According to Harvard Medical School, methadone maintenance treatment “has better scientific support than any other treatment for any kind of drug or alcohol addiction.” It has been used since the 1960s to treat patients with opioid addictions, and though it still carries a social stigma for many individuals, it is a safe treatment option for opioid addiction. However, it is not right for everyone.
No one treatment can be beneficial for every patient, and as such, there should be alternatives to methadone maintenance treatment for patients who will not benefit from it as much as others. These safe and effective alternatives do exist, and it is important to familiarize yourself with them before choosing a treatment option for your opioid addiction.
Buprenorphine is probably the best alternative to methadone treatment for individuals who still need a pharmacological therapy as part of their treatment plan for opioid addiction. The drug is a partial opioid agonist, unlike methadone, which is a full agonist, and as such, it has certain perks.
Buprenorphine is much safer than methadone when it comes to its potential for abuse and overdose. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association, “Buprenorphine’s opioid effects increase with each dose until at moderate doses they level off, even with further dose increases. This ‘ceiling effect’ lowers the risk of misuse, dependence, and side effects.” In addition, the drug is less likely to cause overdose and/or respiratory depression in an overdose situation than methadone, making it much safer for patients to take.
While buprenorphine can be taken on its own, most patients are maintained on Suboxone, the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. These medications together can minimize withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and allow a person to live their life as they go through opioid addiction recovery. If someone does attempt to abuse the drug, however, the naloxone in the combination precipitates withdrawal, causing far fewer cases of abuse than those caused by methadone use.
In addition, the drug can be prescribed by many doctors in their offices instead of only by licensed clinics, which is the sole way a person can legally acquire methadone. This removes some of the stigma for those who require opioid addiction treatment, as the patient does not have to visit a clinic every day. According to SAMHSA, though, buprenorphine is not as effective for those individuals with “high levels of physical dependency,” and anyone with this type of dependence on opioid drugs should consider treatment with methadone. However, if you have a mild dependence on opioids and are looking for an alternative to methadone treatment, buprenorphine could be a great choice for you, either as a maintenance drug or a tool in your medically assisted withdrawal process.
This medication has been found to be specifically beneficial for a certain group of individuals: those who truly want to stop abusing opioids as quickly and effectively as possible and who are very serious about their recoveries. Harvard Medical School states that this medication can be very helpful to those in the medical profession, like doctors and nurses, or anyone who “has… much to lose from a persistent addiction.” In truth, an individual who stays faithful to the naltrexone treatment plan will never relapse back to opioid abuse, but many patients are not able to do so, as the medication is not widely tolerated. This is because of the drug’s severe side effects that are meant to help patients avoid relapse.
Naltrexone “blocks opiate receptors, neutralizes or reverses the effects of opiates, and triggers a withdrawal reaction in anyone who is physically dependent on opiates.” These effects cause many individuals to quit using naltrexone, simply because it is very hard to stay sober after becoming addicted to opioids, and it is necessary to do so when being treated with naltrexone. However, if you are in a situation where you believe this medication could be helpful to you and that you would be able to tolerate its effects, it may be the alternative to methadone maintenance that you are seeking.
In most cases, behavioral therapy is always a part of opioid addiction treatment, whether the patient is taking methadone or not. Most methadone maintenance programs provide patients with a behavioral therapy regimen in order to help them see their addiction in a new way, and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “behavioral therapies––including individual, family, or group counseling––are the most commonly used forms of drug abuse treatment” in general.
A patient can, in some cases, benefit from only behavioral therapy as treatment for opioid addiction. This is usually only practiced upon the patient’s insistence, however, but it can be effective in certain situations. In most other cases, pharmacological and behavioral therapy used together is the most effective method for treating opioid addiction, and a patient can receive one of the other medication alternatives to methadone as well as behavioral therapy. This treatment helps patients learn to change their behavior, as well as the way they see their addictions and themselves, and learn to live better, safer, more productive lives without drug abuse. Some types of behavioral therapy you may want to consider integrating into your treatment program include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Contingency management
- 12-step facilitation therapy
- Family therapy
- Couples therapy
- Group therapy
For those who do not require a hands-on treatment experience but still need support, mutual-help and support groups and be a great alternative. Narcotics Anonymous and SMART Recovery are both programs that help patients work through the issues associated with their opioid abuse through peer support, judgment-free discussions, and other methods that can support individuals throughout their day-to-day lives. These programs often meet at night and on the weekends to accommodate busy schedules and to help people continue having strong recoveries and receiving their necessary treatment even after their initial program has ended.
Do You Want to Know More About Alternatives to Methadone Treatment?
Call 800-584-3274 today to find out about programs in your area that use alternatives to methadone treatment, and learn about how you can still receive the help you need to stop abusing opioids and start living your life again.