Methadone and naltrexone are two very different medications that can be used in the treatment of opioid addiction. While a person who would benefit from naltrexone would not necessarily benefit from methadone and vice-versa, the latter medication has certain qualities that can make it safer and more beneficial than the former in many instances. However, this often depends on the patient and their specific needs.
Naltrexone Isn’t Well Tolerated
Most individuals who try naltrexone “simply stop using it,” according to Harvard Medical School. Others will refuse to use it based on the side effects it can cause. The drug triggers a withdrawal reaction in any individual who is still physically dependent on opioids.
This means an individual who takes it must be off opioids completely and no longer dependent on them. However, many people still relapse during their addiction treatment, and when this occurs on naltrexone, the drug will precipitate withdrawal and usually keep the individual from experiencing a high entirely.
Because of this, many people do not take the drug faithfully like they should. This leads to dangerous side effects like relapse, overdose, and other issues. Though naltrexone is very safe and effective for those who take it as they should, those who do not can experience serious problems.
Methadone is a Long-term Solution
Individuals who are “highly motivated to get free of the opiate because they have so much to lose from a persistent addiction” can often do well on naltrexone. But those who need a longer term solution, often in large part because they have been abusing opioids for a long period of time, will usually benefit more from methadone.
A person can stay on methadone for weeks, months, or even years without experiencing serious side effects, and they can benefit from the maintenance program surrounding it that usually provides therapy, medical help, and other options to patients.
Is Methadone Safer Than Naltrexone?
The answer mostly comes down to the particular patient and their needs, but both medications are safe and effective under certain circumstances. However, if someone still has a strong physical dependence on opioids, if they require long-term care, and if they have struggled with abuse and relapse for several months or years, methadone is usually a much safer option.
Most individuals tolerate methadone much easier than naltrexone and continue taking the drug because it does not cause the types of intense side effects that naltrexone can cause.
Depending on your needs, you may choose one option or the other, but if you have been abusing opioids for a long period of time and are still struggling with your recovery, methadone is likely safer for you.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, methadone “allows people to recover from their addiction and reclaim active and meaningful lives” while still being maintained on medication.
This is a beneficial and safe option for many, especially for those who need time to finally stop their opioid use for good or even for those who need to stay on the drug indefinitely.