Levacetylmethadol Withdrawal

  • Generic Name or Active Ingridient: LAAM

The Food and Drug Administration approved Levacetylmethadol for use in 1993. Doctors prescribe levacetylmethadol to help patients overcome addiction to opioid drugs, such as heroin, codeine, morphine, OxyContin and others. Levacetylmethadol is one type of drug replacement therapy, or DRT. Other types of DRT medications include methadone and Suboxone.

Due to the potentially unsafe side effects associated with this drug, including irregular heart rhythms, levacetylmethadol is suitable only for those people who do not respond well to other forms of treatment for opioid addiction.

Levacetylmethadol is also an opioid, but it does not cause the euphoria that other opioids do. Levacetylmethadol has a long onset, which means it takes a while to "kick in." It also has a lengthy duration, with the effects lasting up to 72 hours.

Levacetylmethadol is more active and more toxic than morphine. Abstinence syndrome, commonly known as detox or withdrawal, is similar to morphine except that levacetylmethadol withdrawal is associated with less severe withdrawal symptoms, has a slower onset and lasts longer.

Once the patient has overcome his primary addiction to the opioid drug, he must detoxify his body from levacetylmethadol - a process that usually involves enduring flu-like withdrawal symptoms.

Definition

Levacetylmethadol withdrawal is the wide set of symptoms an opioid-dependent person experiences when he stops using this medication, or when he takes a drug that lowers the level of levacetylmethadol in his system. Levacetylmethadol withdrawal is a normal, physiological response to taking this medication for a long time. Withdrawal symptoms are not necessarily an indication of criminal drug abuse.

The physical symptoms associated with levacetylmethadol withdrawal can last a week or more; psychological symptoms of withdrawal can last much longer, especially when left untreated.

Causes

The human body adjusts to the occurrence of certain foreign substances, including prescription painkillers and levacetylmethadol, by changing its own chemistry to achieve a safe chemical balance. With continued use, the body may grow tolerant of certain chemicals, which means it takes an ever-increasing amount of opioids to cause the intended euphoric or pain-relieving effect. With prolonged use, the body may become dependent on the foreign substance; this means the individual must maintain a certain level of opioids for the body to feel normal.

If the level of opioids drops rapidly, the body struggles to maintain its chemical balance. The individual feels this battle for chemical stability through uncomfortable, flu-like withdrawal symptoms. Doctors call this process detoxification.

Even though doctors prescribe levacetylmethadol to help patients overcome opioid withdrawal symptoms, it is possible to become physically dependent on levacetylmethadol and suffer withdrawal symptoms upon sudden cessation or fast tapering.

Facts

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved levacetylmethadol for use in 1993. Physicians prescribe levacetylmethadol as part of drug replacement therapy, or DRT, for the treatment of opioid dependency or addiction. Levacetylmethadol contains a mild opioid that reduces withdrawal symptoms but this drug does not cause euphoria like other opioids.

Levacetylmethadol is an effective second-line treatment for opioid dependency for individuals who do not respond to methadone or buprenorphine. Due to the potentially unsafe side effects associated with levacetylmethadol such as irregular heart rhythms, this medication is suitable only for those individuals who do not respond well to other forms of treatment for opioid addiction.

Levacetylmethadol is an opioid. It is possible to become physically dependent or addicted to Levacetylmethadol, even when used as prescribed. Withdrawal symptoms are painful and demoralizing, but usually not life threatening.

Symptoms

Withdrawal from opioids is typically associated with physical symptoms similar to the flu, but withdrawal also causes psychological symptoms whose demoralizing affects can be just as overpowering as the physical symptoms of withdrawal.

Physical symptoms of levacetylmethadol withdrawal typically include nasal congestion, abdominal symptoms, diarrhea, muscle aches and anxiety. Physical symptoms of levacetylmethadol withdrawal last for several days but psychological symptoms can linger undetected.

Psychological symptoms of levacetylmethadol withdrawal can prevent recovery, especially if left untreated. An individual who is facing levacetylmethadol withdrawal has had a long and difficult experience with opioid addiction, intolerance to methadone and Suboxone treatments and a lengthy course of levacetylmethadol therapy. Psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression can make a person feel incapable or unworthy of a full recovery.

Possible Complications

Complications of levacetylmethadol withdrawal include vomiting and then breathing the stomach contents into the lungs, which may result in infection. Prolonged or extreme vomiting and diarrhea can cause dangerous dehydration. The primary complication associated with levacetylmethadol withdrawal is the return to drug abuse - relapse is common.

Treatment options

About 9 percent of people abuse opioids at some point in their lives. Continued opioid abuse increases the risk for developing a dependence on opioids. When other methods, such as methadone or Suboxone do not work, patients may use levacetylmethadol to overcome opioid dependence; some of these individuals then become dependent on levacetylmethadol and need treatment for withdrawal symptoms.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 23 million people in the United States over the age of 12-years needed treatment for alcohol or substance abuse in 2010; of these patients, only about 11 percent received treatment at a specialty facility, like those licensed to dispense levacetylmethadol.

Self-Detoxification

Because they have participated in rehabilitation and DRT, some levacetylmethadol users feel they can detoxify themselves, without the help of specially trained professionals. This is known as self-detoxification, or going "cold turkey." Cold turkey refers to the way skin looks like plucked poultry: pale, cold and clammy, with goose bumps.

Self-detoxification from levacetylmethadol is relatively unpleasant. The patient faces complications such as aspiration, dehydration and relapse. Overpowering withdrawal symptoms send many patients back to drug use.

Some individuals try to overcome withdrawal symptoms by drafting a homemade treatment plan including medicines to ease anxiety, stop diarrhea, soothe muscle aches and help the patient sleep. One such remedy is the Thomas Recipe, which includes prescription anti-anxiety drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements.

While the Thomas recipe eases withdrawal symptoms somewhat, it does not reduce the risk for complications or relapse. Returning to opioid abuse increases the risk for overdose. Even a moderate attempt at detoxification lowers the body's tolerance to opioids. After experiencing even modest withdrawal symptoms, a person could potentially overdose on a smaller amount of Levacetylmethadol than he used to take.

Most cases of levacetylmethadol overdose involve another drug. It is rare to overdose on levacetylmethadol alone; these rare cases have always been the result of taking levacetylmethadol too frequently. Overdose is primarily a concern for individuals who are not tolerant to opioids, either because the person has not taken opioids for very long or because he has recently attempted detoxification.

Overdose symptoms include:

  • Extreme Drowsiness
  • Pinpoint Pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Ringing in the Ears
  • Cold, Clammy Skin
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Fainting
  • Weak Pulse
  • Slow Heart Rate
  • Coma
  • Blue Lips
  • Shallow Breathing or No Breathing

Overdose is a serious, life threatening medical emergency that requires immediate professional care. In the emergency department, doctors administer naloxone and other medications to reduce opioids to non-toxic levels rapidly. Nurses establish an airway to help the patient breathe and monitor his vital signs. Nurses may empty the patient's stomach or administer charcoal to absorb excess levacetylmethadol. If necessary, nurses and doctors perform life saving measures such as CPR.

Once the patient's Levacetylmethadol levels are within safe levels, she may continue her behavioral therapy program as an outpatient.

Standard detox

Many patients choose inpatient detoxification programs in which doctors administer drugs such as naloxone to lower levacetylmethadol levels and still more medications to deal with the ensuing withdrawal symptoms. Standard detoxification methods reduce levacetylmethadol withdrawal symptoms and lessen the duration of detoxification, but these treatments do little to ease the demoralizing psychological aspects of levacetylmethadol withdrawal.

Rapid Detox

Most professionals consider rapid detox the most humane and effective way to address levacetylmethadol withdrawal. Along with the standard detoxification medications, board certified anesthesiologists administer sedatives and anesthesia. The patient dozes in a comfortable "twilight sleep." When the patient awakens a few hours later, she has no memory of the grueling detoxification process. This patient is in a better psychological state to engage in further behavior modification.

Rehabilitation

Medically assisted detoxification such as rapid detox is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug abuse. Once the patient has finished levacetylmethadol withdrawal, he may participate in more rehabilitation to learn how to live a drug-free life. No single treatment is right for everyone, but experts agree that treatment must be readily available to be effective. Remaining in treatment for an adequate time is critical to recovery.

This treatment should tend to the multiple needs of the individual, not just his dependence on levacetylmethadol or other opioids. Many people dependent on opioids or levacetylmethadol also have other mental disorders. Medications such as levacetylmethadol or antidepressants are an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies.

Individual, family and group counseling can help a patient address his social needs as well as help his family understand the nature of opioid dependence and levacetylmethadol withdrawal.

The professional overseeing the patient's recovery from levacetylmethadol withdrawal should continually assess and modify the treatment plan accordingly to ensure it meets the patient's changing needs.