What is methadone treatment?

7 Myths About Methadone Treatment Debunked

Have you heard people in the recovery community tell you just how bad methadone is and why you SHOULDN’T be on it?

The truth is, some of these people might be misinformed. While their journey to a narcotic-free lifestyle is a great one, it isn’t for all people struggling with addiction.

Sometimes the temptation is too great. Others don’t feel that abstinence-based or twelve step-based programs work for them. Regardless of your reasoning, if you and your doctor come to the conclusion that methadone treatment is the best option, you should at least look into it.

Of course, you don’t want to make yourself worse off in your addiction than what you already are. But upon doing some research, you may find that this is the safest way to become drug-free.

Read on for seven myths and misconceptions about methadone treatment.

1. Swapping Addictions

It is true that on a stable dose of methadone, your body becomes physically dependent on it. However, it does not fall under the same category as a true addiction.

The truth is, even if your body is “addicted” to it, it is medically guided and closely observed. You also know exactly what you’re getting and how much is in each dose every time you take it.

2. Methadone Will Make You High

When taking the proper dose under close medical supervision, methadone treatment does not make you high. Nor does it produce any of the euphoric effects felt by other opiates.

There may be some drowsiness associated with methadone treatment. However, when taken properly and as prescribed, these side effects are minimal. Actually, to get high on this medicine, you’d need a very high dose and you’d have to take it more frequently than ordered.

3. Suboxone Vs. Methadone Treatment

Both of these drugs have the potential for misuse and the risk of withdrawal symptoms. They can also help with opioid detox symptoms. And most importantly, each one can help you in your fight to recovery.

If you are in chronic pain, methadone will likely be the course of treatment for you. It is the only drug approved to treat this symptom.

To obtain methadone, you must go to a certified opioid treatment program every day. You will be observed while you take your medicine and eventually your treatment team will allow you to take doses home once you are stable.

With Suboxone, your doctor can just give you a prescription. You will probably be monitored closely, but you can take your doses at home. Though this freedom is great, there is also a wider window for misuse.

4. You’ll Be on Methadone Forever

While some patients end up staying on methadone for an extended period, many can taper off the medication over a year or several months.

Every case is different and yours will be decided on by you and your doctor. The biggest idea is to get you clean from opiates so you can begin focusing on why you turned to them in the first place.

Participation in an Intensive Outpatient (IOP,) group therapy, or an individual counseling program will help modify addictive behaviors that lead to opioid dependence.

5. It’s Damaging to Your Health

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about how methadone will damage your health, rot your teeth, get into your bones, or hurt your organs.

None of this is true. There isn’t any science behind these claims.

The fact is, while using opiates (especially intravenously), you are putting yourself at risk for infections like HIV and Hepatitis.

When you’re getting high, often times personal hygiene falls by the wayside. Teeth aren’t brushed, and showers aren’t taken. These two parts of taking care of yourself will do far more damage to your health than following your doctor’s orders while prescribed methadone.

6. Methadone and Pregnancy

A mother never wants to hurt her baby. Yet, while pregnant, many addicts will still use.

This is difficult because the withdrawal symptoms from quitting cold-turkey can be dangerous for the mom-to-be. But continuing to use is just as bad–if not worse.

Heroin use during pregnancy can cause the uterus to contract, bringing on premature delivery or miscarriage. Also, the use of unclean needles is a route to infection for both mom and baby.

Methadone is great, safe alternative to using opioids while pregnant. This treatment program will help mom come off opiates safely and while keeping baby healthy and happy.

7. Methadone and Cross-Addiction

Cross-addiction is when you trade one addiction for another. The thing about addiction is that regardless of the high from one substance to another, it all acts the same on the brain.

A feel-good substance can be anything from heroin and opiates to marijuana, alcohol, sex, gambling, or even food. It is very common to replace one addiction with another because you feel like you can control it.

The problem is that when you begin to cross your addictions, you eventually relapse and fall back on your “drug” of choice. Keep in mind that when you relapse, you often pick up right where you left off.

With all of this said, a methadone program will not make you find a cross-addiction–not physically, anyway.

Final Thoughts

We hope to have debunked some of the myths surrounding methadone, as this is a medication that can be looked at as an “oldie but goodie” with documented success.

Of course, when dealing with addiction, self-restraint is needed. There’s a need for counseling or intensive outpatient therapy. You can’t just come off of heroin or another strong opiate of abuse and expect that methadone will fix your problems. If you do, you will fail.

Getting clean is the chance of a lifetime. You can mend relationships, find a new job and place to live, and maybe have the chance to live a few of your dreams.

There are many paths to your goal, and none of them will be easy. But choosing methadone treatment may make the walk just a bit easier.

About the author

Dr. Michael Carlton, MD.

Leading addictionologist, Michael Carlton, M.D. has over 25 years of experience as a medical practitioner. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and returned for his MD from the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1990. He completed his dual residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and his Fellowship in Toxicology at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

He has published articles in the fields of toxicology and biomedicine, crafted articles for WebMD, and lectured to his peers on medication-assisted treatment. Dr. Carlton was a medical director of Community Bridges and medically supervised the medical detoxification of over 30,000 chemically dependent patients annually.

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