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Opioid Addiction Treatment — Myths about Methadone by Dr. Lipi Roy

Methadone is a life-saving medication that helps men and women with opioid dependence reduce their cravings for opioids (e.g. heroin, fentanyl, percoset, oxycodone, etc.) and decrease their uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, far too few people receive methadone. One of the reasons include the many myths that persist about methadone.

Watch this brief video of me presenting ‘Addiction 101’ to Correctional Health staff (case managers, social workers, nurses) and NYC Department of Correction officers who work with incarcerated men and women at Rikers Island, New York City’s largest jail — and the nation’s oldest and largest jail-based opioid treatment program.

~~Myths about Methadone~~

MYTH #1: “Methadone substitutes one addiction for another.”

REALITY: Methadone is a medication used to treat individuals with opioid dependence. It is NOT a substitute for heroin or any other opioid. Methadone is LONG-acting, requiring only 1 dose per day (vs. short-acting heroin which typically takes 3-4 daily doses to stave off withdrawal symptoms.) This is why methadone can reduce craving and withdrawal symptoms, and restore balance to the brain circuits that are impaired by addiction. Methadone allows a person to return to a normal life – school, work, family. It allows *RECOVERY*

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MYTH #2: “Methadone will get you high.”

REALITY: When a person first starts treatment with methadone, he or she may feel lightheaded or sleep for a few days. But tolerance soon develops, and they’ll being feel “normal.”

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MYTH #3: “People on methadone are still addicts, even if they don’t use other drugs.”

REALITY: Men and women who take methadone as a treatment for opioid dependence are no more “addicts” than people who take insulin as a treatment for diabetes. Methadone is a medication, like amlodipine/Norvasc for blood pressure or metformin for diabetes. People taking methadone are considered to be in recovery.

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MYTH #4: “Methadone is a cure for opioid addiction.”

REALITY: Methadone is not a cure. It is a medical tool that helps a person repair the damage caused by opioid dependence, and build a new life.

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MYTH #5: “Methadone will rot your teeth and bones.”

REALITY: Common myth, and untrue. Dry mouth is a side effect of methadone, which can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. People taking methadone are advised to follow regular dental care, e.g. daily brushing and flossing, mouthwash, dental visits, etc. Bone ache (“rot”) is a symptom of methadone withdrawal or underdosage. Symptoms should improve when methadone dose is increased.

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REFERENCES:
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

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