15 Things You Didn’t Know About Methadone Maintenance Treatment

The controversy surrounding methadone maintenance treatment has caused many individuals not to consider seeking it or even to assume it is not beneficial. In truth, methadone is an extremely effective drug for the treatment of opioid addiction, and the full maintenance program actually has many components. Below are 15 things you may not have known about methadone maintenance treatment and its benefits.

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1. It was Developed in the 1960s.

Methadone maintenance treatment has actually been around longer than any other type of medication-based treatment used today to help individuals stop abusing opioid drugs. According to the NIDA, “For more than 30 years, methadone has been used safely and effectively to treat people with opioid addiction, particularly heroin,” and it has helped to change many lives for the better.

2. It is Used Successfully by Many Individuals.

“More than 100,000 American addicts are now using methadone as a maintenance treatment,” according to Harvard Medical School. It is actually one of the most popular treatments for opioid addiction.

3. It isn’t Just about Methadone.

The program itself is often expected to only involve dispensing methadone to addicted patients, but it is so much more than this. According to the NIJ, “In addition to administering medication, [the program] also involves providing patients with comprehensive rehabilitation services.” These may include:

  • Individual and group therapy
  • Vocational counseling
  • Resocialization
  • Medical treatment
  • Counseling for co-occurring mental disorders
  • Education help
  • Housing help
  • Aftercare transitional help
  • HIV prevention and care

With methadone maintenance treatment, a person actually receives a well-rounded, beneficial treatment program, not just a prescription for the drug.

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4. The Treatment Doesn’t Cause Euphoria.

methadone benefits

Methadone treatment helps people overcome opiate addiction and lead healthier lives.

While methadone, like other opioid agonists, can cause euphoric effects when it is taken in high doses, those who take it at therapeutic levels will not experience this effect. The medication is usually dispensed at the clinic, especially until the individual can prove that they are capable of taking it home and administering it there. Because the drug doesn’t cause this side effect when it is dosed correctly, it “allow[s] a person to work and participate normally in society” while still receiving the benefits of the treatment (CDC).

5. Each Patient Receives Their Own Dose.

The best way for this treatment to work effectively is for each individual to receive their own dosage, based on their own individual needs, how high their former doses were when abusing drugs, and what dosage level provides the best effects for them. While some facilities still insist that patients all receive the same dose, most clinics are working toward a more individualized approach.

6. It is Extremely Cost Effective.

The treatment is extremely cost effective for the country as a whole. According to the NIDA, “The cost benefits of methadone maintenance treatment become obvious when one compares the costs of providing treatment with the social costs that would have occurred if the crime level had continued.” The treatment is also not especially expensive for patients when compared to the cost of continued heroin or opioid drug abuse.

7. It is Not the Same as Addiction.

Because many individuals stay on methadone for years (or even for their rest of their lives), there is some confusion that they are merely trading one addiction for another. But when methadone is taken as prescribed, it is not harmful. Therefore, it does not cause the same consequences as addiction, which is defined by its ability to cause harm and still create compulsive use of a drug.

8. Methadone is Long Lasting.

One methadone dosage can actually last 24 to 36 hours (Harvard). This means an individual who takes it as directed will not need to take another dose until the next day. Usually, patients visit the clinic once a day, are able to leave quickly, and still go about their daily routine.

9. It is Federally Monitored.

Methadone does have a potential to be diverted to the black market, but this allows the programs which dispense it to receive federal regulation. According to the NIJ, the treatment “is one of the most monitored and regulated medical treatments in the country. Therefore, methadone, when used in the treatment of opioid addiction, can only be dispensed by [a] federally licensed opioid treatment program (OTP).”

10. It is Safe for Pregnant Users.

Individuals who need methadone maintenance treatment can continue it even after becoming pregnant. It also improves the pregnancy outcomes of those who stop abusing opioids and start the program (CDC). While babies are usually born dependent on the drug, doctors are able to monitor them carefully, and they often are delivered and able to grow without any permanent side effects.

11. Methadone Relieves Withdrawal Symptoms.

The drug relieves the intense symptoms of withdrawal which often cause individuals to relapse. These can include muscle and bone aches, flu-like symptoms, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. The drug also reduces cravings which allows patients to avoid relapse more easily.

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12. It Improves Family Stability.

Many individuals are able to reconnect with their family members, friends, and other loved ones after starting treatment. The program often offers family therapy to help mend these relationships, and it can be very meaningful for individuals to see their recovering loved ones put forth the effort of attending treatment.

13. It Provides Some with More Realistic Goals.

Some individuals will never stop using opioid drugs. With the use of methadone maintenance treatment, that issue is addressed, and patients are able to at least stop abusing the drugs and get a second change instead of feeling like they have failed if they cannot stop taking the drug.

14. It Can Provide Polydrug Abuse Treatment.

Harvard Medical School states that some facilities actually provide treatment “for cocaine and alcohol abuse” as well as opioid addiction. This is important because many individuals abuse more than one substance, and treating both addiction syndromes leads to better outcomes.

15. It Works.

No one treatment is right for every patient, but methadone maintenance has helped create many benefits for a great many individuals, including:

  • Reduced use of injection drugs
  • Reduced overdose rates
  • Reduced mortality rates
  • Reduced transmission of dangerous diseases
  • Reduced criminal activity
  • Improved home and work life
  • Overall life satisfaction
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