Opiate medications are commonly used to control moderate to severe acute pain. They are typically used for a short time because they cause physiological tolerance (takes more to get the same analgesic effect) and physical dependence (get withdrawal symptoms if abruptly stopped) as amount and duration of doses increase. Longer-term use is indicated to alleviate the chronic pain associated with cancer and certain other conditions, and research has shown that abuse of these medications rarely occurs in such patients. Severe and chronic pain has long been under treated in the United States due to irrational fears that anyone prescribed opiates will become addicted. This has clearly been shown to be not the case. People with substance use disorders need pain management just like anyone else. Opioids are appropriately prescribed to manage chronic cancer pain—especially fentanyl, oxycodone and methadone.
Methadone is a synthetic opioid used in heroin detoxification treatment programs to maintain sobriety from heroin use disorders. Many people who have been addicted to heroin have returned to a productive life because of methadone treatment. Methadone is also frequently used to provide relief for specific types of pain, especially in pain clinics. The management of chronic pain in a person who has been opiate abusing and dependent is one of the most challenging tasks in medicine.
Heroin is a drug of abuse.