Last updated: 04/22/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Though methadone maintenance has been a trusted treatment option for the care of opioid addicts for over forty years, there are still many individuals who feel it is just a replacement for addiction, that using methadone itself is just as dangerous as abusing opioids.
This is untrue, and below are 6 reasons why methadone maintenance treatment isn’t just a replacement for addiction.
1. Administration is Everything
Some of the most addictive opioids––such as heroin––are injected, smoked, or snorted. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this causes “an almost immediate ‘rush,’ or brief period of intense euphoria, that wears off quickly and ends in a ‘crash.’” This is what causes cravings to occur as well as compulsive abuse and drug seeking behavior. Methadone is usually ingested as a pill or liquid and, therefore, has a slow onset of action. An individual who takes opioids as they were meant to be administered will not experience this cycle, allowing them to avoid the consequences highlighted above.
2. Methadone Doesn’t Cause Intoxication
When a person is high on heroin, they cannot think straight, and many dangerous side effects can occur from this issue. As stated by the NIDA, “Properly prescribed, methadone is not intoxicating or sedating and does not interfere with ordinary activities like driving a car.” It is perfectly safe to use the drug every day and to go about one’s normal life while doing so.
3. It Blocks the Effects of Other Opioids
Though it is not the medication’s main job, methadone can block the euphoric effects of other opioids if taken correctly and as prescribed by one’s doctor. If someone on methadone takes heroin, “the euphoric effects are usually dampened or suppressed,” and the patient does not experience any highs and lows created by the methadone itself (NIDA 1).
4. It Helps to Stabilize the Patient
Many individuals cannot begin their therapeutic treatment until their withdrawal symptoms and cravings are controlled as well as many of the other issues associated with suddenly quitting opioid use. Taking doctor-recommended dosages of methadone allows patients to be stable during this time and not experience severe side effects of their decision to quit, making it much easier for them to avoid relapse.
5. It Minimizes Other Issues Associated with Drug Abuse
When methadone is taken as prescribed, it has been found to minimize crime, unwanted pregnancies, overdose, the contracting and transmitting of diseases, and many other issues drug addicts often encounter. If a person continues to use heroin or another abused opioid, these problems persist and often worsen.
6. MMT is Highly Regulated
Methadone maintenance is one of the most heavily regulated treatment options in the country. Though methadone itself can be addictive if taken in high doses, patients must come into the clinic every day and receive their dosage from medical professionals to ensure that they do not abuse the drug.