Methadone is mainly used in the treatment of drug addiction, although this is not without controversy. In 2009 a dispute broke out over the treatment of heroin addicts in prison.The Ministry of Justice was in favour of pushing addicts towards abstinence, whilst the Department of Health favoured a maintenance regime that involved the prescribing of methadone.Although it was vehemently denied, the prisons were accused of using methadone as a ‘chemical cosh’.
Methadone is a synthetic opioids, which acts on the same receptors as heroin, but without producing the intense high that heroin produces.The severity of the withdrawal symptoms associated with the cessation of heroin use is also reduced.The advantage of methadone is that it is a legal drug and can be prescribed, which means that it is ‘clean’ and the strength of the dose is known, making it safer than street heroin.The main route of administration of methadone is oral, either in tablet form or as a liquid.
Methadone addiction does, however, have its disadvantages.As it is also an opiate it can produce dependency and indeed some heroin addicts claim that it is harder to get off methadone than heroin.Methadone does not address the psychological aspects of addiction and so it is generally used in conjunction with counselling to address the underlying cause of an individual’s addiction to opiates.
Methadone addiction is treated in the same way as any other drug addiction.The individual goes through a detoxification phase, which is combined with one on one and group counselling.