Maintenance medication is a treatment that many of us are familiar
with but do not use this term.
People who are trying to quit smoking
often use patches or gum that still provide the nicotine their bodies
are addicted to, but the idea is to slowly decrease the bodies
dependence on nicotine until they do not feel cravings anymore.
Methadone maintenance treatment follows this same idea and it has been
very successful in decreasing opioid use and helping a person avoid
returning to previous substance abuse patterns. Another major benefit
is that methadone does not harm the body, even if it is used for long
periods of time such as twenty or thirty years.
Methadone also provides other benefits linked to reducing drug use. One
of these is reduced risk of getting HIV or AIDS. By reducing a patients
craving for opiate drugs needle sharing or injecting is also reduced.
Criminal behavior also decreases because the addiction no longer drives
a person to buy illegal drugs, or commit crimes to get the money to pay
for drugs. Methadone treatment also helps people maintain steady work.
For communities in general methadone treatment is also cost effective.
A patient on methadone treatment is estimated to cost society about
$4,000 per year while untreated opiate addicts cost society $49,000 per
Studies show that using methadone maintenance treatment for longer
periods of time is actually more beneficial for opiate addicts. One
study published in Journal of the American Medical Association showed
that people who were in methadone treatment for fourteen months
followed by a two-month detoxification period had fewer relapses than
people who were in a six-month program. However, ideally doctors
usually want to phase out using methadone within two years.