Methadone Maintenance Treatment Pros & Cons

As opiate addiction rates continue to rise, the need for effective drug treatment programs becomes all the more pressing. Methadone maintenance treatment, one of the most researched treatments for opiate addiction, provides an all-inclusive approach to addressing the psychological and physical components that drive addiction.

Not unlike any other form of medical treatment, methadone maintenance treatment comes with its own set of pros and cons. Whether the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa depends on a person’s own individual treatment needs. For the most part, methadone maintenance treatment has provided a much needed service for people who’ve reached the end of the line when it comes to getting help with breaking an opiate addiction.

Methadone Maintenance Treatment

Methadone maintenance treatment, also known as MMT was first developed in the 1960’s to treat large numbers of war veterans who developed heroin addictions coming out the service. MMT initially started out as a medication-only program, administering daily doses of methadone to program participants. Continued research in the addiction field uncovered the need for a treatment component that addresses the psychological aspects of drug abuse.

opiate addiction treatment

As with most things, there are pros and cons to methadone treatment.

Eventually, methadone maintenance treatment programs began offering psychological, counseling and rehabilitation services along with methadone medication therapies. Study results from the National Institutes of Health further confirm the importance of combining medication therapies with psychotherapy and counseling in order to improve a person’s chances of successful recovery from drug addiction.

Methadone, as a drug treatment, is itself an opiate-based medication. The idea of using an opiate to cure opiate addiction stems from the way opiate drugs naturally interact with a person’s brain chemistry and body functions. In effect, methadone medication therapies attempt to wean addicts off of opiates as opposed to shocking the body into the recover process. This approach has garnered quite a bit controversy in terms of substituting one drug for another as a means for treating addiction.


While withdrawal effects from opiate addiction are strongest during the detoxification stage, opiate’s damaging effects on brain chemical processes leave many recovering addicts unable to experience pleasure or a sense of contentment for years into the recovery process. Methadone maintenance treatment produces a buffer effect that keeps addicts from experiencing the extreme “lows” that often make recovery difficult to maintain.

During the program’s beginnings, limited access to methadone maintenance treatment programs prevented many from receiving needed treatment services. Within the past decade, methadone maintenance treatment services can now be obtained through physicians’ offices as well as through specialty methadone clinics.


Not unlike most every medication on the market, methadone maintenance treatment can produce a range of side effects depending on how a person’s body responds to treatment. Side effects associated with methadone use include –

  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Frequent urination
  • Sexual dysfunction

As methadone is itself an opiate-type drug, the potential for addiction remains in spite of its therapeutic effects. This potential for addiction can become a drawback in cases where recovering addicts attempt to manipulate physicians into prescribing increasingly higher doses of the drug. The potential for addiction can become especially apparent when a person is ready to stop receiving treatment. In this instance, some people may actually have to enter drug treatment in order to overcome methadone cravings.

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