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Why Methadone Does Not Cure Heroin Addiction

The Lies Behind Methadone: Why Methadone Does Not Cure Heroin Addiction

Methadone was created in Germany during WWII. The intention was to develop a synthetic substitute for opiate-based drugs like morphine that became unavailable during the war. It turned out that methadone, which activates the same brain receptors as morphine, delivered a high that was similar to morphine and relieved withdrawal symptoms associated with morphine. Unlike morphine, methadone could be ingested orally, and the effects lasted for 24-36 hours instead of just a few hours.

Methadone Treatment for Heroin Addiction

In 1947, methadone was released in the U.S. as a legal prescription pain killer. It is still prescribed as a painkiller today and is considered highly addictive. In the 1960s, there was an outbreak of heroin addiction in New York City, and because methadone was a legal drug while heroin was not, methadone was marketed as a treatment for heroin addiction. Clinics called methadone maintenance programs were established where addicts could legally get a daily dose of methadone. On methadone, addicts could function normally for 24 hours instead of spending all day every day getting and using opiates.

At the clinics, addicts could basically ask for and get the dosages of methadone they needed in order to function without heroin. Although methadone does not cure heroin addiction, addicts could now hold down jobs, get off the streets, and turn away from criminal activities associated with addiction. They no longer had to share needles with other addicts and thereby avoided the health risks that come with using dirty needles.

Methadone Maintenance Today

Recent federal and state statistics indicate that the use of methadone as a treatment for heroin addiction is increasing. Methadone clinics can now be found throughout the U.S. Many offer basic medical care and addiction counseling as part of their programs. Most patients pay a set price weekly for treatment, and some clinics offer sliding scales based on income. Some insurance plans might even cover the cost.

Methadone Does Not Cure Heroin Addiction

Methadone maintenance is basically legalized drug addiction. Those who take methadone are still addicts. Methadone simply makes it easier for addicts to maintain their addictions. Although this can be a good thing in that criminal activity and health risks associated with sharing needles are decreased, many addicts supplement methadone with alcohol and various illegal drugs.

The general consensus in the addiction community is that methadone is much harder to kick than morphine or heroin. The symptoms of methadone withdrawal are more severe and last longer. Although the original intention of methadone clinics was to eventually wean addicts off opiates by decreasing their daily dosages, it hasn’t worked.

That’s because methadone users develop a tolerance to the drug over time and must increase the dosage periodically to get the same effect. Most addicts who enter methadone programs simply continue to use the drug while increasing dosages indefinitely. This is not a problem for addicts because methadone clinics charge the same amount of money regardless of the strength of the dosage. However, over time, many methadone addicts become afraid to detox or wean themselves off the drug because they fear the withdrawal.

Methadone Maintenance Is Not Recovery

Methadone maintenance programs offer almost no support for addicts who want to quit using. These clinics are in the business of serving active addicts, not helping those who want to quit. Addicts who enter methadone maintenance programs to get off heroin are basically just trading one addiction for another addiction that comes with its own set of restrictions. Patients typically visit the clinic every day to get dosed. That makes any kind of extended travel almost impossible. The bottom line is that methadone maintenance is not a cure for heroin addiction. It is simply a process of swapping a dangerous and inconvenient addiction for a safer and more convenient addiction.

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