For decades there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the use of Methadone as a treatment for addiction to opiates like heroin, morphine and prescription drugs such as Oxycontin. Proponents of Methadone treatment report that the drug is essential to help people break away from addiction to more serious street drugs like heroin. Conversely, detractors state that this type of addiction treatment is simply substituting one drug for another. However, most people agree that whether methadone treatment works or not it must be provided in conjunction with a professional drug addiction treatment program like an inpatient treatment center or an outpatient facility in order to be successful.

According to the Wikipedia entry on Methadone, the drug was first introduced as a treatment for addiction to opiates in the United States in 1947. The drug was actually developed decades earlier as a less addictive form of heroin and other opiates, (primarily for use as a cough suppressant) and in fact is derived primarily from opium ingredients. However, methadone is unique in that it blocks the ability of the user to obtain a euphoric "high" from the drug, while still delivering powerful sedative and analgesic properties. This means that while a person is using methadone, they will not be able to get high from other drugs.

Methadone's ability to block the "feel good" sensation of getting high is touted as a significant breakthrough in addiction and substance abuse treatment because it provides addicts with a gradual method of weaning off their drug or drugs of choice without going through severe withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal Syndrome is a set of symptoms that occurs when a person who is physically addicted to a substance suddenly stops using. These symptoms can be severe and in some cases life-threatening and pose a significant barrier for many people who would otherwise get help for their drug problem. Methadone alleviates this concern by minimizing the withdrawal process.

However, because methadone is an opiate, it too can cause addiction- and herein lies the main argument of detractors of the use of the drug as an addiction treatment. Many people feel that methadone only prolongs the time a person uses drugs, and in fact some people have been known to use methadone on a regular basis for years at a time. This can be dangerous, because according to the National Drug Intelligence Center;

"Methadone, however, does not produce the euphoric rush associated with those other drugs; thus, these users often consume dangerously large quantities of methadone in a vain attempt to attain the desired effect. Methadone overdoses are associated with severe respiratory depression, decreases in heart rate and blood pressure, coma, and death."

This indicates that methadone can indeed be a dangerous treatment option if not administered correctly. Most methadone programs are rigidly controlled by the federal government in an effort to control the drug and prevent it from being redirected to the street. This oversight costs taxpayers a significant amount of money each year with mixed results. Nevertheless, many recovering addicts attribute their success at least partially to methadone treatment, although in most cases more serious treatment is required in order to achieve lasting success.

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Author's Bio: 

A writer for most of his career, Casey has been published in numerous journals and magazines and has four books in print. Widely considered an expert on addiciton and alcoholism, Casey is also a passionate writer of fiction.