The Problem with Ignorance
Many people and/or their friends and family do not understand medication-assisted treatment or substance abuse recovery. When operating on myths about treatment like “methadone is more addictive than heroin” or “methadone treatment just substitutes one drug for another,” friends and family are more likely to:
- Encourage quitting your treatment cold turkey
- Rushing the titration process
Dispelling Myths about Methadone Treatment
Following are some of the most common myths we hear at Duke City Recovery Toolbox and the facts to set the record straight.
Myth: Methadone is harder to “kick” than heroin.
Fact: Because of its long half-life, withdrawal from methadone takes longer than withdrawal from heroin. However, because methadone withdrawal is medically supervised, the process is far less uncomfortable than withdrawal from heroin. Many participants also report that withdrawal from methadone is milder than withdrawal from heroin.
Myth: Methadone treatment providers are just “legal dope dealers.”
Fact: Methadone is the most highly regulated and monitored form of addiction treatment. Participants receiving medication-assisted treatment are not getting high from their dose, nor do they need to engage in other activities often associated with addiction. “Dope dealers” do not offer counseling or help people regain a quality of living lost to addiction; DCRT does.
Myth: The lower the dose of methadone, the better.
Fact: Low doses will reduce withdrawal symptoms, but higher doses are needed to block the effect of heroin and, most important, to cut the craving for heroin. Most participants will need between 60 and 120 milligrams of methadone a day to stop using heroin. Ideally, participants should decide on their dose with the help of their physician and without outside interference or limits.
Myth: Methadone is worse for your body than heroin.
Fact: Methadone is not worse for your body than heroin. Both heroin and methadone are nontoxic, yet both can be dangerous if taken in excess (this is true of everything, from aspirin to food). Methadone is safer than street heroin because it is legally prescribed medication that is taken orally. Unregulated street drugs often contain many harmful additives that are used to “cut” the drug.
Myth: Methadone rots your teeth and gets in your bones.
Fact: Methadone is metabolized primary by the liver but has a long half-life because it is also stored in various body tissues. The gradual release of methadone from these body tissues is one of the benefits of methadone for maintenance purposes.
Myth: Methadone does not rot teeth. Dental problems are typically caused by neglecting dental care, which is common during the course of active addiction.
Fact: Methadone is not stored in the bones. Although some methadone participants report having aches in their arms and legs, the discomfort is probably a mild withdrawal symptom and may be eased by adjusting the dose of methadone. Also, some substances can cause more rapid metabolism of methadone. If you are taking another substance that is affecting the metabolism of your methadone, your doctor may need to adjust your methadone dose.
Myth: Methadone harms your liver.
Fact: The liver metabolizes (breaks down and processes) methadone, but methadone does not harm the liver. Methadone is actually much easier for the liver to metabolize than many other types of medications. People with hepatitis or with severe liver disease can take methadone safely.
Myth: Taking methadone damages your body.
Fact: People have been taking methadone for more than 30 years, and there has been no evidence that long-term use causes any physical damage. Some people do suffer some side effects from methadone, such as constipation, increased sweating, and dry mouth, but these usually go away over time or with dose adjustments. Other effects, such as menstrual abnormalities and decreased sexual desire, have been reported by some participants but have not been clearly linked to methadone use.
Myth: Methadone is harmful to your immune system.
Fact: Methadone does not damage the immune system. In fact, several studies suggest that HIV-positive participants who are taking methadone are healthier and live longer than drug users who are not on methadone.
Myth: Methadone causes people to use cocaine.
Fact: Methadone does not cause people to use cocaine. Many people who use cocaine started taking it before they started methadone maintenance treatment, and many stop using cocaine while they are on maintenance.
Myth: Methadone causes drowsiness and sedation.
Fact: All people sometimes feel drowsy or tired. Participants on a stabilized dose of methadone will not feel any drowsier or more sedated than normal.
For more information about methadone maintenance treatment, please contact us. We offer psychoeducation for participants and families to help you understand dependence, addiction and the recovery process.