The Safety of Methadone Treatment Programs

Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) is a viable treatment for those addicted to opiates such as heroin, prescription painkillers and opium. While the safety of the drug has long been in question simply because it does have the potential to cause physical dependence much like other opioids, methadone treatment programs continue to provide quality, effective care to those in need. Federal regulations have completely overhauled methadone maintenance ensuring more effective protocol is taken to ensure patient safety while receiving this valuable opiate addiction treatment.

What is a Methadone Treatment Program?

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “despite more than 25 years of research and practical experience in methadone maintenance treatment of opioid addicts, the public lacks knowledge of the scientific efficacy of methadone maintenance treatment.” Many misconceptions continue to plague the market and the impact of methadone treatment programs is always on the forefront of discussion as to efficacy, effectiveness and overall safety of treatment.

Dr. Vincent Dole describes methadone maintenance treatment as a corrective and normalizing process in which patients are providing medication to correct neurological and endocrinologic processes associated with repeat opiate use. Methadone maintenance treatment programs must:

  • be flexible and readily available to provide treatment to patients when they are ready
  • receive proper funding in order to respond to patient needs in a reasonable and timely manner
  • have adequate space to accept new patients without overcrowding the atmosphere
  • be safe, and include proper monitoring for continued patient success in recovery

Are Methadone Treatment Programs Safe?

methadone uses

When dosed out correctly methadone is a safe treatment.

The big question is, are these programs actually safe for those who are suffering from addiction to heroin or other drugs? Dr.’s Dole, Nyswander and Kreek, the early developers of pharmacologic intervention for narcotic addiction, defined the safety of methadone treatment by requiring the following precautions:

  • the elimination of euphoria associated with getting high by administering a medication such as methadone
  • the abstinence of symptoms of withdrawal resulting from methadone
  • the drug must reduce toxicity and be relatively safe
  • the medication must work orally and not require injections or other means of administration
  • the medication must be long-acting
  • the medication must be safe for use in regular lifestyles
  • the medication must not interfere with routines at work, home or school

Today, methadone maintenance programs are safer than ever before because they are Federally regulated and individual state laws further restrict the prescribing authority of healthcare professionals to treat patients suffering from opiate dependence.

According to the CDC, methadone maintenance programs are credited with:

  • reducing injection use of drugs
  • reducing overdose risk
  • reducing disease transmission
  • reducing infection
  • reducing mortality rates
  • reducing sexual risks
  • reducing criminal activity
  • improving economic stability
  • improving family stability
  • improving pregnancy outcomes
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