, Sublocade)

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. It activates opioid receptors in the brain but with fewer side effects than a full opioid agonist (methadone or morphine.) The medication is available in several formulations. One is Suboxone, which combines two medications – buprenorphine and naloxone to prevent misuse. Another is called Subutex, which is a buprenorphine alone.

Why would someone choose Buprenorphine or Buprenorphine and Naloxone? Here are a few reasons:

Buprenorphine has a “ceiling effect,” meaning it caps off after reaching a specific dose. This medication can reduce the risk of respiratory depression and overdose.

A Range of MAT Options to Meet Your Needs

Some doctors will prescribe a month’s supply of daily Suboxone or Subutex, eliminating the inconvenience of a daily stop at the methadone clinic. Another emerging alternative to methadone is Sublocade, a tapered Suboxone dosage that is administered once each month.

Clients are also far less likely to abuse these methadone alternatives. That’s especially true for Suboxone. The naloxone in it deters intravenous misuse by causing withdrawal symptoms if injected.

A few possible side effects of Buprenorphine are nausea, vomiting, constipation, muscle aches, insomnia, and sweats. There’s also a slight risk of respiratory depression (but that occurs in all opioid drugs.) However, this danger is far lower than with a full opioid agonist.

A Real Suboxone Success Story

Jane, a 34-year-old mother, struggled with opioid addiction for a decade. After several failed treatments, she gave sobriety another try. Her treatment center prescribed Suboxone. The combination of this medicine and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Suboxone helped her regain control of her life. Today, she’s celebrating three years of sustained recovery. She swears to all who will listen that buprenorphine was the turning point of her addiction to prescription medications.

Naltrexone or Vivitrol

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist and another proven medication-assisted treatment option. That term means that it blocks opioid receptors in the brain. As a result, it prevents other opioids from activating these receptors, stopping the euphoria associated with opioid use.

Here are some reasons that some clients require Naltrexone to beat their opioid dependence:

Vivitrol is a once-a-month injection form of Naltrexone. It has far longer-lasting effects. There’s also no need to visit methadone clinics every day.

It also significantly reduces cravings. Perhaps more importantly, the drug is an antagonist, meaning someone cannot misuse it to get high.

A Naltrexone Success Story

Mark, a 28-year-old former heroin user, had relapsed multiple times until his treatment team tried Vivitrol. Mark could not enter inpatient therapy because he was his aging mother’s caretaker. The pressures of caring for his mom’s failing health triggered relapse after relapse.

The monthly injections and intensive outpatient therapy at Icarus Behavioral Health helped him stay sober. Now that he’s off heroin and other opioids, he attends support groups weekly. He is stronger than ever. Now, he handles his stressful home life gracefully.


Clonidine is a prescription high-blood pressure medication. Addiction treatment specialists may also prescribe it off-label for managing opioid withdrawal symptoms. It reduces the release of norepinephrine, the neurotransmitter that causes many withdrawal symptoms.

Clonidine is not an opioid, unlike the others we mentioned. Instead of replacing the opioid, it helps to manage withdrawal symptoms. It doesn’t address cravings like opioid-replacement therapies do. Therefore, it poses the least risk of opioid misuse or addiction.

Clonidine can alleviate many opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, agitation, sore muscles, and sweating. But like any prescription drug, it comes with potential side effects. These may include drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation, and low blood pressure.

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Opiate-Free: Thanks to Clonidine and Her Recovery Work

Paulina, a CEO, became addicted to Oxycodone after she had surgery. But because of her powerful career, she had no time for daily visits. But she was also unwilling to risk her powerful job. Before her surgery, she was completely sober and rarely even drank alcohol.

She knew that opioid addiction treatment was her only option. Her doctor suggested a methadone clinic. Instead of risking swapping some harmful opioids for lesser ones, she chose Icarus Behavioral Health. She used her vacation time and underwent medical detox with Clonidine to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

When she returned to her office, Paulina followed her medical detox time with three weeks of intensive outpatient therapy. She’s healed from her surgery – and has broken free of opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Icarus Offers a Range of Proven Methadone Alternatives

Range of Proven Methadone Alternatives

We take tremendous pride in treating every client individually. We understand that not every person wants to use methadone. Besides medication-assisted treatment, our scope of treatment includes individual counseling, group and family therapy, and additional resources.

Icarus offers hope – and the chance that can only come from a fully supported recovery process.

Call our admissions team today at 505.305.0902. There’s no better time to end your substance abuse and start fresh. All calls are completely confidential, so please reach out for methadone alternatives and get help at Icarus today!

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