Does Methadone Maintenance Therapy Work?


Methadone maintenance can help you get on track by eliminating drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Opiate addictions involving heroin and prescription pain pills have increased considerably over the past decade. When abused regularly, opiate drugs can wreak havoc on the brain’s chemical processes.

The damaging effects of opiate addiction can be seen in the growing number of opiate-induced overdose incidents. Overdose rates for these drugs have increased by 300 percent since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Methadone maintenance therapy has a long-standing history as an effective treatment for opiate addiction. For many addicts, methadone offers the only possible means for breaking their addiction to opiates.

While methadone maintenance therapy does offer a viable treatment solution, there are certain risks to consider before deciding on methadone maintenance therapy treatment.

Medication-Assisted Therapy Approach

The chemical make-up of opiates closely resembles the neurotransmitter chemicals used by the brain to regulate central nervous system functions. This similarity accounts for how opiates can damage essential brain functions when not taken as prescribed or used for recreational purposes.

As the brain gets used to opiate effects, it gradually stops producing needed neurotransmitter chemicals on its own. Under these conditions, any attempts to stop using or reduce dosage amounts will cause withdrawal effects to develop.

Withdrawal effects commonly take the form of –

  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Hot flashes/cold flashes
  • Irritability

The longer a person uses, the worse withdrawal symptoms get. Methadone maintenance therapy offers a means for “easing” recovering addicts through the detox stage. Because of the widespread damage done to the brain, treating opiate addiction requires an aggressive approach that can directly counteract the effects of opiates.

Methadone maintenance therapy is designed to replace addictive opiate effects with a less addictive opiate medication, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. As a synthetic opiate medication, methadone can alleviate drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms without placing recovering addicts at risk of addiction.

Methadone Maintenance Therapy

Methadone’s synthetic chemical structure allows for a slow-acting effect as opposed to the fast-acting effects of addictive opiate drugs like heroin. As a result, the brain’s tolerance rate for methadone progresses slowly, which greatly reduces methadone’s addiction potential.

Methadone effects can last for up to 36 hours, which makes it possible to administer the drug in daily doses as opposed to the frequent “fixes” addicts must take throughout the day. According to the International Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, dosage amounts used in methadone maintenance therapy range around 80 to 100 milligrams per day depending on a person’s addiction level.


People with long-term opiate addictions may require years of methadone maintenance therapy in order to maintain abstinence. Since methadone is an opiate drug, people who remain in treatment for longer periods of time have a greater risk of becoming addicted to methadone.

Methadone addiction also becomes an issue in cases where recovering addicts start using again. Using methadone in combination with other opiate drugs greatly increases the risk of developing methadone addiction. Considering methadone’s slow-acting effects compared to other opiate drugs, combining methadone with other opiates also increases likelihood of overdose.

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