Will I Become Dependent on Methadone in Methadone Maintenance Treatment?

Addiction, in any form, can be difficult to overcome. This is especially the case for chronic addictions that go on for years. Likewise, people trying to recover from chronic, long-term opiate addictions must contend with residual withdrawal effects and intense drug cravings long after they stop using opiates. As the most researched and developed opiate addiction treatment approach, methadone maintenance offers long-term addicts a means for maintaining continued abstinence on an ongoing basis.

Over the years, methadone’s classification as a synthetic opiate drug has called into question its actual role as an opiate addiction treatment drug. Understanding the role methadone maintenance treatment plays in the recovery process can help shine some light on whether a person actually becomes dependent on methadone.

The Aftereffects of Opiate Addiction

For people coming off long histories of drug abuse, the aftereffects of opiate addiction can last long after the detox withdrawal stage ends. According to the National Institute of Justice, whether a person’s drug of choice is heroin, OxyContin or hydromorphone, opiates have a cumulative effect on brain function.

Dependent on Methadone

Forming a dependence to methadone is considered safer than continued opiate abuse.

This means, the longer a person abuses opiates the greater the extent of damage left behind. In effect, these conditions leave those in recovery to wade through a protracted withdrawal period that can last for months or even years. Symptoms of protracted withdrawal may include:

  • Ongoing insomnia
  • Recurring bouts of anxiety
  • Depression episodes
  • Inability to experience emotions, joy or contentment
  • Intense drug cravings

Not surprisingly, the aftereffects of opiate addiction account for why it’s so hard to maintain abstinence for any length of time.

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The Role of Methadone Maintenance Treatment

After months or years of opiate abuse, the brain can no longer produce needed neurotransmitter supplies in the absence of the drug. Methadone’s role in opiate addiction treatment works to support damaged brain chemical pathways and restore a normal balance within the brain’s chemical system, according to the Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine.

Neurotransmitters act as communication messengers allowing the various parts of the brain and central nervous system to communication with one another. When needed supplies are lacking, the brain loses its ability to regulate the body’s functions as normal with withdrawal effects being the result.

As a treatment medication, methadone’s chemical makeup enables the drug to meet the brain’s need for opiate effects without the high risk for abuse and addiction that typically comes with prolonged opiate use. In this respect, methadone maintenance treatment does incite a degree of methadone dependence; however, methadone’s role is more so comparable to insulin’s as a treatment for diabetes than just another drug of abuse.


Many people recovering from chronic opiate addiction go through multiple rounds of traditional drug treatment with an equal number of relapse episodes, making little to no progress in recovery. At this point, a person may be more so inclined to try methadone. For these reasons, methadone maintenance treatment has come to be known as the treatment of last resort.

Supporting the brain’s chemical processes becomes an essential part of opiate addiction recovery for those recovering from long-term addictions. In effect, methadone’s role in the treatment process works as a medication therapy rather than as the lesser of two evils.

If you or someone you know are considering methadone maintenance treatment and have more questions, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-678-5931(Paid Advertiser) to speak with one of our addictions specialists.

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