Pros and Cons of Methadone Maintenance

Methadone has been used to treat individuals suffering from opioid-related addictive disorders since the early 1970s. In 2009, Harvard Medical School reported that there were more than 100,000 American adults taking methadone – most of whom had been suffering from a severe heroin addiction before medication-assisted treatment. Methadone is an opioid antagonist, meaning that it binds with opioid receptors in the brain to block the feelings of intoxication that are generally associated with opioid abuse.

For the past several years, rates of opioid abuse have skyrocketed across the country. This can be largely attributed to rampant prescription painkiller distribution in the early 1990s. Medical professionals believed that potent painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone were completely safe to use, and they started prescribing to treat the pain of all severities – acute pain, chronic pain, mild or moderate pain, and severe pain. Soon they discovered that these medications were extremely habit-forming.

Unfortunately, for many, it was too late – they had already developed severe chemical dependencies. The government put a halt to widespread painkiller distribution and those who were already suffering from an opioid addiction very often transitioned to heroin, which was both more affordable and available. Currently, heroin addiction is a major issue throughout the United States, and thousands of Americans lose their lives to overdose on an annual basis.

Pros and Cons of Methadone Maintenance

Pros of Methadone Maintenance

The obvious pro of methadone maintenance is the ability to stay clean. Individuals who have been suffering from opioid addiction for a prolonged period and have tried to get clean but have not been able to will generally benefit from the MAT of some kind. Methadone is often used as a short-term treatment method, and should always be used in combination with a comprehensive, treatment program. While methadone is effective in helping individuals overcome opioid addiction, it can begin to be used as a crutch if it is taken for too long. Some of the more obvious benefits of methadone maintenance include:

  • Decreased psychological and physical cravings.
  • The alleviation of acute and post-acute symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
  • The ability to focus attention on therapeutic care (due to a reduction in cravings and withdrawal symptoms).
  • The ability to avoid relapse for an extended period (which also leads to a significant reduction in the potential for life-threatening overdose).
  • The ability to develop the coping and life skills necessary to maintain sobriety for years to come.

Cos of Methadone Maintenance

There are many pros to methadone maintenance, but there are also several cons to consider. First of all, it is important to note that MAT is never a viable substitution for a multi-phased program of recovery. If advised by a team of medical professionals, it can serve as a beneficial addition to continuous care. It is also important to note that methadone can be abused. If you or someone close to you begins taking methadone other than as prescribed, seeking immediate professional help will be necessary. Some of the side effects associated with methadone use include:

  • Slowed breathing and respiratory depression
  • Stomach issues, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation
  • Sexual dysfunction and lack of a sex drive
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Insomnia/disrupted sleep patterns
  • Skin problems, such as severely itchy skin and rashes

Garden State Treatment Center and Methadone Maintenance 

At Garden State Treatment Center, we will consider methadone maintenance when deemed necessary, and medications will always be carefully administered by a physician or nurse. If you or someone close to you has been struggling with opioid addiction and needs help to quit long-term, Garden State Treatment Center is available to help. We are one of New Jersey’s premier treatment centers, and we are available to answer any questions you might have at any point in time.