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Answers about methadone and methadone clinics

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Isn't methadone substituting one drug for another?
Methadone is an FDA approved medication that provides a stabilizing effect on the central nervous system of an addicted individual without euphoric or mood altering effects. Taking methadone as prescribed is not an “addiction.” Like many other presciption drugs, there are physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly. But Methadone does not cause impairment; rather, it blocks opiate drug craving. The medication allows the stabilized addict to engage in normal activities such as parenting and work. Similar to many other diseases like diabetes or hypertension that require medications for patients to live a normal life, a person with the disease of narcotic addiction may require Methadone to achieve/maintain a stable state.

How is methadone different from heroin and other opioids?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the effect of oral Methadone is less intense, comes on more slowly, and lasts longer than other narcotic prescriptions as well as illegal opioids like heroin. The body metabolizes methadone differently than it does heroin or other opioids. When a person takes methadone regularly, it builds up and is stored in the body, so it lasts even longer when used for maintenance. Most people find that once they’re stabilized on a dose of methadone that’s right for them, a single oral dose will “hold” them for at least a full 24-hour day. Once on a stable dose, most people will feel normal, not high, and withdrawal does not occur. Methadone also reduces cravings.

How often is methadone prescribed and how long does treatment take?
Methadone is taken daily. Initially, patients come to the clinic for their medication and monitoring; medically stable patients who have demonstrated progress and responsibility in treatment can take methadone at home. Treatment is individualized. The length of time in treatment must be decided by a physician and the patient, as with any other medical treatment. The reality is that patients leaving methadone treatment have a high rate of relapse, and relapse rates are highest when withdrawal from treatment is not voluntary. The key is stabilizing the patient, allowing the patient to function within society, and attempting withdrawal when they are ready.

 

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