Are Methadone Treatment Centers the Best Choice for Heroin Addiction Recovery?

Heroin addiction rates have skyrocketed within the past decade. According to the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, as many as 140,000 people aged 12 on up reported trying heroin for the first time in 2010. Easy access, purer cuts and cheaper prices have greatly increased the demand for heroin drugs.

Methadone has become a well-known treatment for heroin addiction. Over the course of five decades, methadone treatment centers have developed standard treatment protocols specifically designed to address the challenges heroin addicts face in recovery.

While methadone doesn’t actually “cure” addiction, it does give recovering addicts a fighting chance at living a normal life. In effect, methadone treatment centers provide a much needed service for those who’ve reached the end of their rope.

As with any other treatment approach, what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. While methadone treatment centers do offer recovering addicts a head start on recovery, a person’s motivation to get well becomes the determining factor for a successful recovery.

Methadone Treatment

Heroin’s effects on brain chemical processes leave addicts in a state of perpetual dependence on the drug. Even after a person successfully completes the detox stage, ongoing cravings and withdrawal effects can persist for months and even years thereafter. Without some form of physical support, long-time heroin addicts remain at an incredibly high risk of relapse.

methadone for heroin addiction

Methadone can be a great help in curbing drug cravings and reducing the risk of relapse.

Methadone is a synthetic opiate medication capable of producing long-acting effects. As a synthetic opiate, methadone produces somewhat similar effects as heroin without creating the much sought after “high” effect.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, methadone treatment centers administer the drug in controlled daily dosage amounts. Each dose works to relieve withdrawal symptoms and reduce drug cravings. These effects greatly reduce the overall discomfort many addicts experience in recovery.

Methadone Effects

While methadone does a good job at alleviating withdrawal and cravings, methadone treatment centers must first find the right dosage amount in order for a person to experience these effects. As everyone’s biochemistry differs, finding the right dosage amount can take anywhere from one to four weeks.

Up until that time, recovering addicts may experience ongoing cravings and withdrawal when dosage amounts are too small. On the other hand, a person will likely experience sedation and even “high” effects when dosages run too high. While these delays can jeopardize a person’s recovery, methadone treatment centers also provide counseling supports to help recovering addicts through this difficult stage.


While methadone treatment centers offer an effective approach for treating heroin addiction, as a treatment drug, controversy surrounding methadone’s role as a “substitute addiction” may discourage some from seeking this form of treatment.

Heroin effects on the body are not unlike the effects of excess sugar on someone who has diabetes. The use of insulin to help regulate the body’s blood sugar levels works in much the same way as methadone’s use in stabilizing withdrawal and drug craving effects. In this regard, methadone treatment centers help recovering addicts manage brain and body functions damaged by long-term heroin use.

Granted, methadone does essentially pick up where heroin leave off, however, years of chronic heroin abuse leave many individuals unable to recover without methadone’s buffering effects.

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