Like heroin, methadone is an opioid and it acts on the same receptors in the brain.However, its effects are longer lasting than those of heroin and it does not produce as intense a ‘high’.For this reason, methadone is used as a substitute for heroin in drug detoxification programmes.This treatment is not without its critics, with some claiming that heroin addicts simply become addicted to methadone instead.There have been calls for the treatment to be scrapped, cut back or confined to short-term programmes.

Others believe that methadone works and has improved the long-term survival rates of drug users.Researchers from Edinburgh University, who conducted a long-term study on heroin addicts in the Muirhouse area of the city, reported that their results showed that methadone treatment did reduce the frequency of drug use.Their research also suggested that the treatment led to a drop in the risk of death by 13 percent each year.However, they also revealed that methadone could prolong the number of years that users injected heroin.The study followed hundreds of heroin addicts over a period of almost 30 years.Addicts who used methadone led less chaotic lives and lived longer than those who did not receive methadone.

Methadone treatment for heroin addiction is a controversial subject, as the treatment is costly and some believe that the use of the drug merely substitutes one addiction for another. Research has been carried out on other cheaper painkillers, such as dihydrocodeine, in an effort to find a substitute for methadone. Methadone addiction can be developed with time and use.