Written By: Fiona Stockard
What is Methadone Maintenance?
Recovery from active addiction is hard. If you’re sober today, you deserve a high-five and pat on the back. Really though, sobriety is hard. In fact, recovery from active addiction is so hard that sometimes abstinence based recovery takes a backseat to other methods. I’m talking about methadone maintenance and the increasingly popular Suboxone maintenance.
Methadone maintenance is a form of addiction treatment often referred to as ORT, or Opioid Replacement Therapy. When someone receives methadone maintenance, they take regular doses of the synthetic opioid methadone.
What is Methadone?
Methadone is one of the longest acting opioids. This makes it hard to abuse. Rather than getting people high, methadone saturates the brain’s opioid receptors slowly, over an extended period of time. This doesn’t mean that methadone is abuse-proof.
As a tried and true junkie myself, I can vouch that methadone will get you loaded, but only at first. After the first few times taking it, methadone doesn’t you high. Instead, it stops withdrawal symptoms. This is where ORT becomes incredibly beneficial.
What is Suboxone Maintenance?
Suboxone maintenance is a new type of Opioid Replacement Therapy. This is when the drug buprenorphine is used instead of methadone.
The idea behind methadone and Suboxone maintenance is the same. Some addicts simply don’t respond to abstinence-based treatment. For those unlucky few, ORT offers a way to escape the destructive cycle of active addiction.
What is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a brand name version of the drug buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is an interesting chemical. It’s an opioid agonist and an opioid antagonist. This means that it simultaneously activates and deactivates opioid receptors in the brain.
Much like methadone, rather than getting you high, buprenorphine stops opioid withdrawal from occurring. This makes it a pretty valuable ORT drug.
What are the Pro’s and Con’s of ORT?
For those addicts who’ve tried repeatedly to get sober, but can’t, ORT is a lifesaver. It offers a way to avoid the illegal lifestyle associated with active addiction. It stops withdrawal symptoms. It allows chronic-relapsers a chance at normality and stability.
That being said, Suboxone and methadone maintenance are pretty controversial. Opponents of ORT argue they enable addicts. They argue that we shouldn’t be handing drugs to addicts. They argue that it’s not real sobriety.
Well, they’re right…sort of. It’s not real sobriety. However, for those who just can’t seem to succeed at traditional addiction treatment, ORT is helpful. It offers an “easier, softer way.” It offers a way for them to avoid the more destructive aspects of active addiction. Plus, if someone going through ORT decides they’d like traditional treatment, clinics often help them find it.
ORT is legal in forty-five states. That’s a lot, but it’s worth noting that it isn’t legal everywhere. While going through ORT, addicts have to go to a clinic to get medication. They’re given regular drug tests and, if they fail, they’re kicked out of the program. They’re also offered support services, like group counseling and twelve-step meetings.
So, no one is handing out drugs on the street. After being in a methadone program for an extended period of time, addicts may be given “take home” doses. This is only offered to those with clean track records, though.
There are pro’s and con’s to Suboxone and methadone maintenance. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Is it a helpful tool or a way to enable addicts?