Methadone Maintenance vs. Naltrexone: Which is Right for Me?
No one medication––or treatment type in general––is right for every patient. This is why, when considering a pharmacological therapy option as part of your opioid addiction treatment, it is necessary to consider your needs and which medication will most accurately be able to meet them. Both methadone and naltrexone are medications that can be taken as addiction treatments, but which one of them is right for you?
Your Stage of Recovery
First and foremost, consider the stage you are now at in your recovery. If you are still abusing opioids or still dependent on them, naltrexone is not for you. According to the National Library of Medicine, “Naltrexone will help you avoid using drugs and alcohol, but it will not prevent or relieve the withdrawal symptoms that may occur when you stop using these substances. Instead, naltrexone may cause or worsen withdrawal symptoms.”
If you are past the stage of withdrawal, naltrexone could be a beneficial choice, but methadone maintenance will be much more helpful to those who are still experiencing withdrawal and dependence. Methadone treats and minimizes withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid dependence so that you can live your life without experiencing these issues.
Your Risk of Relapse
Methadone can be taken for a long period of time, even the rest of a person’s life if necessary. This is because it often helps minimize the chance of relapse in patients prone to this possibility. It helps them by reducing their withdrawal symptoms, curbing their cravings, and reestablishing normal functioning of the brain.
On the other hand, if you have a much lower risk of relapse and are looking for a medication that will be helpful in blocking and reversing the effects of opioids and keeping you stable, naltrexone may be a wise choice. Those with professional careers, families, or other strong reasons to avoid further drug use often fare better with the medication than those who have a higher risk factor and less of a desire to stay sober.
Which Medication is Right for Me?
Naltrexone is not an easy medication to take. According to the Parliament of Australia, “Relapse prevention treatment using naltrexone may have advantages for specific low-risk populations… However, for the majority of opioid-dependent individuals, the treatment has consistently been associated with high rates of non-compliance, a greater risk of mortality and reduced likelihood of long-term success.”
If you believe naltrexone is the right medication for you, it is important to remember that those who have a strong desire to quit are usually more successful with this method and that it is not easy on the patient. But, as stated by Harvard Medical School, “An addict who takes naltrexone faithfully will never relapse.”
Methadone is a much safer medication for those who need extra help fighting relapse, who are still dependent on opioids, and who need to attend treatment at a clinic once a day. Depending on the severity of your addiction and your needs, one treatment will likely be more effective for you than the other.