The Stigma of Methadone Treatment

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May 19, 2021

For many people, the use of methadone to aid in recovery from an opioid use disorder is truly life-saving. With years of research backing its use, methadone can be an effective tapering drug in substance abuse treatment. However, the stigma of methadone treatment is something that people on methadone must fight against, and it can also be a barrier to people seeking help for an opioid use disorder. Why is there still an exiting stigma over methadone treatment? And how best can society overcome this stigma?

Why Would a Person Need Methadone?

When a person uses an opioid, such as heroin or oxycodone, whether for a medical reason or to get high, the opioid receptors in their brains are activated. This leads to sensations of pleasure and relaxation. Over time, the person can become used to having the opioid, and their brain needs it to feel normal. At this point, the person has come physically dependent on the opioid and when they stop taking it, they can go into physical withdrawal. Physical withdrawal is highly unpleasant and results in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, chills, fever, sweating, and muscle pain. Methadone is one of the commonly used forms of medication-assisted treatment. Methadone can be prescribed to help a person deal with physical withdrawal and cravings for opioids.

Does Methadone Really Work?

Methadone has been shown to be an effective and safe treatment for opioid use disorders, especially when used in combination with counseling. It helps to control cravings and prevent relapse. Methadone and other forms of medication-assisted treatment have been associated with lowered death rates, as well as less involvement in criminal activity, staying in treatment longer, and having higher rates of employment.

Why Is There Stigma About Methadone Treatment?

Unfortunately, people on methadone have reported stigma from friends, healthcare workers, and the general public, mostly accusing them of taking methadone as a way to get high or substituting one drug for another. Other people report accusations of being weak, of being told that they should be tough and use abstinence-based treatment only. Others report being told that their substance abuse is a choice and that they should get through recovery without assistance. Sadly, many people report that this stigma led them to delay getting methadone treatment. This stigma can also lead people to be reluctant when seeking treatment for addiction.

Why You Should Ignore Stigma of Methadone Treatment

Methadone is not a crutch or an addiction. A person with high blood pressure takes medication to manage their condition. Similarly, a person with a drug addiction may take methadone to help manage the condition. Despite the misconceptions that many people have about methadone treatment, methadone is safe and effective. People on methadone work, have families, and lead normal lives. Many report that without methadone they would be in the throes of opioid addiction. Methadone is especially important in treating pregnant women with opioid use disorders, as it is safe for them to use, and can help them enter recovery, deal with cravings, and improve outcomes for their unborn child. If you are one of the estimated 2 million people in the United States struggling with an opioid use disorder, methadone can be a viable treatment option for you to discuss with your treatment provider.

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