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Medication Frequently Asked Questions
How does Methadone work?

Taken orally once a day, methadone suppresses narcotic [opioid] withdrawal for between 24 and 36 hours. Methadone reduces the cravings associated with opioid use and blocks the high from opioids, but it does not provide the euphoric rush. Methadone maintenance treatment provides the addict with individualized health care and medically prescribed methadone to relieve withdrawal symptoms, reduce the opioid craving, and bring about a biochemical balance in the body.

- Methadone Fact Sheet. Office of National Drug Control Policy. Executive Office of the President. Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse. April 2000.

Is Methadone safe to use?

Is methadone safe to use in the treatment of opioid addicts?

Methadone is one of the longest established, most thoroughly evaluated forms of drug treatment . . .*

Methadone taken under a doctor’s care causes no harm to any of your body organs and does not change your ability to think clearly. An adequate maintenance dose keeps you from having unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Patients find their lives completely turn around for the better as a result of methadone. This treatment helps thousands of individuals end the roller coaster of opioid drug addiction. they improve their health, work steady jobs, return to school, gain happier family and social lives, and finally start feeling good about themselves.**

* Director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, 1998.
** Medicated Assisted Recovery Consumer Advisory Panel (MARCAP.).

What are the benefits of Methadone maintenance?

First and foremost, it dramatically reduces use of heroin and other illicit opioid drugs. A landmark study in the 1970’s, at the height of nation’s heroin epidemic, observed over 10,000 NYC patients in methadone treatment and found an 85% reduction in the number using heroin within the first year of treatment, 94% reduction among patients in treatment 3 years or more.*

Methadone Maintenance Treatment has been shown to improve life functioning and decrease heroin use, criminal behavior, drug use practices, such as needle sharing that increase HIV virus and HIV infection.**

Methadone treatment has positive outcomes for the individual being treated and for the community. The Institute of Medicine concluded that “methadone maintenance pays for itself on the day it is delivered, and post treatment effects are an economic bonus (Institute of Medicine, 1990).”

* Newman, R.G., Methadone Treatment I Narcotic Addiction. New York: Academic Press, 1977.
** Journal of American Medical Association, 2000 283.

Is withdrawal easier with Suboxone than Methadone?

The answer to this question is a bit difficult. Some patients have reported that Suboxone is easier to go through medically supervised withdrawal. Some state it is no easier. It is difficult to document the severity of withdrawal from individual to individual. If you review Reckitt-Benckiser (the manufacturer of Suboxone) literature they claim "mild" withdrawal which we cannot support based on our physician's observations. Suboxone only partially fills the opiate receptors, so in theory it should be milder. Based on this science one could conclude that it is easier. We have seen it both ways while treating patients with Suboxone. It will vary by individual.
Does Methadone slow reactions & impair judgment?

Does methadone slow down reaction time and impair judgment?

Methadone treatment has no adverse effects on intelligence, mental capability, or employability. Methadone treated patients are comparable to non-patients in reaction time, ability to learn, focus, and make complex judgments.*

Methadone treatment had no adverse effects on intelligence, mental capacity, or employability. A 1995 study tested methadone patients’ cognition, perceptual and motor functioning, reaction time and attention function, as well as automobile driving performance and behavior. It was concluded that methadone maintenance treatment does not impair functional capacity.**

* Committee of Methadone Program Administrators, INC. (COMPA). Page 8.
** Medicated Assisted Recovery Consumer Advisory Panel (MARCAP).

How is Suboxone different from Methadone?

Suboxone has been around for over 10 years to treat addiction. It is approved under the DATA2000 act which allows physicians with specialized training to prescribe this medication. OTP's can also use Suboxone in the typical treatment facility setting through the physician and/or pharmacy. Suboxone is currently more expensive than methadone, but it has many desirable properties. Suboxone has a "ceiling" effect, meaning that it provides a stronger blockade if the individual taking it attempts to use opioids. In addition, because of the differences in Federal regulations for methadone and Suboxone, patients who use Suboxone may not have to physically come to the program as often for medication.

It is important to keep in mind that different medications are appropriate for different individuals due to a variety of factors. Our physician will help you determine which medication is most appropriate for you.