How Do I Choose the Best Alternative to Methadone?

Andrea Cross

Methadone is typically prescribed both as a painkiller and to help stop the dependency that some people develop toward opiates such as heroin. Some people, however, fail to respond to methadone, resulting in severe withdrawal symptoms. Others experience severe side effects, become addicted to the methadone itself, or are unhappy with the stigma associated with taking it. There are a number of alternatives to methadone, and you should choose one based on its availability and effects.

Methadone, which can be taken to bypass the withdrawal symptoms of heroin, can be as difficult to detox from as heroin.
Methadone, which can be taken to bypass the withdrawal symptoms of heroin, can be as difficult to detox from as heroin.

Choose an alternative to methadone that is easy to obtain. You want to choose one that is legal both because the supply is likely to be more constant and affordable but also because this will prevent further complications such as a prison sentence or death due to impurity. An alternative prescribed by a doctor is the best choice because, not only will it be readily available, but the drug itself will be safer and your taking of it monitored to make sure that it is having the appropriate effects. Examples of medications that may be prescribed as an alternative to methadone include dihydrocodeine, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.

The effect of an alternative to methadone is hugely important when you are making your choice. You want to choose an option that will work for you. The replacement should blend seamlessly with the reduction of methadone or other opiate, reducing withdrawal symptoms as much as possible. If replacing an analgesic, the new medication needs to effectively control any pain you are having. Alternatives are available in patch, pill, liquid, and injection form, so choose the method that you are most likely to take consistently.

Choose an alternative to methadone that has a high detox potential, for example, one with a less euphoric high or one with less addictive qualities. Be aware that most replacements also come with side effects, which can include constipation, headache, and nausea. If you find that the side effects are severe and cause mental changes or changes in your heartbeat, then you need to choose a different medication. Do not choose a replacement therapy that contains ingredients that you are allergic to.

If you are pregnant or have an underlying illness, you must be careful not to take replacement medications that will adversely affect these conditions. Likewise, make sure that any alternative to methadone that you take does not react with or counterindicate any other medications that you may be on. It is best to speak to a doctor or other specialist health personnel before taking any replacement. Besides alternative medications, they may also be able to discuss nonchemical options such as behavioral therapy with you.

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