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Because using methadone to treat heroin addiction is a controversial subject, it is important to distinguish facts from myths. For example, facts on methadone treatment for addiction include the reality that the medication can help people lead productive lives and is healthier than being addicted to heroin. It is a myth that methadone is an illegal drug and is not approved to treat pain.

An Introduction to Methadone Facts

Methadone hydrochloride (Diskets®, Dolophine®, Methadose®) is a prescription narcotic. Because it is often used to treat heroin addiction in a somewhat controversial manner, there are many myths that surround its use. This article will attempt to state some of the most important facts about methadone, while dispelling some of the common myths.

A Few Myths and Facts About Methadone

The following may include some of the most common things you may hear about methadone:
1. Methadone is an illegal drug (myth).
    • Methadone is a legal, prescription drug. However, like any narcotic, it can be abused in an illegal manner.
2. Methadone is not approved for pain treatment (myth).
    • Methadone is approved to treat moderate to severe pain; however, the highest strengths (such as the oral dispersible tablets) are only approved for addiction treatment.
3. Methadone can help people lead productive lives (fact).
    • Studies have shown that long-term methadone treatment results in less criminal activity, improved family relationships, and an increased ability to hold employment.
4. Any doctor can treat addiction with methadone (myth).
    • Methadone can only be used to treat addiction in special clinics. Although any healthcare provider who is licensed to prescribe narcotics can prescribe methadone for pain (and any pharmacy that handles narcotics can dispense this medication), only a methadone clinic can provide it for addiction treatment.
5. Methadone maintenance treatment is healthier than being addicted to heroin (fact).
    • There are significant benefits of taking methadone in place of heroin or other injectable drugs, such as:
      • A lower risk of overdose
      • A lower risk of HIV or other such diseases
      • Less risk of death.
In addition, because methadone provides more stability (less severe highs and lows) and because withdrawal occurs more slowly, people taking this drug are better able to function in their day-to-day lives.
6. If you follow all the rules, you can get up to a month's worth of "take-home" methadone doses (fact).
    • If you meet certain requirements to prove your commitment to staying clean, such as passing random drug tests, you may be allowed increasing take-home doses, up to a full month's worth after two years of successful treatment.
7. Methadone is a good drug to abuse, especially because it is a "safe" prescription medication (myth).
    • Methadone provides less of a high, compared with most other opioids. Most people who abuse methadone are simply trying to avoid withdrawal from their drug of choice (such as heroin) when they cannot obtain or afford that drug. In order to get a significant high, people often combine methadone with alcohol or other drugs, which can be lethal.
In addition, methadone is not safe for use except under the supervision of a skilled healthcare provider. Dosing is confusing and difficult; even experienced healthcare providers have given inappropriate (and sometimes lethal) amounts of methadone.
8. Methadone is simply a way for addicts to get their drugs paid for by taxpayers (myth).
    • Studies have shown that maintenance treatment with methadone is a cost-effective way to treat opioid addiction. Society will pay the costs for drug addiction and abuse either way; it might as well be in such a way that helps addicts lead healthy and productive lives while saving taxpayers money.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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