Frequently Asked Questions About Opioid Treatment…
Question: Isn’t methadone maintenance trading one addiction for another?
Answer: This is absolutely not true!!!! Methadone prescribed as a maintenance therapy, acts as a normalizer rather than a narcotic. The individual is able to function in every physical, emotional, and intellectual capacity without impairment. It does not produce mood swings, tranquilization or narcotic effects.
Methadone clients can and do obtain college educations, perform all types of intellectual and physical skills, marry and raise families. Methadone does not produce dependency as other medications prescribed. For many individuals with opiate addictions the alternative to methadone maintenance is: Continued illicit use of heroin and/or other illicit (including prescription) opiates, criminal behavior resulting in incarceration and premature death.
Question: Is Methadone addictive?
Answer: Although Methadone is a synthetic narcotic, the issue of addiction does not apply as it does not apply with any opiate. The issue of any drug being addictive has little to do with physical dependence. The definition of addiction is any individual who, no matter how much drug, how often, or how long that will continue to use in spite of consequences. The term “addiction” is a psychological term referring to the loss of control over drug use or other behaviors such as eating or gambling. The methadone client is not addicted to his/her medication. In fact, the experts in this field have taken to comparing an individual on methadone maintenance therapy to a “diabetic” who is dependent on their daily dose of insulin. We do not label a diabetic an “Insulin Addict.”
Question: Is methadone more addicting than heroin?
Answer: This is a persistent myth that was long ago disproved. A blind comparison study years ago at a federal facility for addiction treatment in Lexington, Kentucky, found that withdrawal symptoms actually were less severe in patients maintained on methadone than those taking equivalent doses of short-acting opioids like heroin. Because methadone is very long-acting, withdrawal from methadone does last much longer than withdrawal from short-acting opioids. Therefore, a person who has “cold turkey” withdrawal separately from heroin and methadone might say that “kicking” methadone was worse-because it lasted longer.
However, gradual withdrawal from methadone, when properly done under medical supervision, can be virtually free of discomfort. On the other hand, patients who try to withdraw from methadone by themselves, on there own time and dose schedule, almost always experience undue discomfort or fail.
Also, clients forget the reason they came into methadone maintenance treatment was because they could not stay away from opioid drugs on their own. When they decide to leave methadone maintenance treatment and find they cannot just stop taking methadone, they blame the methadone rather than the heroin or other opioids that deranged their brain chemistry in the first place. For many former opioid-addicted people, methadone is a lifelong medication necessary for stabilizing brain functions; much like a person with diabetes needs insulin every day to live a normal life.