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Close to 1 million people in the United States are addicted to drugs like heroin, OxyContin, and hydrocodone. Up to 10,000 die each year of overdose. According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, the financial costs of serious drug addiction exceed $25 billion a year. This number doesn’t even include the social costs of addiction — ruined families, the burden to the healthcare system, and the stress on the legal system.
Methadone Is a Science-Backed Addiction Recovery Approach
Methadone is a synthetic opiate that works on the brain in ways similar to heroin, but with one important difference: it does not produce the euphoria or the sedative effects seen in heroin. This quality makes methadone important to helping people fight addiction to opiates.
Methadone acts on the same parts of the brain as heroin. The way it affects them, though, is different. Once it reaches the parts of the brain connected to heroin craving, it blocks feelings of euphoria and craving where heroin would produce them. When people addicted to heroin are put on a methadone maintenance treatment program, they no longer miss heroin. With the cravings gone, they are able to lead more normal lives.
Unfortunately, there is considerable opposition to the use of methadone as a detoxification method. Critics challenge the idea of treating addiction to one opiate with another. They wrongly believe that methadone treatments do nothing other than to get people to switch their addiction to a new drug. These are only myths, though.
Myth: Methadone Only Switches Addictions
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American psychiatric Association, methadone is not an addictive drug; instead, it is medication. A drug is only classified as an addictive agent if it causes impairment and the need for higher doses over time. These are not qualities seen in methadone.
Myth: Methadone Is No Less Dangerous Than Heroin
Methadone does not make it difficult for users to function at work or at home. Methadone is also not a drug that you could overdose on. It is legal medication that is approved by the FDA for addiction treatment.
Myth: Methadone Treatment Has a Poor Success Rate
In truth, methadone has a high success rate. Only rarely do heroin users find methadone unhelpful. For most, methadone maintenance does work as intended.
Myth: Methadone Will Ruin Your Health
A number of urban myths have people believing that methadone harms the liver, seeps into the bones, rots the teeth, causes weight gain, and harms the immune system. Contrary to these beliefs, methadone only improves health. Many studies show that people on methadone show improved health and vitality.
Methadone Success Stories
Methadone maintenance programs make it possible for thousands to lead normal lives in a way they never would find possible if rehab were their only option. Rehab only works for those who have an excellent support system. Those who don’t have a strong network of friends and family to help them after they finish a six-week rehab program usually go back to using heroin again. The following examples of methadone success stories demonstrate how useful it can be for heroin users to have the option of a workable methadone maintenance program.
When a user is pregnant: Methadone, rather than conventional rehab, is the medically approved method for pregnant women to use. It is so fundamental a treatment option that federal regulations require that pregnant women be given priority over others at methadone maintenance centers. Many pregnant women successfully use methadone to get off the habit while not harming the fetus.
When a user wants to maintain a family: Many users depend on methadone as a way to lead normal lives. They get up early in the morning, quietly gets their dose of methadone for the day without letting their families know, and then go about their business.
When a user has little money: Many heroin users are in poor financial state. For them, rehab that costs thousands isn’t an option. Methadone is the most cost-effective of all detoxification options. Thousands are able to get on with their lives because methadone maintenance is an option that they can easily afford.
When user wants to quickly get back to a normal life: Since methadone works on the very parts of the brain that heroin does, it is able to control all of the effects that heroin withdrawal comes with. Once a person addicted to heroin gets on methadone, he can get back to work right away. He doesn’t need to take weeks off the way he would if he went to a rehab center. Methadone users are even medically cleared to operate heavy machinery and drive.
Much of the opposition to methadone comes from rehab clinics that resent losing business to methadone maintenance. The truth of the matter is that methadone is medically and legally approved as the only viable option for those suffering from heroin addiction. It is safe and scientifically backed.
Carmen Briggs is a psychologist that consults with people that are dealing with addictions. She is always researching the latest methods and solutions that become available. Her articles mainly appear on health blogs.