Is Methadone Treatment for Opiate Addiction Really Effective?

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Opiate addictions can take a tremendous toll on a person’s relationships, health and sense of well being. Once a person makes the decision to get help, it’s important to make sure the type of treatment you decide on is effective.

Opiate drugs can have particularly damaging effects on the brain when used for long periods of time. Damage to essential brain chemical functions can leave a person forever dependent on opiate effects without proper treatment.

For these reasons, treating opiate addiction requires a specialized treatment approach.

The use of methadone as an opiate addiction treatment has a long-standing history as an effective treatment approach. Since the mid-1960s, methadone has been the standard by which other opiate treatment drugs are measured.

No one-treatment approach affects every person in the same way, so methadone may not be the right choice for everyone. As with any type of treatment, certain precautions should be taken before deciding.

Methadone Treatment

opiate addiction treatment

Methadone makes it easier for people to hold jobs and return to other aspects of everyday life.

Opiate drugs act on the brain’s own opiate chemical processes in such a way as to incapacitate normal chemical functions. The longer a person uses opiates the weaker brain chemical processes become. After long, the brain can no longer function without opiate drug effects.

When a person stops taking opiates after long-term use, the brain is left to make up for the opiate’s effects. This condition accounts for the withdrawal symptoms and constant drug cravings a person experiences.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, methadone – a synthetic opiate-based drug – fills the same brain receptors as other opiates do so it’s able to mimic opiate drug effects. By doing so, a person experiences little to no withdrawal effects and drug cravings decrease considerably.

Methadone Treatment Effectiveness

As withdrawal effects and drug cravings are the main reasons why it’s so hard to break an opiate addiction, methadone’s mechanism of action proves highly effective for both short and long-term treatment purposes. Compared to other opiate drugs, methadone has a slow, long-acting effect that lasts for up to 24 to 36 hours compared to six to 10 hours for other drugs. This means recovering addicts only have to take one dose a day to reap methadone’s therapeutic effects.

According to the International Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, larger dosage amounts in the range of 80 to 100 milligrams per day produce better treatment results than lower dosage amounts. Unlike other opiate-based drugs, the brain develops a slow tolerance for methadone so dosage amounts remain the same for the length of time a person remains in treatment.


While methadone does address the two greatest challenges recovering addicts face, methadone is nonetheless an opiate drug in and of itself. As with any long-term use of opiates, the potential for developing an addiction to methadone is no less risky than with other opiate drugs.

Though strict protocols dictate methadone treatment procedures, these protocols don’t stop some people from abusing methadone with other opiate drugs. Anyone who has a long history of opiate addiction may soon end up abusing methadone should a relapse episode occur.

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