Should you consider methadone maintenance therapy?

Methadone therapy is a synonym for methadone addiction, and is not a real cure from drug dependency. The best way to get off heroin is to do it the hard way, and the honest way. Suffer the pains of detox, do the counseling, and then begin your life in recovery. It’s never easy, but it can work, and it can really free you from your heroin addiction. Any addiction to opiates is tough (I know firsthand!) and the dreaded agony of the pains of withdrawal make the thought of getting clean a pretty scary proposition. So when avoiding detox is coupled with some pretty impressive long term success rates when on methadone, it can be tempting to go the opiate substitution route, and try to get clean through a very long process of tapering down.

Methadone maintenance therapy has addicts trade their heroin use for safe doses of methadone. Doses that will keep the pains of withdrawal well away, but will not serve to intoxicate and will allow the user to function normally in society. The downside to this of course is that some people that entered methadone maintenance 10 or even 20 years ago remain methadone addicts, and although they are not using heroin (and as such are a part of the success rates as advertised by the statistics) they remain addicts, and much of their time and energy remains devoted to maintaining enough opiates in their blood to keep the pain of withdrawal away.

Better than heroin abuse, but I wouldn’t call that a cure. When using methadone, you need to visit a registered methadone clinic every day, or every other day, and take your oral dosage of methadone under supervision. You need to spend hours almost daily in the process of getting your drug, and remain in the company of other opiate addicts during all that time spent waiting around in methadone clinic waiting rooms. Additionally, many doctors are now arguing that the addiction to methadone is in fact more potent than the addiction to heroin, and as such the withdrawal, and the pains of withdrawal, are longer and more severe with methadone than with the original problem drug.

So why is switching to a more addictive drug considered a medically sound policy of drug cessation? I think that it comes down to a matter of public policy. In the view of the greater good, it is better to have heroin addicts functioning well in society, and receiving regular and free doses of a drug that keeps withdrawal away; but for the individual addict, this may not be a positive outcome. Much better is to endure the painful days of withdrawal, get the therapy and counseling you need, and try to rebuild your life without the need for any drug. It’s not the shortcut to "sobriety" that methadone is, but it’s a real cure, and it offers a life free from drugs and free from addiction.

Detox is hard, and it is painful, and it’s understandable that addicts would try to avoid it; but if the alternative to a few days of discomfort is a lifetime of addiction to methadone, then isn’t the price of withdrawal avoidance too high? On methadone, you’re not taking a trip out of town, you’re never going to Disneyland with the family and you’re always in the company of the people that remind you of what you once were. Get clean the hard and honest way, and learn what you need to live free from drug abuse, and stay sober over the long term. Not many addicts can resist the cravings and temptation to use during the first days of rehab, and the best way to detox is under medical supervision.

A supervised detox makes the process as safe and comfortable as possible, and at the very least, keeps you well away from access to drugs until the metabolites have been cleansed from your body. Detox alone is very rarely an effective cure, and most addicts will need the help of professionals, counseling, and education to have a real chance of staying clean for good. Heroin addiction is tough, but a life in drug recovery is a life full of hope and promise, and is surely better than a life of continuing addiction with methadone.

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Methadone therapy is a synonym for methadone addiction, and is not a real cure from drug dependency. The best way to get off heroin is to do it the hard way, and the honest way. Suffer the pains of detox, do the counseling, and then begin your life in recovery. It’s never easy, but it can work, and it can really free you from your heroin addiction. Any addiction to opiates is tough (I know firsthand!) and the dreaded agony of the pains of withdrawal make the thought of getting clean a pretty scary proposition. So when avoiding detox is coupled with some pretty impressive long term success rates when on methadone, it can be tempting to go the opiate substitution route, and try to get clean through a very long process of tapering down.

Methadone maintenance therapy has addicts trade their heroin use for safe doses of methadone. Doses that will keep the pains of withdrawal well away, but will not serve to intoxicate and will allow the user to function normally in society. The downside to this of course is that some people that entered methadone maintenance 10 or even 20 years ago remain methadone addicts, and although they are not using heroin (and as such are a part of the success rates as advertised by the statistics) they remain addicts, and much of their time and energy remains devoted to maintaining enough opiates in their blood to keep the pain of withdrawal away.

Better than heroin abuse, but I wouldn’t call that a cure. When using methadone, you need to visit a registered methadone clinic every day, or every other day, and take your oral dosage of methadone under supervision. You need to spend hours almost daily in the process of getting your drug, and remain in the company of other opiate addicts during all that time spent waiting around in methadone clinic waiting rooms. Additionally, many doctors are now arguing that the addiction to methadone is in fact more potent than the addiction to heroin, and as such the withdrawal, and the pains of withdrawal, are longer and more severe with methadone than with the original problem drug.

So why is switching to a more addictive drug considered a medically sound policy of drug cessation? I think that it comes down to a matter of public policy. In the view of the greater good, it is better to have heroin addicts functioning well in society, and receiving regular and free doses of a drug that keeps withdrawal away; but for the individual addict, this may not be a positive outcome. Much better is to endure the painful days of withdrawal, get the therapy and counseling you need, and try to rebuild your life without the need for any drug. It’s not the shortcut to "sobriety" that methadone is, but it’s a real cure, and it offers a life free from drugs and free from addiction.

Detox is hard, and it is painful, and it’s understandable that addicts would try to avoid it; but if the alternative to a few days of discomfort is a lifetime of addiction to methadone, then isn’t the price of withdrawal avoidance too high? On methadone, you’re not taking a trip out of town, you’re never going to Disneyland with the family and you’re always in the company of the people that remind you of what you once were. Get clean the hard and honest way, and learn what you need to live free from drug abuse, and stay sober over the long term. Not many addicts can resist the cravings and temptation to use during the first days of rehab, and the best way to detox is under medical supervision.

A supervised detox makes the process as safe and comfortable as possible, and at the very least, keeps you well away from access to drugs until the metabolites have been cleansed from your body. Detox alone is very rarely an effective cure, and most addicts will need the help of professionals, counseling, and education to have a real chance of staying clean for good. Heroin addiction is tough, but a life in drug recovery is a life full of hope and promise, and is surely better than a life of continuing addiction with methadone.

3 thoughts on “Should you consider methadone maintenance therapy?”

  1. I want some advice on how to help my son stay clean and sober, he has been an addict for about seven years. He preferred opiates and decided to trade pills for alcohol. He has recently began taking suboxone, and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I can see some remanent of my son since he started it, but am concerned because he has a very addictive personality. I haven’t seen him so functional in years and considering he is only 22 and has wasted all of his teenage years, I am thankful that he has put forth the effort to try and get well. I guess my question is, how likely is he to stay sober once he is taken offf the medicine?

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  2. I agree with a lot of things in your post, but I am a MMT patient and had to correct you on a few points. Just because you are on Methadone doesn’t mean you can’t take family trips with the family. You have to earn those trip’s by providing clean urine samples. After 90 days in most treatment facilities you earn a take home dose if you remain illict drug free. Then after one year you can earn your week work of take home dose’s as long as you attend your counseling sessions, attend group, and remain illict drug free. You can work your way all the way up to receiving a month’s worth of take home doses.

    Also would you call a person who takes insulin for diabetes an addict, because they have to shoot up with insulin every day for a disease they have? Of course not!!! It’s the same with Methadone, we take a medication that has no euphoric value for a disease we have called addiction. Many have changed their endorphin production from using for so many year’s, and need Methadone to feel normal so they can be productive citizens in society. At the clinic I attend, sure you see a few folks that are there and really don’t care about their recovery, but on the other hand there are many professionals attending there too. I see lawyers, business executives, nurses, mining engineers, chemical engineers ( of which I am), and even doctors that became addicted from sample medications brought to them by pharmaceutical companies. Just think those doctor’s are the ones that people go to see everyday for their health, and patient’s wouldn’t even guess he/she was a recovering addict. We need to break this stigma that Methadone is a bad thing, because it IS NOT!!!! It has saved many lives! For each life lost because of diversion of this drug, five other lives have been saved in it’s place. Education about the unique properties of this drug is what is needed. Also pain patients use this drug to and it gives long term pain relief because of it’s half-life.

    Methadone is not for everyone, but for those who really have serious addiction’s it is a life saver which gives many individuals their lives and families back. Plus it is a great, and not to mention cheap form of pain relief for patient’s that have chronic pain. Please join us by signing this petition, so we can keep this life-saving drug available to all who needs it. Thank you for your time and cooperation reading this. Here is a link to the petition site:http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/360731625?ltl=1173215857

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  3. I am a methadone patient. I spend exactly 5 minutes once per month at my clinic picking up my medication. I get a month’s worth of takehomes and it in no way impairs my life. To tell people who may not know any better that everyone who attends a clinic must attend every day or every other day, and that they will spend hours every day in obtaining their medication is just ludicrous and massively unfair.

    In addition, implying that going through an agonizing detox is part of recovery and that the patient somehow deserves this agony is appalling, IMO. Addiction is a disease of the brain chemistry, and simply getting off he drug and through detox does not cure the disease. Most opiate addicts who relapse repeatedly do so because they have sustained permanent damage to the brain’s endorphin production system. They are no longer able to feel pleasure or happiness, they feel severely depressed, anxious and exhausted. No amount of 12 step therapy or counseling can fix this problem–it is biochemical in nature and requires medical intervention. Methadone and bupe normalize the brain chemistry, allowing the patient to return to normal function. The patient is not “addicted” to methadone–they are physically dependent on it, but there is a big difference between physical dependence and addiction. Addiction involves a set of behaviors that are not present in stabilized methadone patients who are not abusing other drugs.

    A normal happy life is perfectly possible on methadone–I know, because I have one. I travel a good bit and have never had a single problem. I know many other long term patients who travel to Egypt, London, France; who kayak down rivers in Alaska and climb mountains, all while on MMT. Are you truly unaware that methadone clinics give takehome doses? Many up to a month’s worth at a time? And that even new patients who have not yet earned takehomes can apply for vacation doses or emergency exceptions? Why all the scare tactics?

    Some people are able to live drug free, and that’s great. However, the relapse rate for those entering abstinence based drug treatment is very very high–usually around 80%, and even higher for opiate addicts. Methadone was not developed because abstinence based treatment was working great for opiate addicts. It was developed precisely because it was NOT working–because no matter how many horrific pand painful detoxes they were put through, or how much counseling and therapy they got, they returned to opiate use again and again. Science now understands why.

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