Opioid Addiction and Methadone as a Treatment Option

What Is the Success Rate for Methadone Treatment?

Methadone has been used since the 1960s to help control addiction to opioids. It mainly helps manage treatment for those who are addicted to heroin.

While methadone remains controversial, the methadone success rate is actually fairly high. However, due to myths and rumors surrounding the medication, many people have failed to get the help they need.

In this article, we’ll go over what methadone actually is and discuss the success rate for the medication.

Read on to see if this medication might be right for you in your journey to sobriety.

What is Methadone?

The formal name for the medical is methadone hydrochloride. It is a synthetic opioid that was discovered worked well to help treat those addicted to heroin in 1960s New York when the problem was emerging.

Those who are trying to curb a heroin addiction take methadone at regular intervals to avoid the “craving” they would get without using it.

For many people, this has helped save their lives and get them back on track.

With methadone, they have been able to stay clean, rebuild their lives and examine why they were using heroin in the first place. Methadone allows a heroin addict to do all of these things while learning to live a sober lifestyle.

How Long Do I Use Methadone?

If your doctor has decided methadone will help your addiction, the time you’ll be on the medication will vary. Most people take methadone for around a year. However, there are individuals who take it for years. Some even take methadone for their entire lives.

A doctor must prescribe you methadone and you must be under a physician’s care to take it. Without this, you cannot continue your prescription.

Because methadone is a synthetic opioid, there are individuals that will buy and sell methadone illegally. Although methadone won’t harm your body’s internal organs or system no matter how long you stay on it, using it without a doctor can still be dangerous. If you’re not under a doctor’s supervision, you could take an incorrect amount and run the risk of arrest.

Where Do I Take the Methadone?

When you’re first prescribed methadone, you can only take it at a rehab clinic. You must take it in front of a member of staff. This is to prove you are taking the medication and are not stealing it to sell on the street.

Once you prove trustworthy, you may start to take the medication at home. However, you will still have to report back to the clinic every few days or weeks, depending on how long you’ve taken the medication. This is to monitor you and ensure things are going according to plan.

What is the Methadone Success Rate?

The methadone success rate is 60% to 90%. It should be noted that what people define as success is variable. Some define it as keeping clean, while others may define it as being off all types of drugs entirely.

Detoxing and not taking any medication to help you on your sobriety journey only has a success rate of 5% to 10%.

Why is Methadone Controversial?

Some programs believe that in order to be “clean” you must not be taking any medication. This would even include taking methadone or similar pills that can help curb the cravings.

There are some programs and rehab centers that not only discourage the use of medication but ban it from their programs. They believe it fosters a dependence on the medication and that you’re replacing one addiction for another.

Methadone has shown to dramatically decrease the risk of drug users relapsing, contracting Hepatitis C and AIDS, using while pregnant, reduces arrests, and improves the chances of the user to be employed or enroll in continuing education.

Still, the stigma that medication is just a “Band-Aid fix” abounds.

Using Methadone Can Also Curb Fatal Relapses

If a patient takes methadone and relapses, it may not necessarily be fatal. Often, a patient who has been clean for a while will relapse on their drug of choice. They might default to an old dose, which is much too high for them now that they’re detoxed. As a result, their “go-to dose” is actually fatal.

Instead, if someone on methadone relapses, their opioid tolerance remains incredibly high. If they do take the same amount of heroin or another drug that they did when they were actively using, they won’t face the same consequences. Instead, they won’t overdose but will be able to tolerate the heroin.

This is actually a lifesaver for individuals who relapse.

Busting the Stigma

Many people on methadone feel that there is an unfair stigma surrounding the drug and they’re not wrong. Many friends and family members also see it as a “Band-Aid” fix or question why they would need to be on the medication for so long.

But, many doctors look at drug addiction as an actual disease. When looking at it this way, it makes sense that someone would need medication to control their disease.

Wrapping Up

The methadone success rate is very high compared to going “cold turkey” or managing without medication. But due to the stigma and some people’s own reticence about pharmaceuticals, they may not want to try a methadone treatment.

If you believe methadone might be the right choice for yourself or a loved one who is suffering from addiction, discuss it with your doctor as soon as possible.

If you’re looking for more quality information on methadone treatment, visit our blog.

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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