The Methadone Controversy

Disclaimer: This is a post from a fan. Sober Nation does not endorse nor oppose any one way in which somebody achieves recovery. There are many opinions on the use of methadone to recover from addiction. Here is one, leave yours in the comment section.

Methadone?…methaDON’T

I’m sorry but, if you’re on a methadone maintenance program you are not clean. Being clean means that you are not using any mood or mind altering drugs (yes, even pot). Now I’m not talking about a methadone (or suboxone/subutex) taper while detoxing in treatment. Generally, the proper use in that situation is for the drug to be taken for about a week in order to lessen the symptoms that accompany opioid (opiate) withdrawal. The purpose for this is to alleviate discomfort with the end goal of being completely drug-free, and not to be dependent on yet another drug. That being said the rest of this article is about the use of methadone and suboxone as a long term “solution” to the disease of addiction. As someone who has tried programs for both methadone and suboxone maintenance, I feel that I can weigh in on this subject.

Phew! Now that I got that off my chest, let’s clarify a few things first, before we get into the juicy stuff.

Addiction is the process whereby physical and/or psychological dependence develops to a drug – including opioids (wikipedia.com)

The terms opioid and opiate are basically interchangeable. If I want to be a complete nerd and differentiate the two, an opioid is a synthetic, or man-made, version of an opiate (dictionary.com).

Methadone is classified as an opioid schedule II controlled substance.

Now for some “facts:”

According to psychcentral.com, “taking medication for opioid addiction is not the same as substituting one addictive drug for another.” I beg to differ. That’s exactly what you’re doing when you take methadone instead of say, heroin or painkillers. Have you ever been able to stop methadone without experiencing side effects? Right. Webmd.com asserts that methadone is effective for treating addiction to opiates: “[when] taken once a day, methadone eases opiate withdrawal for 24 to 36 hours, decreasing the chance of relapse.” Have you ever recovered from active addiction in the span of 24 hours? Yeah, me neither.

Webmd.com states: “as a treatment for opiate addiction, methadone reduces the cravings and withdrawal symptoms caused by opiate use.” Do you know why that is? Because methadone is an opioid. The site also says that “methadone treatment may be needed for several years or longer.” Oh. My. God. Several years or longer?! I chose to quit methadone cold-turkey rather than to be hooked on it for any length of time. Besides spending the ridiculous amount of money it costs weekly, I did not want to be dependent on any substance. I didn’t want something to be in control of me, dictating when I got up, what my day would look like, the required daily naps at noon from the drowsiness it caused: basically living like some kind of zombie-slave.

Okay, so methadone isn’t the solution. What about Suboxone? I can go to a licensed physician and get a legitimate prescription for it.

Suboxone is a schedule III controlled substance that contains both a ‘partial opioid agonist’ and an ‘opioid antagonist’ (webmd.com).

In other words, suboxone has an opioid blocker but it also contains an “opioid agonist,” or a chemical substance capable of activating a brain receptor to induce a response. Let me clarify: the first drug in suboxone is, in fact, an opioid and does to the brain the same thing that any other opioid does. So, it is no different. It’s like “downgrading” from liquor to beer because beer contains a lower percentage of alcohol.

In other words, using this example: one is alcohol and the other is…alcohol. Psychcentral.com states that using suboxone, like methadone, “gives the person with opioid addiction a 24-hour reprieve” and that this 24-hour relief “gives the patient time to reconsider the wisdom of relapsing with a problem opioid.” Look carefully at this statement. It basically says that suboxone is, in fact, a substitute for a “problem opioid” such as heroin. The site asserts that suboxone is simply the lesser of two evils. And again, since when does a mere 24 hours cure an addict of their addiction? Never would be the correct answer.

But wait, I found this little gem buried within the webmd.com site: “People on methadone or Suboxone maintenance therapy are still opioid-dependent.” Aha! I love being right!

Author Profile – 

Cheryl Steinberg aka Cheryl Maryland is a thirty-three year old loving and compassionate woman who hails from, you guessed it, the awesome state of Maryland (blue crabs!). She holds two Bachelor’s degrees: Sociology and Spanish and also can communicate in American Sign Language. Originally a social worker, Cheryl has, at times, traded in her do-good-er cape for a spatula, slinging yummy organic food at a local market. She even went as far as to try her hand as a chef in an Indian restaurant (her samosas are to die for). Currently, Cheryl plies her trade as an Addictions Specialist with Your First Step. She enjoys stuffing her face, doing yoga, and enhancing movie-goers’ experiences with her hilarious commentary. Next on her list: roller-derby! 

2 comments on “The Methadone Controversy

  • lois lane says:

    Congratulations for maintaining an opioid free lifestyle. However for someone who claims to be an Addictions Specialist, you seem to not understand the difference between addiction and dependence. For someone with two bachelor’s degrees you seem to exhibit poor reading comprehension. Nothing you quoted from Webmd states that methadone or suboxone lets you “recover” from “active addiction in the span of 24 hours”. I doubt Webmd or any other medical source ever claimed to treat the disease of addiction in one day and few sources claim to treat the disease of addiction with medication alone. Opioid substitution therapy with either suboxone or methadone prevents withdrawal from the abused opioid and blocks opioid cravings so people can focus on getting their lives back together, have any underlying psychiatric illnesses addressed, learn better coping techniques and stop self destructive patterns of behavior so that they may eventually be able to live opioid free or on long term maintenance with suboxone or methadone.

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  • Lizzy says:

    I agree with the above comment. I have been taking suboxone for more than a year now, after spending 12 years using opiates, and many failed attempts at rehab and 12-step programs (not knocking them, because they do work for some, just not me). Also, saying heroin and suboxone is the same as liquor and beer is way off base. If you use one “dose” of heroin over and over again, it will eventually stop giving its desired effects and you will need more (tolerance). Suboxone has a ceiling effect and you don’t develop tolerance to it. It was designed this way, as an alternative to harmful pain medications. Normally I don’t care about other people’s “opinions” on the internet, but people who type “suboxone” into the internet, are generally looking for help from addiction. You are spreading dangerous misinformation that could cause people to die.

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