Methadone in Addiction Treatment–Some Facts

Methadone in addiction treatment has been a controversial issue throughout the years. Even now in some circles the controversy continues. People have objected to the use of ‘one drug to replace another drug’, for example. Still others

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view methadone as a merciful medication that saves lives. If you, or a loved one, is addicted to heroin or another opioid drug, you may be a candidate for a methadone maintenance treatment program. Only a qualified physician can make that determination. However, it is worth your while to become more educated about the issue so you can make a more informed choice if you think it might be appropriate.

The Basics

Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist–a chemical that targets brain receptors to which the drug of addiction would attach. Methadone ‘satisfies’ those receptors, essentially causing the brain to believe that the drug of addiction is still in the body. Methadone is available through prescription, but is controlled by legal mandates in many ways that are much stricter and more comprehensive than usual prescription medications. For example, it must be given with supervision and monitoring for each dose at a clinic. People take methadone unsupervised only on days that the clinic is closed, or after a good deal of time in the program. It is taken orally and typically dispensed in a liquid such as an orange drink while a medical practitioner is present and observing.

Once on the right dose, you can expect that methadone will suppress any withdrawal symptoms you have had from stopping your drug of addiction. You will also have less cravings, and if the dose is correct, you will not experience euphoria or sedation. Additionally, if you do take opioids (like heroin) while using methadone, the effects of those drugs is reduced. These effects of methadone are said to enable people with opioid addictions to dramatically improve their quality of life. They are relieved from the compulsive use of opioids and from the lifestyle surrounding the need to obtain and use those substances illegally.

The Research

Methadone maintenance has been well researched. It has proven effective for heroin addiction and addiction to prescription opioids in many ways. Some of these are:

  • It reduces the use of illegal drugs, or misuse of prescription drugs
  • It reduces criminal activity previously associated with obtaining and using opioids
  • It improves infection control among people with addiction as in reduction of needle sharing, reduction in HIV infection rates
  • It is associated with improved overall health
  • It improves addiction treatment compliance