Methadone as a Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Methadone as a Treatment for Heroin Addiction | Transcend Recovery Community

Methadone has been the standard form of sober living treatment for opioid addiction for over 30 years. It is legally only available from federally-regulated clinics for regular use in order to slowly wean an individual off the opiate addiction.

The treatment for those who are addicted to heroin or painkillers typically undergo clinical, supervised detoxification in order to manage the withdrawal symptoms. Research has shown that the best combination of treatment include methadone, which is itself an opioid, to manage the withdrawal symptoms, as well as therapy to address the behavioral and psychological issues that contributed to the addiction in the first place.

Some of the side effects of taking methadone include:

  • Addiction
  • Allergic reaction
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Dizzy spells
  • Drowsiness
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Itching
  • Limb swelling
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Mood changes and agitation
  • Reduced heart rate (bradycardia) or fast heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Sudden death is a risk particularly for first time users
  • Tolerance
  • Weight gain

Despite the side effects, the use of methadone has had many successes in facilitating sober living for recovery addicts of opiates. For instance, Bechara Choucair, MD, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health commented that “methadone maintenance treatment is an effective treatment for heroin and prescription narcotic addiction — slashing injection rates, lethal overdose, and crime rates, as well as reducing HIV transmission, time spent unemployed, and time spent incarcerated.”

When taken properly, medication-assisted treatment with methadone suppresses opioid withdrawal. It also blocks the effects of other problem opioids and reduces cravings. However, there is criticism against the use of methadone as a treatment drug because regular use of methadone essentially creates another addiction. Although someone might be taking the drug according to instruction, he or she can grow tolerant to the drug, which essentially indicates that an addiction has developed. Replacing one addiction for another, some argue, should not be a form of treatment.

For this reason, some experts suggest the use of Suboxone, a drug that treats opiate addiction by blocking the opiate receptors in the brain. With the use of Suboxone, an addict can try to use heroin or painkillers, but he or she won’t feel a high, and for that reason there won’t ever there won’t be any incentive to use, and there won’t ever be a relapse – at least not to opiates.

Despite the dangers and the side of effects of the drug, methadone is widely used in the medical and addiction treatment fields. In addition to facilitating the end of heroin/opioid addiction, methadone frequently used to relieve severe pain. It’s often prescribed after other drugs have failed to manage pain, particularly because methadone is less expensive than other opiates and its effects last longer. For many reasons, methadone is a cost-effective pain management treatment.

However, for the reasons already explained, this drug can also be dangerous. Nonetheless, it is widely used. Some of the nicknames for methadone include:

  • Amidone
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Dolophine (brand name)
  • Fizzies
  • Heptadon
  • Methadose (brand name)
  • Phy
  • Symoron

Interestingly, there are sober living homes that won’t admit addicts who are currently on Suboxone and methadone as a means for treatment. They are concerned it will lead to dirty urine samples in their guests. However, experts say that there are ways to get around this by using drug tests that require more than just peeing in a cup. They tend to be more expensive, and for that reason, some addiction treatment centers may not choose to use these testing methods.

Furthermore, national operating standards for sober living homes prevent the admittance of recovering addicts who require a daily dose of methadone or Suboxone. For example, these medications would need to be kept in a lockbox because if found by other residents, they can pose great danger and perhaps lead to legal trouble for the sober living facility. However, there are sober living facilities that will accept recovering addicts who require the use of medication assistance treatment in order to heal their addiction to heroin or opiates. At times they can be hard to find, but they’re out there.

Methadone can be a safe way to wean off a heroin addiction. However, there are precautions to take. Consult with a mental health professional or your doctor for more information.


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