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The debate over the use of methadone and whether or not it has the ability to reduce the harm to society caused by the abuse of unregulated street drugs continues to rage. For most, methadone is synonymous with the treatment of heroin addiction, but it is also commonly prescribed for pain management by doctors because it is an opiate medication.

The Schedule II narcotic is subsidized by tax dollars when it is prescribed to heroin addicts for the treatment of opiate addiction. It provides them with the ability to wean from the drug slowly while avoiding the brunt of withdrawal symptoms. This is often referred to as a “harm reduction” technique because it ensures that the users will receive the following:

  • The ability to immediately stop using needles (because methadone is ingested orally), which limits the spread of blood borne illnesses such as HIV and hepatitis C.
  • Assured purity, quality and dosage of the drug because it comes straight from a pharmaceutical company rather than the street
  • Allows addicts access to drug treatment if they so desire
  • Provides addicts with a place to check-in regularly which can help them stay clean and sober

Minnesota Has Been Struggling With Deaths Due to Methadone

In a perfect world, methadone is not supposed to cause overdoses. It is designed, when used as directed, to help an addict maintain a feeling of normalcy, not too high and not too low. Nevertheless, in the past decade, the state of Minnesota has watched as their death rates from the drug have soared by 1,325 percent – the US as a whole was less than half that at 623 percent. 

With statistics like this, the idea that methadone is a method of “harm reduction” in Minnesota has become a topic of hot debate. However, supporters of the methadone program say that it isn’t the addicts who are dying at increased levels but pain patients who are prescribed methadone in order to treat chronic pain. In the mid-90s, methadone became a popular prescription for long-term pain management. This resulted in a high risk of overdose among patients because the drug functions somewhat unpredictably inside the body and can stay in a user’s system for days. The drug also can take a while to take effect, therefore, a pain patient may take the prescribed dose, not feel any relief and then take another dose that turns out to be a fatal.

Mixed Opinions on Whether Methadone Programs Are Helpful or Hurtful

Mark Parrino is President of the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Treatment. He said: “The clear majority of methadone deaths are driven…by the extraordinary use of methadone in pain management.”

The Centers for Disease Control supports this statement, finding roughly 33 percent of deaths from opiates are caused by the drug despite the fact it is given at a rate far lower than that.

Nevertheless, many critics of methadone programs believe that a large amount of the public-funded narcotics are making their way to the streets. On the black market, it is sold to addicts at extremely inflated prices. In other words, taxpayers’ money is going to stuff the pockets of drug dealers.

Despite the obvious issues, methadone has been extremely successful in helping addicts kick their addiction to heroin. But for those who are uncomfortable with the idea of taking the drug, buprenorphine may be another option. Contact us to talk about your choices in opiate addiction treatment and to find a drug rehab that can provide what you need.

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