Is Methadone a Better Treatment Option Than Naltrexone?
Naltrexone and methadone are both used in medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, and both drugs are beneficial options for certain people and especially for some specific populations. But is one of these medications a better treatment option than the other?
Methadone vs. Naltrexone
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Methadone has been used for decades to treat people who are addicted to heroin and narcotic pain medicines. When taken as prescribed, it is safe and effective.” It can become addictive if it is abused, but the drug is highly regulated when it is used in methadone clinics in order to prevent this type of misuse. It is also well-tolerated by patients. Many individuals have been on methadone for years, which has helped them avoid relapse and other issues associated with continued opioid drug abuse. Methadone treats opioid addiction by blocking the opioid receptors and minimizing withdrawal symptoms as well as cravings for narcotics.
Naltrexone, though a very safe and beneficial medication, is not as well tolerated by patients. This is because it triggers a withdrawal reaction in anyone who is still dependent on opioids. Therefore, as stated by the National Library of Medicine, “Naltrexone should not be used to treat people who are still using street drugs or drinking large amounts of alcohol.” Those on naltrexone struggle much more with relapse when it occurs and often will not continue taking the drug for this reason. However, those who do take naltrexone as prescribed can often use it as a motivator to avoid relapse at all costs.
Is it Really Better?
Theories on addiction treatment and what works differ not only from one doctor or treatment provider to the next, but also from one patient to the next. Determining whether Methadone is actually better than Naltrexone depends on a number of factors including:
- What works best on a patient-by-patient basis.
- What is more tolerable in treatment for the patient. Some are able to tolerate methadone better than naltrexone and others vice versa.
- Determining whether a decision to quit is strong enough to warrant sole treatment with Naltrexone.
Methadone is often a great treatment, but it’s not for everyone. Likewise, Naltrexone can be highly effective for the right patient but for some it’s not tolerable. Determining which medication can best be used to treat your addiction to an opiate will likely take time and commitment by both you and your treatment specialist—both must be committed to your recovery and to taking the steps necessary to facilitate such.