Methadone is a medication that is used in the treatment of opiate addiction. Methadone is a long-acting opiate that is designed to stay in the system for 24-48 hours, making it possible for addicts to only take the medication once a day, as opposed to a short-acting opiate like heroin, which many addicts use every few hours in order to avoid symptoms of withdrawal. Methadone works very similar to other painkillers such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, and can be prescribed as part of an ongoing pain management regimen, and researchers have found that it’s a very effective form of treatment when used to treat opiate addiction.
When a person is prescribed methadone to treat addiction, the person comes to a methadone clinic once a day to get a dose of methadone that is taken in front of a nurse. Methadone is usually dispensed as a liquid, although also comes in pill and wafer form. Addicts are closely monitored by a doctor to make sure they are not taking too much methadone and that there is no interaction with other medications. Addicts also provide random urine specimens on a regular basis in order to be monitored for illicit drug use. As part of treatment, addicts are also expected to attend individual and group therapy in order to address some of the issues that may have led to initial drug use.
Benefits of Methodone
There are several benefits to using methadone as a way to treat opiate addiction:
- When a person is on the correct dose of methadone, the medication allows them to feel normal, and not “high.” Methadone allows the addict to avoid symptoms of withdrawal while performing activities of daily living such as raising a family and going to work.
- Methadone only has to be taken once a day, as opposed to other opiates that need to be taken several times a day to avoid withdrawal. Addicts do not have to worry about trying to get their next “fix” and, therefore, the amount of crime and illegal activity associated with active drug use drops dramatically.
- Methadone is often times much cheaper for the addict to take, as addicts often times spend hundreds of dollars a day on street drugs.
- Methadone is regulated by the FDA and is, therefore, much safer for the addict to take than street drugs, which can be laced or cut with chemicals or poisons.
- The incidence of contracting or spreading diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV is also reduced, as addicts do not use or share needles to take methadone.
- Finally, methadone that is taken by pregnant women helps to reduce the chance of miscarriage and risky behavior while pregnant, and the fetus will not be going into withdrawal. Women also have a greater chance of seeking out healthcare and seeing an OB regularly if they are able to be on a stable dose of methadone.
Many people that subscribe to an abstinence based model of treatment believe that because methadone is still a drug, people taking methadone are not really clean and sober. When viewed from a risk-reduction model of treatment, methadone can be seen as a medication that helps opiate dependent individuals lead healthier, productive lives.
Jessica Parks is a certified alcohol and drug counselor in the state of Illinois and has her M.A. in art therapy counseling.