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What are the Pros and Cons of Methadone Use?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) can be an effective way of managing an addiction to opioid drugs, but patients will need to consider the risks and benefits before pursuing long-term methadone use as a treatment for addiction. When a patient uses it properly, methadone can be very safe, but it does not cure the addiction, and the restrictions on use of this drug can make it difficult to adhere to a treatment regimen, especially in the long term. Patients should discuss all their options with a substance abuse counselor before deciding how to proceed.

In methadone use, a patient with an addiction to opioid drugs transitions to using this synthetic opioid instead. The drug acts for an extended period of time and allows people to return to normal activities and functioning. One clear disadvantage to methadone use is that the patient remains addicted, and can take other opioids while in treatment. It is cheaper and easier than detoxification, but does not cure chemical dependence.

Methadone use also comes with significant restrictions, designed to prevent dangerous abuses and make sure that patients stay on track with therapy. People may need to report to a clinic every day for their dose of methadone, taking it under supervision, and also must receive counseling. This can create problems for patients who need to travel, work, and arrange childcare. It can also expose people to the risk of employment discrimination, as asking for time off to visit a methadone clinic can attract unwanted attention.

People taking methadone should not experience cravings for other opioids, and can find it easier to focus on counseling, support groups, and other treatment approaches for addiction while they are on methadone to prevent withdrawal. Eventually, they may decide to detoxify from methadone as well, a process that needs to be done carefully and under clinical supervision. The underlying addictive tendencies will persist, but the patient will no longer have a physical dependence on drugs, unless he starts taking them again.

There are also some risks associated with methadone side effects that people need to consider. It is possible to overdose and become very ill, and the drug also causes side effects like weight gain and irritability. Patients may find these side effects intolerable and could have trouble completing therapeutic requirements, forcing them to drop out of a drug treatment program and creating the risk that they might return to illicit substance use.

People considering methadone use to treat opioid addiction can discuss it with a doctor and talk about available alternatives and recommendations. It may provide a useful transition to get the patient off illegal drugs and prepare for some time in detox to break the physical dependency.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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