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What Are the Drawbacks of Methadone?

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Methadone has been used to treat opioid use disorder for more than 30 years. It has traditionally been the standard medication for opioid replacement therapy, although buprenorphine has gained in popularity in recent years and now they are used about equally. Many studies have found that methadone significantly improves recovery outcomes for people with opioid use disorder, reducing fatal overdoses, infections, and relapses, and reducing recidivism for incarcerated people with opioid use disorder. Methadone reduces the time people need to spend in detox and reduces the cravings that typically make recovery from opioid use disorder so challenging. What’s more, methadone is very cheap because it’s available as a generic and it can be used for pain relief. Are there any drawbacks to methadone?

Downside of Methadone

There are a few drawbacks. The biggest drawback is that you can fatally overdose on methadone. There is very little risk of this when it’s taken as directed, but when used to try to get high or when taken in combination with other painkillers, it is possible to overdose. The good news is that in recent years, fatal overdoses involving methadone have decreased significantly. This may be partly because of different prescribing guidelines, especially when prescribing methadone for pain, and partly due to the increased popularity of buprenorphine.

Another drawback of methadone is that you have to get it from a clinic. Since methadone can be misused, leading to fatal overdose, it is typically dispensed one dose at at time at a clinic. There are definite advantages to this. One is that it is often free or low-cost. Another advantage is that it does make overdose harder, as you have to save up doses. A third advantage is that clinics offer other forms of support, which can help you keep your recovery on track.  On the downside, it is inconvenient for some people to have to go the clinic every day for their dose of methadone. And they may feel the stigma of addiction going to a clinic. Ironically, going to the methadone clinic every day can make the recovery more visible than the addiction. This can also make patients feel like they don’t have much control over their recovery.

These drawbacks are largely addressed by buprenorphine, typically prescribed as Suboxone. Buprenorphine has a ceiling effect, meaning after a certain dosage, taking more doesn’t do anything. This significantly limits the possibility of overdose. This greater safety is why you can get buprenorphine by prescription. Getting buprenorphine by prescription eliminates the need for daily visits to the clinic and makes travel more convenient. Patients taking methadone can typically switch over to buprenorphine if they are unhappy with the risks and limitations of methadone. And recent changes in the law should make a buprenorphine prescription easier to get and pay for.

Origins Behavioral Healthcare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance abuse, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renown clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.

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