Dr. Cali Estes - The Addiction Coach ®

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How Methadone Programs help to Recover from Drug Addictions

Methadone is a long-acting synthetic drug used since the 60s of the last centuries. Methadone is an opiate agonist, so it acts similarly to morphine and other narcotic drugs. It uses to relieve the symptoms of an abstinence crisis and for long-term abstinence from heroin. The therapeutic success of methadone trials is to suppress the unpleasant symptoms of an abstinence crisis, not produces the effects of euphoria or sedation.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a controversial drug. The medical community accepts the view that it is better to take methadone than to continue using heroin. This approach to drug addiction recovery reduces the possibility of overdose and infections such as hepatitis B/C and HIV/AIDS.

According to the WHO, there are four forms of Methadone treatment:
* Short-term Methadone detoxification (up to 4 weeks),
* Long-term Methadone detoxification (use of Methadone for more than a month),
* Short-term maintenance on Methadone (up to 6 months),
* Long-term maintenance – stable prescribing Methadone for over 6 months.

The World Health Organization recommends methadone therapy as the primary model for treating opiate addicts. Methadone substitution therapy eases the withdrawal syndrome and also reduces health and social risks.

Advantages of the Methadone program in the process of drug addiction recovery:

* Reduction of consumption of illegal substances
* Reduction of criminal activities
* Reduction of intravenous drug consumption and its consequences including the reduction of transmissible diseases
* Regular contact with health and social institutions and services
* Improving health and social status
* Enabling a productive lifestyle
* Reduction of costs caused by substance abuse

Agonists ease abstinence symptoms in psychoactive substance addicts. They often reduce health and social risks; when given in the right doses, it reduces cravings for opiates.


Suboxone / Buprenorphine is a synthetic partial agonist-antagonist. By using antagonists, the heroin effect is blocked. It cannot act on the brain in the usual way. The drug addiction recovery by substitution therapy varies from several months to several years, depending on the chronicity of addiction, the situation in the family, the psychological maturity, and some social factors (employment opportunities, financial situation, environmental support).

The addictive potential of Suboxone is lower compared to heroin and other opiates. Most people on Suboxone therapy estimate that this drug eliminates the abstinence crisis and better controls craving for heroin.

Since Buprenorphine (Suboxone) does not cause an artificial euphoric effect and a feeling of satisfaction, the addict can now seek pleasure and calm in natural rewards (food, sex, friendships, success, hobbies, sports). That establishes the ground for further work on developing a new, healthy motivational system of personality.

Unlike Methadone, Buprenorphine can be given 3 times per week, which allows addicts to work efficiently, to be easily socially rehabilitated, and have a healthier quality of life.

Tolerability of high doses of Buprenorphine is better, rarely leads to the development of tolerance, and is less addictive than Methadone.


Methadone and Suboxone clinics in addition to the principles of prevention should respect essential principles that stem from adopting a client perspective in service delivery:

* Ensuring confidentiality
* Improving service accessibility
* Creating a user-friendly atmosphere
* Conducting dialogue with users and promoting peer involvement
* Adopting a practical approach to service delivery
* Refraining from ideological and moral condemnation
* Maintaining a realistic hierarchy of goals

Gaining trust is essential for drug addiction recovery. Access to services must be provided in a way that ensures full confidentiality, viewed from the client’s perspective. There are approaches to develop and monitor service delivery at acceptable levels of accuracy without compromising anonymity and confidentiality.


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