Is Methadone Dangerous?
The FDA schedules drugs to classify their risks vs. benefits. Risky drugs without redeeming benefits are banned from medical practice; these are schedule one drugs. Methadone is a FDA schedule two drug, and it’s in the same class as:
Drugs like codeine cough syrup, a schedule five drug, are less risky.
What Does It Treat?
First, it’s a narcotic pain reliever that lasts longer than heroin and short-acting narcotics like Percocet and Oxycodone. Second, it’s also used in Medical Assisted Treatment (MAT) because it is an opioid replacement medication. In clinics, a person addicted to heroin or other narcotics takes methadone instead of the drug that gives them a “high.” Doctors then gradually lower dose the dose.
Why Is There So Much Controversy?
The Pros: Methadone reduces the drug cravings and harsh withdrawal symptoms. It helps lower the risk of relapse. About 4,000 inmates at Rikers Island in New York have taken it and shown promising results. Dr. Lipi Roy is the former chief of addiction medicine for New York City jails. He explains,
“People who are on this medication, when it is prescribed and used appropriately, and people are monitored, they not only live, they can thrive.”
The Cons: Federal laws dictate the med must be dispensed from a clinic. Some of these clinics are run as pill mills, and prescribing patterns vary from clinic to clinic. It’s a long-acting opioid, so patients who take too much risk an overdose. In fact, in 2014 Methadone was on the list of ten most deadliest drugs. Further, some traditional 12-step programs are critical of methadone use because they feel people are substituting one addiction for another.
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A Recovery Guidance Exclusive By: Dr. Gail Dudley
Gail Dudley, DO, MHA, FACOFP, is board certified in four areas of medicine. For more than twenty years Gail Dudley had a busy family practice with a hospital and nursing home component. Dr. Gail now works full time for a company that has contracts with Medicare and Medicaid to evaluate fraud, waste and abuse in the medical world.
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Pam is the author of Co-dependent In The Kitchen, and she's a contributing editor for Recovery Guidance. She's a recovery advocate who likes long walks on the beach and chocolate.