A number of misconceptions surrounding methadone maintenance treatment exist, both among patients as well as practitioners. Here we’ll discuss seven of the most commonly mistaken beliefs regarding the use of methadone to treat opioid addiction.
1. True or False: By using the methadone maintenance method to treat opioid dependence, aren’t I just trading one addiction for another?
False. Prescription methadone is given to patients as maintenance therapy, as it works to normalize their systems as opposed to working as a narcotic. When compared to the addiction that occurs in patients who are addicted to heroin and other prescription opioids like oxycontin, methadone patients are still able to function intellectually, physically, and emotionally. Furthermore, methadone is ingested orally and does not produce narcotic effects such as tranquilization or mood swings. Methadone patients are perfectly capable of living productive, normal lives free of addiction over time.
2. True or False: Methadone is unsafe for use by pregnant women, as the child could be born addicted to opioids.
False. Pregnant women who abuse opioid drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers have the potential to seriously damage themselves and their unborn children. Though there is a small possibility that problems may occur, engaging in a methadone maintenance program vastly increases the chances of a successful pregnancy and birth. In fact, Methadone is the only medication approved for treating opioid addiction during pregnancy.
3. True or False: Methadone depletes your body’s calcium reserves and can invade your bones and bone marrow, or cause severe rotting of the teeth.
False. Methadone is a highly researched treatment for opioid dependence. This research shows that an addict’s health can only improve through methadone maintenance, not get worse. Any effect on a person’s teeth or bones can be attributed to that person not taking care of his or her teeth or overall nutrition prior to using methadone.
4. True or False: Methadone causes opioid addicts to seek out other addictions, such as alcoholism or cocaine use, to replace their addiction to opioids.
False. Though many people believe that addicts will simply swap out their opioid addictions for other harmful addictions, it simply isn’t true. Studies show that the amounts of alcohol consumed by methadone maintenance patients and by patients being treated for opiate addiction WITHOUT methadone were nearly identical. Therefore, methadone treatment has no direct correlation to people’s likeliness to increase their alcohol or non-opioid drug intake.
5. True or False: Methadone is more addictive than heroin.
False. This is a pervasive myth that was disproved years ago. Methadone is very long-acting, so naturally, methadone withdrawals last longer than withdrawals from short-acting opioids. Therefore, a person who has experienced “cold turkey” withdrawal separately from heroin and methadone might say that discontinuing methadone was worse because the process lasted longer. Though methadone withdrawal tends to last longer than withdrawal from other opioids, gradual withdrawal from methadone, while under a doctor’s direct supervision, can be almost free from uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
6. True or False: A person should not be allowed to operate a car or heavy machinery while on methadone.
False. Many studies on patients in methadone maintenance treatment have examined numerous skills for safe driving, like attentiveness, reaction time, hand-eye coordination, and responding appropriately in emergencies. In all studies, individuals on appropriate methadone doses were able to function perfectly normally.
7. True or False: Methadone patients don’t have to rely on pain medication in painful circumstances, because methadone blocks any pain.
False. Patients in methadone maintenance treatment experience pain in the same way as the average individual. However, methadone patients usually need higher doses of pain medication due to the level of cross-tolerance between the two medications.