Deciding whether or not to use methadone as a treatment for your opiate addiction is hardly a decision to be taken lightly, and there are some significant advantages and disadvantages associated with this course of treatment, however, it is important that when evaluating your options you make your decisions based on fact and evidence, and not on myth and distorted truth.
Methadone, for a number of reasons, remains a controversial medication and a lot of what is popularly known about the medication has little basis in fact. Here are 8 things people commonly say about methadone…that just aren’t true.
8 Methadone Myths Exposed
1. Methadone Rots Your Bones
Nope, methadone does nothing to the bones. People who are on an insufficient dose of methadone, however, may experience a dull ache in the bones which is actually a symptom of opiate withdrawal. If your bones hurt, then talk to your doctor about adjusting your daily dosage.1
Although some people may say that methadone leaches calcium from your bones this has never been demonstrated in any clinical study- and there have been a lot of clinical studies done on methadone - the more likely reason that people on methadone sometimes experience low calcium levels is a diet low in calcium in the years prior to beginning to use methadone.
2. Methadone Rots Your Teeth
This isn’t true, although there’s a reason why people believe this to be so. Methadone, like most opiates and many other medications, can cause dry mouth, and since saliva protects against dental decay, this can increase a person’s risk of cavities and gum disease.
This is easily managed, however, through attention to dental hygiene, such as regular brushing and flossing and visits to the dentist; and through drinking water regularly or chewing sugar free gum to relieve dry mouth.2
Heroin users and other opiate abusers may also begin a period of methadone treatment after a prolonged period of dental neglect that becomes more obvious once no longer masked by the analgesic effects of high doses of heroin or other opiates of abuse.
3. Methadone Affects Your Memory/Makes You Dumber
You may not be so sharp on an overly high dose of methadone (as you wouldn’t on an excessive dose of any opiate) but an accurate stabilization dose should have no impact on your memory or intelligence.
Longitudinal intelligence test studies on methadone users show that chronic use of the medication results in no intelligence declines.3
4. Methadone Lowers Immune Function
Actually, methadone is about the only opiate that doesn’t negatively affect immune function. Additionally, once stabilized on methadone and no longer engaged in compulsive daily drug seeking/taking, you are far more likely to eat well and take care of your physical and mental health than you were when still abusing opiates.
There’s just no contest here – once stabilized on methadone your overall level of health and your ability to resist illness should improve substantially.
5. Methadone Is Worse for You than Heroin
Methadone is a non toxic medication and studies have shown that people can use methadone as a maintenance treatment for addiction for decades while showing no significant adverse consequences from that use. Methadone, like any opiate, can be dangerous if used at higher than recommended dosages.
Heroin, as it is sold on the street is never 100% pure. So people using heroin expose themselves to a random mix of different cutting agents on a daily basis, and the health consequences from the injection or ingestion of these different cutting agents can be severe. There is no doubt that heroin use is more harmful to the body than methadone.
6. Methadone Causes Weight Gain
Although people commonly complain about gaining weight once on methadone there is nothing in the medication that would cause this to happen. In fact, in one study of methadone maintenance patients, although 10 % of people complained of weight gain after starting on methadone, another 5% of people complained of weight loss after starting the medication!4
Researchers think that some people gain weight after using methadone as a side effect of other medications, such as anti depressants which may be prescribed concurrently, or simply as a function of eating better/having an appetite return once no longer abusing opiates.
7. You’re Still an Addict on Methadone…You’re Just Addicted to Methadone Now
Addiction is characterized by things like drug cravings, compulsive use and an inability to control how much and how often you use. Once stabilized on methadone you experience none of these hallmarks of addiction.
Stabilized on methadone you are medication dependent and you need to take your medication daily to avoid adverse symptoms, just as a diabetic or a person with high blood pressure needs medication daily. Once stabilized on methadone you are no longer an opiate addict, just a person dependent on medication.
8. Lower Doses of Methadone Are Better
While some clinics may put a low cap on maximum daily dosages, the research clearly demonstrates that people on higher daily dosages of methadone are more likely to avoid relapse, avoid fatal heroin overdoses and have better psychosocial outcomes.5
How much methadone a person needs each day is a very individualized matter, but there is very little benefit in getting a daily dosage that is insufficient to stave off drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Page last updated Oct 20, 2011