Do Methadone Clinics Cure Opiate Addiction?
Methadone clinics provide an invaluable service to people who struggle with chronic opiate addictions. Methadone, a synthetic opiate used as a pain treatment as well as an opiate addiction treatment, produces certain key effects that enable recovering addicts to maintain abstinence from other addictive opiate drugs.
While it may seem as if methadone clinics offer a cure, unfortunately, there are no known cures for opiate addiction. According to the University of Maryland, rather than cure the addiction, methadone provides needed support for the brain functions most affected by long-term opiate abuse.
As an opiate addiction treatment, methadone clinics can use the drug to address different stages of the recovery process. Ultimately, methadone’s effects as a treatment drug make it possible for long-term opiate addicts to overcome the persistent cravings and withdrawal effects that make staying drug-free so difficult.
How Methadone Works
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, medications used to treat opiate addiction actually work on the same brain receptor sites as those affected by addictive opiates. These medications work in different ways by –
- Activating receptor sites
- Blocking receptor sites, or
- Both activating and blocking receptor sites
Methadone works by activating brain receptor sites in much the same way as addictive opiates. Addictive opiates like heroin produce fast, intense effects, which accounts for their high potential for addiction. Methadone produces a slow, long-acting effect and so carries a considerably lower addictive potential.
Rather than cure opiate addiction, methadone’s effects replace those of addictive opiates so recovering addicts don’t have to experience persistent drug cravings and withdrawal effects. Methadone clinics administer daily doses of the drug at set dosage levels.
Ideally, daily dosage amounts should be enough to ward of cravings and withdrawal effects for up to 36 hours, though it’s not uncommon for doctors to make several dosage adjustments before finding the optimal daily dosage level. According to Columbia Psychiatry, methadone’s effects work well when administered during the detox stage of recovery as well as for treating addiction on a long-term basis.
Types of Methadone Clinic Programs
Since methadone can be used in more than one way, methadone clinic programs may be set up to treat certain stages of addiction or different severities of addiction. Methadone clinics can also vary program lengths.
According to University of Delaware, programs offering short-term treatment methods may run for up to six months where recovering addicts reside in residential facilities or receive treatment on an outpatient basis. Long-term programs typically offer outpatient treatment than can run anywhere from six months to several years.
Methadone maintenance treatment offers the most effective use of the drug, especially for people recovering from chronic opiate addictions. In effect, methadone maintenance treatment offers recovering addicts long-term relief from residual cravings and withdrawal effects.
When set up in this way, methadone clinics provide a range of treatment services, such as psychotherapy, group therapy and support group work, in addition to methadone treatment. These added services are designed to treat the psychological aspects that drive addiction behaviors.
While methadone clinics may not cure opiate addiction, this treatment approach makes it possible for recovering addicts to work through the recovery process while greatly reducing the likelihood of relapse.