Updated on January 28, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Opioids come in many forms, including those doctors prescribe. While we often think of drugs like heroin when we look at the increasing addiction rates in the United States, plenty of addictions involve prescription medications. Dolophine is an opioid drug that physicians commonly prescribe due to its affordability.
Dolophine is a branded medication with the primary ingredient methadone, an addictive opioid. You can take it as a tablet or a liquid. Doctors use it to treat chronic pain or to relieve heroin withdrawal symptoms. Despite its use to help addicts recover, it can cause addiction and overdose itself if not taken correctly.
Side effects of Dolophine include:
When common Dolophine side effects become long-lasting or severe, a patient should get medical attention. They should also seek emergency care if they begin to feel faint or have trouble breathing. Experiencing symptoms like seizures and breathing problems can indicate an overdose. Patients who take opioids like Dolophine are often told to have a rescue medication nearby in case they accidentally take too much.
Some doctors use Dolophine for heroin addiction recovery because it stays in the system for one to three days, reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. However, its long-acting nature also means it can build up in the body easily when someone takes a larger than recommended dose.
When used for chronic pain, the patient can develop a tolerance, increasing their risk of misuse. While taking Dolophine as recommended has a low chance of addiction, it can be easy to abuse or misuse it accidentally. Taking too much Dolophine or using it incorrectly sharply increases the chance of dependence.
Since Dolophine and other kinds of methadone have such a relatively low cost, physicians often prescribe it against FDA recommendations. Insurance companies may cover methadone drugs instead of safer painkillers. As a result, patients received more than four million methadone prescriptions in 2009. Yet, during the same year, one in three prescription painkiller deaths involved methadone. The wide availability of Dolophine also makes it easy to sell on the illegal market. It can easily get into the hands of patients who seek out multiple prescriptions or loved ones who abuse the drug.
Treating opioid addiction with methadone is a harm reduction strategy intended as a first step, but we have an alternative we can’t ignore.
Cannabis medicine has been shown to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms in recovering opioid addicts. It has fewer and safer side effects and a much lower chance of dependence. You can’t lethally overdose on marijuana, but you can on methadone. Yet, addiction clinics use methadone anyway.
Scientific evidence shows that medical marijuana has great potential for replacing methadone in addiction treatment. Scavone et al. compiled the research we have on the subject and found that cannabis targets the same parts of the brain as opioids. As a result, it satisfies the same cravings as methadone.
In addition, medicinal cannabis could reduce the need to prescribe opioids like methadone in the first place. Doctors generally use opioids to treat severe or chronic pain. But, medical marijuana can also treat pain, working just as well or even better than opioids. States that allow cannabis medicine have reduced opioid prescriptions, suggesting they can take their place.
With more research being done and more states legalizing medical cannabis, the United States is slowly realizing we have a powerful tool in the fight against addiction. Follow our news and updates and social media channels to learn the latest developments.
Check out our resources on specific opiates and medical marijuana: