Published On: July 16, 2021|Categories: Treatment|
Methadone is a substance used in the treatment of opioid use disorders, clinically known as methadone maintenance therapy. This type of therapy is referred to as replacement therapy, because it is an opioid used to treat symptoms of opioid addiction.
Since methadone is an opioid, there are a lot of questions and misinformation about its use in addiction treatment. Methadone can also be used in medical detox, but for this post, we will focus primarily on its use in maintenance therapy. Learn about methadone and why methadone maintenance is an effective treatment for some individuals.
What is Methadone?
Methadone is a synthetic opioid agonist that is FDA-approved for use in opioid addiction treatment. It eliminates withdrawal symptoms, reduces cravings, and blocks euphoric effects of opioids such as heroin. Methadone does bind to the brain’s opioid receptors; however, it activates those receptors at a slower rate than heroin or morphine.
When taken under medical supervision and as prescribed, methadone is safe and effective in treating addiction.
Methadone also helps to reduce the risk of infection disease as a result of intravenous drug use. It can also reduce other dangerous or risky behaviors associated with drug use.
Methadone maintenance has been known to improve quality of life and emotional and social functioning for those with a history of opioid use.
Is Methadone a Substitute for Illicit Opioids?
Methadone is not a substitute for abused opioids. Under medical supervision, clients do not experience the euphoric feelings associated with illicit drugs. Methadone is slower acting, with a therapeutic dose typically lasting 24-36 hours. Heroin has a much shorter half-life, about three to six hours.
While methadone has been used to treat opioid use disorders for decades, there are still concerns about its use in addiction treatment.
Those who follow the abstinence model of addiction treatment believe that individuals must completely abstain from drugs or alcohol. Any substance use leads to negative consequences and increases the risk of relapse.
The harm reduction model includes strategies and interventions around safer or managed use of medications. The model recognizes that addiction is complex and multi-faceted. For some people, reducing the harmful consequences associated with drug use is more effective than abstaining.
It’s important to remember that every individual is unique. An effective treatment plan considers the needs and goals of the person.
What to Expect in Methadone Maintenance
Those in a methadone maintenance treatment program typically take methadone daily in a supervised clinical setting. FDA-approved methadone products are administered in liquid or tablet form. The appropriate dose is unique to each individual. Dosage may change based on clients’ progress in treatment.
Counseling or psychotherapy is an important part of methadone maintenance as well. Individuals enrolled in this type of program should expect to attend therapy. Therapy combined with medication is typically most effective.
How Long Does Treatment Last?
This is entirely dependent on the client; however, when taken under medical supervision, treatment can last indefinitely as long as it remains beneficial for the client. Some individuals may reduce their dose but remain on methadone, while others eventually become abstinent.
When is Methadone Maintenance Recommended?
Methadone maintenance may be recommended for individuals with a history of opioid dependence or who have not had success with treatment previously.
Methadone maintenance is also safe and effective for women who are pregnant. In fact, it is typically safer than detoxing or continuing to use illicit opioids. Of course, women should talk with their physician and behavioral health counselor to determine if methadone maintenance is safe for them.