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Methadone: Friend or Foe?

In the fight against opioids, we need all the help we can get. As the opioid epidemic worsens and daily overdose deaths skyrocket, it’s important to look at every option for treating opioid addiction. We’ve seen some new miracle drugs, and older more controversial drugs making an impact in the fight against the opioid epidemic. However, there are more traditional drugs designed to help in just such a scenario. However, like everything we use to fight opioid addiction, it needs constant and thorough vetting. So just what is methadone?

Methadone, sold under brand names like Dolophine, is actually an opioid. However, its found substantial use in helping to detoxify those struggling with more severe opioid addictions to drugs like heroin and fentanyl. While the drug still produces similar effects to other opioids, it’s commonly used in a safe environment like a hospital or treatment center. It’s also less dangerous and much less addictive, which is why it’s so effective at helping people slowly but surely detox from heavier drugs. Methadone actually blocks the receptors in the brain that cause the euphoric effect of opioids, while still triggering the receptors that can cause withdrawal and cravings. However, it’s far from a perfect drug.

Like an opioid, it can still cause a variety of negative side effects. Nausea, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, insomnia, hallucinations, weight fluctuations, memory loss, and swelling are just some of the normal side effects methadone can cause. If an individual withdraws from methadone too quickly or in an unsafe manner, the side effects are much worse. Individuals experience vivid hallucinations, anxiety, panic disorder, delusions, paranoia, depression, and suicidal ideation, among others. While difficult, methadone can still be abused, and deaths attributed to the drug have been on the rise. Despite this, the drug still is one that has a legitimate purpose in the world of addiction treatment.

While inherently dangerous like any drug, methadone is one of the only treatments recognized to help treat opioid addictions. It is objectively safer, and when used correctly, it can curb an addiction in no time at all. Still, it’s important to understand the risks of any treatment, even if it seems dangerous on the outside. Recovery is all about knowing what you’re up against, and methadone can be the first step in a healthy treatment plan.