What is Methadone?
Methadone is a synthetic opioid drug developed in Germany in WWII as an analgesic (pain killer). Today it is most commonly used to treat dependence (addiction) of other opiates, for example codeine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, morphine, fentanyl and heroin. It’s benefit in addiction treatment was first discovered in the 1960’s but the use has become more widespread since the 1990’s. It is not useful in treating an addiction to cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), benzodiazepines (valium and others), marijuana or alcohol. Note that technically an opiate is a compound derived from the naturally occurring opium poppy and opioids are synthetically created. Most people just use the term opiate to include both.
How methadone works
Methadone is very effective in reducing the symptoms of opiate withdrawal and therefore also the craving to use opiates. Motivated patients usually take the chance to get their lives back on track once they no longer have to spend considerable time and resources to locate opiate drugs to take care of their withdrawal. In this way opiate dependency can be thought of as an opiate deficiency – if people have the right amount of opiates in their system they can function. If they don’t then they don’t function very well.
How well does methadone work?
Once they are able to separate themselves from the people and environments that promote drug use and other harmful activities most do so – about 75% of the patients at BMC are opiate free. To calculate this we look at all patients that have been on the program for at least 3 months, then we look at their urine tests for the last month. Only 25% of our patients will have one or more positive samples. Note that this includes even the patients that choose to be harm reduction (HR) – HR are those patients that have decided that their goal is just decreasing drug use, not stopping drug use. This 75% figure is even more impressive because of this fact.
Methadone can be effective whether you inject, smoke, snort or swallow opiates. Several scientific studies have proven that people on a methadone programs are less likely to have legal or medical problems and are more likely to hold down a job, stay in school and keep their family together. The evidence is overwhelming – the patient benefits but so do their family and society.
Who prescribes methadone?
Only specially licensed physicians are able to prescribe methadone for Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT). The license is granted by the federal government but compliance with methadone program rules is monitored by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). Each patient may only be registered with one methadone clinic at a time but is allowed to switch clinics with advance notification.
Some clinics have specialized to only provide addiction care and some have not. BMC feels their patients benefit from this specialization. Please see the section .