Weighing the Pros and Cons of Methadone
Methadone is a synthetic narcotic analgesic prescribed to treat chronic pain and alleviate opioid withdrawals and cravings in the treatment for opioid addictions. Methadone is an opioid agonist which produces similar effects to other opiods by binding to the same receptors in the brain, but, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, “with methadone the gradual and mild onset of action prevents the user from getting high and experiencing euphoric effects.” Methadone has been the most widely used medication in the treatment of opioid addictions since the 1960’s resurgence of heroin addictions, but it does have some adverse consequences. The decision to undergo methadone treatment should not be made without first, weighing the pros and cons of methadone use.
Addiction to opioids including heroin, morphine, and opiate painkillers not only harms the addict physically and psychologically, but it causes problems in their families, finances, work, and overall ability to function with any normalcy in society. Methadone helps the opioid addict regain a sense of normalcy because it:
- Reduces craving for opioid drugs
- Blocks the effects of other opiod drugs
- Suppresses opioid withdrawals for 24 hours or more
- Improves physical and emotional health
- Raises the overall quality of life of the patient
- Promotes stability in familial, work, and societal environments
- Reduces negative behaviors such as uncontrollable and compulsive opioid abuse, related crimes, and engagement in other dangerous activities associated with opioid abuse
- Reduces the spread of diseases such as HIV, AIDs, and Hepatitis C from needle sharing
Methadone is an effective treatment for opioid abuse when taken as prescribed, but there are some negative side effects and possible adverse consequences regarding its use. Under the careful supervision of a qualified physician most of these effects can be mitigated. The cons of methadone are:
- Methadone is highly addictive and abuse can cause physical and psychological dependency much like other opioid dependencies. If abruptly discontinued, withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety, muscle tremors, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.
- Physical side effects include sweating, itching, nausea, vomiting, constipation, respiratory depression, sleepiness, restlessness, and sexual dysfunctions. Long term use may cause respiratory problems.
- Overdose and death are possible if abused, or used in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol.
- Methadone providers for opioid dependency and addictions are required to be specially licensed and are subject to strict monitoring and reporting regulations. For this reason, the availability of qualified providers may be limited.
- Most methadone maintenance programs are located in populated areas and require daily visits which can involve a lot of time, money, and travel.