Why Methadone Doesn’t Cure Addiction

Methadone maintenance treatment, often used for treating addiction to heroin and other opiates, is often criticized as an ineffective therapy that just replaces one addiction with another.

Methadone is certainly a safer alternative to heroin or other street drugs, but using it without understanding its intended purpose can acutally perpetuate a cycle of abuse and addiction.

What Methadone is not

Methadone is not a cure for addiction. Methadone maintenance treatment itself is not recovery, though it can be a key part in achieving long-term sobriety.

“Used properly, [Methadone] is an appropriate, imperfect, in many cases inadequate, but sometimes very helpful method of harm reduction.” –Dr. Gabor Mate, at the Recovery 2.0 Conference

We often misunderstand the role of methadone because we forget that the addiction itself is not the fundamental problem. Addiction is really the user’s attempt to solve their problem.

True recovery happens as the addict begins to adress the underlying issues that led them to become addicted in the first place. When used properly, methadone stabilizes the person, interrupting the addiction and creating an opportunity for the process of recovery to begin.

How Methadone Works

By decreasing the painful withdrawal symptoms and harmful consequences of a powerful opioid addiction, methadone helps the addict heal physically so they can begin the process of healing emotionally. There are three reasons why methadone works:

  • Methadone is ingested orally, which decreases the risk of disease transmission and other physical consequences associated with IV injections
  • Methadone is legal, which means users are not breaking the law to obtain it
  • Methadone is long-acting, which means users only need to take it once a day to prevent withdrawal

Research has shown that Methadone therapy improves social health and productivity and increases the retention rate in treatment.

Why Methadone is important

What research does not specify—and what many physicians fail to realize—is the greater purpose of methadone therapy: to aid rehabilitation and treatmentMethadone’s real power lies in its ability to take the addict’s sole focus off of seeking their next hit so they can begin to seek a real, lasting solution to their problems.

Losing sight of real purpose of methadone thwarts the effectiveness of the drug and only fosters a cycle of dependence.