5 Ways Methadone Maintenance Programs Change Lives

Methadone maintenance programs change lives for the better in many ways. According to the CDC, “It is estimated that at least 980,000 people in the United States are currently addicted to heroin and other opiates (such as OxyContin, Dilaudid, and hydrocodone).” Methadone maintenance treatment helps many individuals who are currently addicted to opioid drugs (illicit and prescription) and is a program that has been used for over forty years to do so. While methadone maintenance programs change lives in so many ways, consider these five which are particularly beneficial to the individual and society as a whole.

#1: Reduction in Crime

Methadone maintenance programs reduce the amount of crime committed in the name of opioid seeking and use. Selling and buying opioid drugs is illegal, and obtaining them from anywhere except through a doctor’s legal prescription is also illegal. Many individuals will actually commit more crimes in order to get these drugs. It is very difficult  to reduce these types of crimes because opioid addicts won’t care what they need to do to obtain the drug. In many cases, they will do anything, no matter how problematic it is.

However, methadone maintenance treatment has been proven to cause “reduced criminal activity” which is extremely beneficial to the individual and to society as a whole. The reduction in crime helps the tax payer, while the individual is able to break a bad cycle of behavior that, before, may have felt impossible to stop.

methadone benefits

Methadone maintenance helps people live happy, productive lives.

And, overall, methadone maintenance treatment actually has an incredible cost-benefit ratio, partly because of this effect of crime reduction. “According to to the White House Office of National Drug Policy (2000), methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) has a cost-benefit ratio of 4:1. This means that for every $1 spent on MMT, $4 is accrued in economic benefit” (NIJ).

#2: Improvement in Pregnancy Outcomes

Many people who abuse opioids engage in risky sexual behaviors and unprotected sex. This can lead to many pregnancies in addicted individuals which can be extremely difficult and dangerous for both the pregnant woman and the fetus. While opioid addiction can often cause relapse and death, it can cause these issues in pregnancy as well:

  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome
    • Includes symptoms such as:
    • Poor feeding
    • Hyperactive reflexes
    • Excessive sucking
    • Excessive crying
    • Diarrhea
    • Fever
    • Irritability
    • Seizures
    • Slow weight gain
    • Stuffy nose
    • Rapid breathing
    • Vomiting
    • Sweating
    • Trembling
    • Sleep problems
  • Spinal bifida
  • Glaucoma
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight

Because of the possibility of these issues, methadone use during pregnancy is actually a much better solution to addiction, and it is safer on both the pregnant woman and the fetus. Especially if the individual decides to have the child, methadone can much improve the outcome of the pregnancy, even more so than if the individual were to stop taking opioids completely (as this can lead to withdrawal symptoms in the mother that can be extremely difficult and painful). This way, there’s a much better chance for the health of both mother and baby.

#3: Reduction in Mortality

According to the CDC, “The median death rate of opiate-dependent individuals in MMT is 30 percent of the rate of those not in MMT.” There is an extreme danger of respiratory depression and death in those who regularly abuse opioids, but this issue is lessened by the use of methadone to treat opioid addiction.

In many cases, individuals who are treated for opioid abuse decide to detox and, sometimes, do not attend further addiction treatment. This can be very dangerous as well. According to the NLM, “Most opiate overdose deaths occur in persons who have just withdrawn or detoxed. Because withdrawal reduces the person’s tolerance to the drug, those who have just gone through withdrawal can overdose on a much smaller dose than they used to take.”

This is why “longer-term treatment is recommended for most persons following withdrawal” and why methadone maintenance treatment is so helpful. Most people on methadone stay on the drug for an extended period of time. This treatment also includes therapy sessions and is especially beneficial to those who attend in the long-term.

#4: Improvement in Employment Potential

For the most part, addicted individuals have a difficulty finding or keeping jobs. Many people even lose their jobs while they are still abusing drugs and continue to do so because they cannot stop. This can put people in terrible financial crisis because drugs, especially opioids, can be extremely expensive.

In methadone maintenance programs, therapy and methadone treatment aren’t the only treatments available. Patients are often given access to vocational counseling, resume building workshops, and other beneficial programs that help them find a job more easily. These programs also work with potential employers who understand the situation of an individual in methadone maintenance and can work with them to give them a chance at an employment opportunity. This can change someone’s entire life, giving them the ability to start earning money and care for themselves again.

#5: Improvement in Relationships and Family Stability

Addiction can tear relationships and families apart. Many individuals lose their loved ones during their addictions and, once they start attending treatment, feel that it may be too late to salvage these important relationships. But there are still ways that people in methadone maintenance treatment can build back the bonds that addiction shattered.

Many outpatient facilities (where methadone maintenance programs are mostly available) offer family and relationship counseling. Patients can reconnect with their loved ones, and issues that drug abuse has caused can often be settled and improved. In many cases, someone who sees their friend or family member attempting to recover by attending methadone maintenance will be more willing to forgive and help that person.

Also, in the case that patients are not able to fix old relationships, there are new friends to be made in group therapy sessions and 12-step programs which are often offered by these facilities as a part of methadone maintenance treatment. Patients will be able to connect with others, especially other patients who understand what they are going through.

Methadone maintenance programs change lives in many ways. These are just five of the most significant. If you have been struggling with opioid abuse, consider attending methadone maintenance and changing your life today.