Prolonged use of opiates can lead to nerve damage within the brain that causes cells to stop producing
endogenous opiates (natural painkillers known as endorphins). This can lead to an inability for the body to
stop pain because there are no endorphins to mask the pain initially. The degeneration of the nerve cells that
reduce pain can lead to a physical dependence on opiates as an external supply source. This leads to what is
known as opiate addiction. Recognized as a central nervous system disorder that is caused by the use of opiate
based drugs such as Oxycontin, Morphine, Oxycodone, or opium, opiate addiction is a dangerous and potentially
deadly disease that requires long term treatment and care in order to promote recovery. Many people who use
opiates will become physically dependent on the drug with the very first or second use while others may use
opiate based drugs recreationally without ever becoming fully physically or psychologically addicted at all.
Methadone is a synthetic agent that works by "occupying" the brain receptor sites affected by heroin and other
opioids, including prescription pain medications. Methadone maintenance treatment, a program in which addicted individuals receive daily doses of methadone, was initially developed during the 1960s as part of a broad, multi-component treatment program.
Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) is a form of drug replacement therapy, using a medication (methadone) to overcome the compulsive need for other opioid drugs (such as heroin or other abused opioids). While the person is, indeed, physiologically dependent on methadone, the pharmacologic actions of methadone are quite different from addictive opioid agents – methadone is not a mere substitute.
An analogy is how prescribed insulin is used as replacement or “substitution” therapy in an individual with diabetes. The person remains “dependent” on insulin; however, a chronic disease condition is kept under control and effectively managed by the administration of a licensed, prescribed medication.
With adequate methadone, addictive behaviors cease. Persons on methadone may not be “drug-free”; however, they are being helped to overcome the debilitating influence of illicit opioids and lead to healthier, more normal lives in recovery. It also is important to note that the behavioral hallmarks of true addiction – such as unsuccessful efforts to cut down on drug abuse, the endless search for more drug, avoidance of obligations in pursuit of drug, and use despite personal harm – are eliminated during MMT.
The benefits of methadone as a component of a comprehensive treatment program for opioid addiction have been validated by dozens of clinical studies and confirmed by numerous authorities in the addiction treatment field. These include:
How long any one person needs to be in Methadone Maintenance Treatment differs from one person to the next, however time in treatment is a critical factor for ongoing addiction recovery. Typically, methadone-maintained patients must attend a treatment program each day to receive their oral dose of methadone; however, stable and compliant patients are usually allowed to eventually take home a number of doses, thus reducing their clinic visits. Appropriate psychosocial therapy and other support services are integral components of ongoing MMT.
Credible and authoritative sources have concluded that patients treated for fewer than 3 months in MMT generally show little or no improvement. Studies have routinely demonstrated reductions in illicit opioid use of up to 80% or more after several months, with the greatest reductions for patients who remain in treatment more than a year.
What dose you need is completely individualized. What dose works for one person might not work for you. Since each person has his/her own individual metabolism your dose will be carefully adjusted by a medical practitioner to meet your needs.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS-METHADONE CLINICS