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Why do you call it treatment if it is just substituting one drug for another?

This is probably the most commonly asked question for programs
that prescribe medications such as methadone for maintenance. The commonly heard phrase of “a drug is a drug is a drug” is way too simplistic and I will explain why. That is great advice heard around AA and NA tables, meaning that one shouldn’t expect good things if you substitute smoking marijuana to try to kick your alcohol problem.

Drs. Dole and Nyswander, the luminaries who researched methadone at Rockefeller University for 40 plus years have this to teach us. Methadone prescribed as it is in maintenance therapy acts as a normalizer rather than a narcotic, and in proper doses doesn’t cause euphoria or sedation. The opiate withdrawal symptoms are absent, craving is significantly diminished, and the ability to focus on daily life is restored. Methadone maintenance effectively blocks the euphoric effects of other opiate drugs. Prolonged use and stabilization reduces the transmission of many serious infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, and reduces criminal activity. It is one of the longest-established and most thoroughly evaluated forms of drug treatment.

Although a drug and medication free state represents an optimal goal, research has demonstrated that this goal cannot be sustained by the majority of opiate dependent people. It takes at least two years for the brain to heal. People are much more able to focus and participate in psychosocial treatment groups, in individual counseling, and to even return to functioning. The rates of return to school, to work, and to functioning in the family and the community are much higher with people who follow a medication assisted recovery program. As with anything, it does take time and effort, but this medication allows the brain to heal. Watch some of the WYNK flash videos on methadone for a great deal more information on methadone, the most researched medication.

by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.

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