Category Archives: Methadone Benefits

Expanding Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment

opioid-treatment-in-mediaAn article in the Huffington Post recently addressed President Obama’s public comments on expanding access to opioid treatment, particularly medication-assisted treatment (MAT) like methadone or buprenorphine (suboxone).

Many members of the treatment industry and recovery community do not have a realistic grasp on the role that medication-assisted treatment can play in recovery from severe opioid addiction. Historically, the recovery community has not regarded those utilizing methadone or suboxone as truly in recovery. They emphasize total abstinence, even from methadone, despite the fact that methadone and buprenorphine have restored individuals to normal functioning and even saved lives in many cases.

There was a time some years ago, in the 12 step community, when individuals were chastised for taking psychotropic medication for depression or other mental health disorders. This criticism came from a fundamental lack of knowledge about the biological basis for many mental health disorders. Similarly, medication-assisted treatment interventions have been the subject of misunderstanding and unwarranted rejection by those with limited education on varied treatment approaches.

As America’s opioid problem continues to grow, we need real solutions rooted in medical science and research. At this point in time, medication-assisted treatment has been in use long enough to clearly demonstrate its usefulness in facilitating personal recovery from addiction.

In 2015, we saw numerous local and national political figures rally around families that have been impacted by heroin overdoses and the heartbreaking loss of loved ones. Opioid addiction has finally come into focus within the mainstream media, and even current Presidential candidates have begun to address this as an important issue which commands attention and a solution.

More: Question and Answers on how methadone works


Acadia Healthcare Opioid Treatment Programs

Acadia HealthcareAcadia is a large U.S. based company who provide a broad range of behavioral healthcare services that target mental health and substance abuse problems in children, teenagers, and adults.

Their inpatient facilities provide approximately 9200 beds in 37 states including the United States, United Kingdom, and Puerto Rico. The company’s outpatient addiction services specialize in opioid addiction and medication-assisted treatment for those suffering with heroin and other opioid dependencies. Each Acadia clinic utilizes methadone and suboxone in their overall treatment.

Acadia recently acquired CRC Health Group and in so doing raised their total number of opioid treatment programs to about 90 – currently making them the single largest provider in the United States.

Acadia just added 10 more clinics to Methadone.US and site visitors can find more information about Acadia’s Opioid Treatment Programs by visiting these recently added cities on the Methadone.US website:

Buprenorphine and Liver Health

methadone-safe-for-liverJana Burson is a North Carolina physician who specializes in the treatment of opioid addiction using medications like buprenorphine and methadone. Dr. Burson is a passionate caregiver and patient advocate with considerable experience in the field of addiction treatment. She maintains an informative blog on the topic of opioid addiction treatment and recently posted her comments and observations on a revealing 2012 study.

The 2012 study by Saxon et al is reported in her blog to have followed more than 700 patients over 24 weeks who were receiving either methadone or buprenorphine (the active ingredient in Suboxone). These patients were checked for specific red flag elevations that would suggest emerging liver damage or liver inflammation. None of the patients receiving methadone or buprenorphine had significant abberations in liver functioning. This led the researchers to conclude that neither medication causes liver damage.

A 2014 follow-up study by Soyka and others (published in the American Journal on Addictions) found the same results in their research of 181 patients on Suboxone (buprenorphine + naloxone).

Studies like these help to dispel misinformation around opioid treatment medications and their safety. Dr. Burson expressed that it was once routine to order liver function tests for patients on buprenorphine therapy, but that this is likely unnecessary given the more recent research validating methadone and buprenorphine’s safety in regard to liver functioning.

There are addiction-related illnesses, like Hepatitis C, that can have highly detrimental effects on the liver. According to Dr. Burson, the Soyka study also showed that buprenorphine was not harmful even in patients diagnosed with Hepatitis C.

Thorough research studies like these are important in further legitimizing the benefits & established safety profile of opioid treatment medications. Having access to safe medications helps hundreds of thousands of people find effective treatment for chronic opioid addiction.

For More On Methadone

Methadone Treatment Services

methadone-treatment-resourcesWhen one thinks of methadone treatment, they usually consider the power of methadone to eliminate opiate withdrawal and the value this has to someone fighting off withdrawal sickness.

Methadone treatment actually consists of more than just the “medication assistance” component. Real treatment always addresses the underlying lifestyle, thinking, and behavioral elements that are a significant part of the addictive process. These areas are specifically addressed through counseling. All opioid treatment programs providing methadone in the United States are required to also offer counseling to their patients in order to help them achieve true and lasting success.

Some patients will need more counseling & emotional support than others. But all patients new to the recovery process will need to receive basic education on addiction as an illness, how to build a personal recovery program, and to have an opportunity to develop new coping and relapse prevention skills.

Methadone clinics in the U.S. vary in the ways that they deliver counseling services. Some programs are heavy on individual counseling while some focus more on a group therapy model. Often, programs will provide a blend of the two with optional family or collateral participation available as needed.

There is another important consideration with methadone treatment pertaining to the need to also treat “co-occurring disorders”. Co-occurring disorders consist of other psychiatric symptoms that merit special interventions and additional care. For example, many individuals dealing with an opioid addiction may also have struggled with chronic depression or anxiety. Unless these disorders are treated effectively, they can become stumbling blocks on the road to recovery, and can undermine a person’s sobriety success.

A number of methadone programs have in-house psychiatric services to address co-occurring disorders and to provide additional medications and/or therapy if required. Opioid treatment programs that do not have psyc services will typically refer a patient out to the local mental health center or a private provider who specializes in psychiatric care.

Methadone treatment has at times been presented as a harm reduction approach to dealing with severe addiction. In other words, reducing a person’s risk of overdose or exposure to other illnesses is a worthwhile goal. However, “harm reduction” alone does not represent all that recovery truly offers. There are many people who have found life long recovery through their introduction to methadone treatment. After becoming drug free, they went on to have families, start businesses, develop new careers, and enjoy a full life in the best sense.

The possibilities are limitless in recovery. Addiction is treatable. Methadone can be an important piece of the recovery journey. For many thousands of patients, it was the new start that they had hoped for.

Methadone Maintenance For Opioid Treatment

methadone-and-opioid-treatmentOpioid Treatment is a category that includes several different interventions or approaches relating to opioid use disorders. People sometimes mistake opioid treatment for “opioid detox” when they are technically two different processes.

Opioid detox refers to the process of helping an opioid addicted individual discontinue their use of opioids and be medically monitored as the body withdraws from them. In a supervised setting, a person is typically assisted through a short-term opioid detox (3-10 days) by the administration of various medications used to manage withdrawal symptoms like clonidine (to guard against high blood pressure), vistaril (to reduce nausea and anxiety), and even buprenorphine (to minimize the severity of the opioid withdrawal process).

There are also variations on an opioid detox referred to as a taper. A taper often occurs on an outpatient basis and involves a more gradual reduction in dosage of either methadone or buprenorphine (suboxone) over time. This taper may take as long as 90 days and allows the individual to adjust more comfortably due to the slower, milder reduction in dosage that occurs over a coarse of weeks or months.

Maintenance is the term which refers to maintaining an individual for a significant period of time on either methadone or buprenorphine (suboxone) to allow for stabilization on the opioid replacement medication. Since opioid addiction introduces dramatic brain chemistry changes in conjunction with strong physical dependency and cravings for opiates, many people find that they need a substantial period of stabilization on methadone in order to have a realistic chance at building a personal recovery. Numerous individuals have decided that they will utilize methadone for only a few weeks with the intention of tapering off of it very quickly. This strategy is prone to failure and tends to end in dramatic relapses back to heroin and other illicit opioids.

Methadone maintenance for most opioid-addicted persons involves receiving methadone for a year or more. This length of time dramatically raises the probability of successful physical stabilization and necessary thinking, behavior, and lifestyle changes which lead to long-term drug abstinence and sustained, productive living. Put very simply, when people attempt to rush through the process of stabilization & recovery, they sabotage their chance of experiencing real success. For that reason, maintenance is a therapeutic process which should be regarded as a one year commitment or longer, and tapering off of methadone or buprenorphine should not be rushed. Bear in mind that not all individual situations are exactly the same and there are unique exceptions.

There are many different factors that play into how long a person needs to remain on methadone or suboxone maintenance. This is highly individualized depending on the length and severity of one’s opioid abuse history, one’s present medical status and general state of health, the availability of social & emotional supports, and the presence of any co-occurring psychiatric disorders like depression.

There is considerable misinformation about methadone tapering and a bit of fear-mongering that often occurs around the topic. People that generally taper successfully off of methadone or suboxone are individuals that have invested time in counseling and personal recovery growth, and who have developed a good working relationship with their doctor or treatment staff. These individuals approach tapering as a gradual goal and are allowed to halt or slow down their taper as needed. This allows their body time to adapt to the somewhat lower dosage. It also allows them to proceed slowly and carefully such that any anxiety or fears can be successfully identified and managed.

Choosing The Right Direction: Detox – Methadone – Suboxone