What is Methadone Maintenance?
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What is Methadone Maintenance?

Methadone Maintenance ClinicWhat is methadone maintenance? Methadone maintenance has been used for more than 30 years to “treat” opioid addiction. Properly prescribed methadone is not intoxicating or sedating, and its effects do not interfere with ordinary activities such as driving a car. The medication is taken orally and it suppresses narcotic withdrawal for 24 to 36 hours. Patients are able to perceive pain and have emotional reactions. Most important, methadone relieves the craving associated with heroin addiction; craving is a major reason for relapse. Among methadone patients, it has been found that normal street doses of heroin are ineffective at producing euphoria, thus making the use of heroin more easily extinguishable.

Let’s continue to explore the question, what is methadone maintenance? Methadone's effects last four to six times as long as those of heroin, so people in treatment need to take it only once a day. Combined with behavioral therapies or counseling and other supportive services, methadone enables patients to stop using heroin (and other opiates) and return to more stable and productive lives. Methadone dosages must be carefully monitored in patients who are receiving antiviral therapy for HIV infection, to avoid potential medication interactions.

Here are some interesting points regarding the question, what is methadone maintenance? Patients become as physically dependent on methadone as they were to heroin or other opiates (such as OxyContin or Vicodin) and suffer difficult withdrawal when finally trying to detox of this medication. Some doctors in the field of addiction recovery feel that methadone is medically safe even when used continuously for 10 years or more! Methadone maintenance is not a cure for opiate addiction. Truly, the addict is replacing one drug addiction for another. The replacement medication (methadone) is taken orally and is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, appearing in the blood’s plasma within thirty minutes of being ingested. Methadone is also widely distributed to body tissues where it is stored and then released into the plasma. This combination of storage and release keeps the patient comfortable, free from craving, and feeling stable.

Still looking for more information on the question, what is methadone maintenance? Methadone kills more than heroin each year. Heroin killed 28 people in Dublin last year while Methadone took 31 lives. This poses the question, is the cure worse than the addict’s heroin addiction?

The Dublin City Coroner has released statistics on last year's drug deaths that have opponents to methadone crying for change. In the last 12 months, heroin caused 14 deaths and contributed to the deaths of 14 others. Methadone, a legal drug used therapeutically for heroin addicts, caused the death of 12 patients, and contributed to the deaths of an additional 19.

What is methadone maintenance? Methadone can be given to heroin addicts, allowing them to switch painlessly from an intoxicating and dangerous addiction to heroin, to a controlled and non intoxicating addiction to methadone. Problematically, because methadone stays active within the body for longer than does heroin, the eventual withdrawal from methadone exceeds heroin in its severity and duration.

Critics fault a system that rewards Irish doctors financially for referrals into methadone clinics. Public health officials deny any wrongdoing and call such allegations absurd. The Public Health (HSE) defends Methadone Maintenance as a safe and effective therapy for heroin addicts, and funds programming in accordance with its belief in the efficacy of methadone maintenance. There are 9200 Dubliners on Methadone, and only 23 funded detoxification treatment beds.

Mel MacGiobuin, Director of the North Inner City Local Drugs Taskforce, explains that in his experience a typical methadone patient takes between 8 and 9 years to detox off of methadone successfully. He speculates that due to Dublin's reliance on drug substitution programs over therapy and treatment, the city could face real problems should another form of drug become widely used.

What is Methadone Maintenance?
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