Methadone Pros and Cons

Benefits of Methadone Maintenance

  • Methadone works. It is an effective treatment for illicit opiate users. Methadone users are more likely (than other people participating in other forms of treatment) to stay off of opiates.
  • Methadone will greatly minimize cravings and keep "dope sickness" away.
  • Methadone is affordable. It is almost certainly cheaper than the cost of illicit opiates, and generally costs only a few dollars a day.
  • Methadone is legal and if used as directed is very safe. You do not risk arrest or imprisonment while using methadone. Because it is very affordable, you do not need to break the law to get money for drugs.
  • Methadone users greatly reduce their risk of HIV, HEP C, and other diseases associated with intravenous drug usage or an addicted lifestyle.
  • The daily routine of visiting a clinic for a dosage, may be inconvenient, but can help people get back on a normal and productive schedule.
  • Regular contact with healthcare professionals, and the monitoring that comes with that, improves health and well-being and keeps you in contact with other people motivated towards change.

Disadvantages of Methadone Maintenance

  • While on methadone you remain physically dependent on opiates. You will need to follow your dosage routine exactly to keep withdrawal symptoms down.
  • Methadone therapy is controversial, and there can be a stigma attached to participating in an MMT program. Employers cannot by law discriminate against you, but they may not be impressed to find you are "addicted to methadone".
  • Methadone maintenance can be a very long term commitment. Some people choose to stay on methadone for decades, some forever.
  • For the first while (long while) you will have to go to a methadone clinic every day to take your dose under supervision. This can make work, travel and family life more challenging.
  • You will have to give urine samples under supervision.
  • At times, you may find that methadone has unpleasant side effects. Some people find that methadone makes them feel "foggy". Others complain of weight gain, sexual side effects, tiredness and aches and pains. Everyone reacts differently to methadone.
  • Methadone is an opiate and you can overdose on it. As with many medications, if you take too much methadone, or combine methadone with certain other medications, there is a risk of death.
  • Methadone is physically addictive and a methadone detox requires medical supervision. Do not attempt to detox yourself off of methadone.
  • Methadone is a long lasting opiate. This is an advantage for maintenance therapy, (you don't need to take it more than once a day) but it means that withdrawal symptoms will last for a longer duration than would occur during withdrawal off of a drug like heroin. Withdrawal can take a month or more.

Methadone is a very effective treatment for opiate addiction, but as with many treatments for medical problems, it only works when the patient is committed to making significant lifestyle changes. It works very well and is well tolerated by some, while others may find it is not the treatment approach for them. It is not something to take lightly, but it is something that can work.

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