Are Methadone Clinics Helping (or Hindering) the Fight Against Addiction?

November 5, 2018 - - 0 Comments

Methadone Clinic

The opiate abuse epidemic is rapidly supplanting alcohol and benzodiazepines use across the country. Whether a person is hooked on prescription medications like Xanax or illicit substances like heroin, addiction to opiates has become a health crisis that needs immediate attention. Too many of our best and brightest minds are being lost to this substance abuse danger.

However, recovery centers like methadone clinics have been in operation for decades to manage this issue. Along with rehabilitation centers, these medical centers are at the front line of the fight, but experts now doubt their effectiveness. Are methadone clinics helping with the battle against addiction or contributing to it? Or is the reality more complex?

The Nature of Methadone Clinics

Methadone clinics are medical facilities that distribute medicines that help manage opioid addiction. These clinics specifically administer methadone, which is one of the most famous and heavily used replacement medication for opiate addiction. Methadone clinics can be private or public, which affects the privacy of the treatment. In private centers, you will pay more to get more specialized care while public centers are ones that anybody can enter.

Methadone clinics operate on the premise that it is better to provide an addicted person with healthier and safer chemicals to manage their addiction. The model of “addiction as a disease” is followed at these centers and methadone is treated like any type of medication. Once a person addicted to opioids takes methadone, they won’t suffer from withdrawal symptoms and experience a decrease in their cravings for these substances.

However, methadone use also blocks the effects of many types of illicit opioids. This reaction occurs because methadone triggers the same opioid receptors common in opiates like heroin or morphine. As a result, this treatment and recovery method often provides people with a stabilizing element that keeps them from experiencing severe and dangerous reactions.

For example, a business owner suffering from an addiction to opiate painkillers can stop by a methadone clinic on their way home from work and receive a dose to manage their negative symptoms. Likewise, homeless people who are struggling with an addiction to heroin, benzos, methamphetamine, or other substances can receive the care that they need to recover. Therefore, it is critical to understand how these centers work and the various types of treatment methods that they provide for people addicted to opiates.

Treatment Methods in a Methadone Clinic

Opiate TreatmentMethadone clinic treatment focuses on a variety of care methods to help a person overcome addiction. The first step in the process is a complete physical examination. A physical help to gauge the level of a person’s health and to ensure that they are healthy enough to receive methadone. Unfortunately, problems such as heart trauma and other issues may complicate this treatment.

Other assessments of dependency include the effects that it has on a person’s social, medical, and legal situations. The idea here is to educate these individuals on the dangers of dependency and to help them better understand how it contributes to their issues. After fully understanding the state of a person’s physical and mental health due to addiction, physicians can prescribe methadone for their drug abuse.

The dose of methadone that they prescribe will be based on a variety of factors. First of all, specialists will gauge how severe the person’s opioid dependency has become. If these specialists find that a person’s reliance is dangerously high, they are likely to prescribe a more massive dose of methadone. Those with lower addiction rates may be given lower levels.

The idea here is to give each patient a minimal amount of methadone needed to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Doctors in a methadone clinic aren’t trying to get their patients high but to make it easier for them to stop abusing opioids. The slower-acting reaction common with methadone will cause less severe reactions and minimize the dangers of overdose.

As treatment progresses, doses will be slowly and carefully adjusted to help a person overcome opiate dependency. Most of the time, dose are decreased over a period of several months until a person no longer needs methadone. In some scenarios, temporary increases may be necessary if a person’s withdrawal symptoms trigger on lower doses.

This description of methadone center treatment is how a perfect case would progress. Unfortunately, these results are not typical and don’t always occur during this type of recovery and care technique. That’s why it is essential to understand how this treatment method varies from other types of rehab care, such as dual-diagnosis and the 12 step program.

How Methadone Clinics Differ From Rehab Centers

Methadone clinics and rehab centers differ in a variety of important to understand ways. For example, drug rehabilitation is often an in-patient procedure that provides patients with a 24/7 treatment option. Client behavior and health are carefully tracked by professionals to gauge where your drug dependency began, how your treatment is progressing, and the ways it could be improved.

In many of these facilities, detox treatments are not provided or only on a limited basis. However, some centers do provide detoxification treatment options. It all depends on what a specific rehab group offers. In centers that do provide detoxification care, you will receive replacement medications like methadone to overcome this problem.

However, the physical element of drug dependency is not focused on as heavily in a rehabilitation center as it is in a methadone clinic. Instead, care techniques like behavioral adjustment, mental health treatment, psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and much more are focused on to provide a comprehensive and high-quality treatment option.

By contrast, the mental element of dependency is not touched upon nearly as much in a methadone clinic. While there are counselors on hand at these centers, they don’t provide the same kind of round-the-clock care available at rehab treatment facilities. In fact, methadone clinics are almost always outpatient care options. Does this somewhat more limited approach affect how well methadone clinics operate?

Do Methadone Clinics Work?

Clinical StudyIf you were to ask 10 people about the effectiveness of methadone clinics, you’d likely get 10 different answers. That’s because these treatment centers are often controversial and their efficacy heavily debated among many professionals. For example, one study entitled “Long-Term Outcomes of Pharmacological Treatments for Opioid dependence: Does Methadone Still Lead the Pack?” gauged the effectiveness of methadone clinics over six years.

They found that one-year retention rates in methadone clinics were as high as 70 percent. However, retention rate dropped to 30 percent after two years and fell even further during the six years of the study. However, they also found that people who did stay in treatment had a lower risk of abusing drugs again and even lower chances of overdose.

In another study entitled “Implications of Managed Care for Methadone Treatment: Findings From Five Case Studies in New York State,” drug policy changes in New York State were tested, and it was found the increased policy severity limited the effectiveness of methadone treatment. The study stated that limitations on treatment increased drug use, crime occurrence, and infectious disease problems.

In “The Effectiveness of Methadone Maintenance Therapy Among Opiate – Dependants,” 117 different methadone treatment case studies were examined. Reductions in HIV risk-taking behaviors and overall addiction were noted in nearly every case. Interestingly, every study examined has showcased positive effects from methadone treatment centers.  So why are these clinics so heavily debated among the community?

Misconceptions and the poor perception of methadone clinics are likely due to negative attitudes regarding its application. For example, many individuals believe that methadone clinics give drugs to criminals in a way that increases crime. However, a lengthy study on the crime-related effects of a methadone clinic in Baltimore found that there were no increases in crime in areas with methadone clinics. Furthermore, they found that maintenance therapy reduced criminal activity, decreased mortality, and helped improve overall treatment recovery.

Issues That Complicate Methadone Treatment Effectiveness

While many of the studies mentioned in the previous section were positive, methadone clinics have downsides that may limit their efficacy. For example, bias against methadone treatments often makes it harder to implement. People misunderstand this treatment method and may try to make it harder for centers to open in an area or limit the number of people who can attend them.

person holding white printer paperOther issues include the potential long-term effects that methadone seems to have on the body and the brain. For example, a study by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health took a look at how the nerve cells changed in the minds of people undergoing lengthy methadone treatment. Unfortunately, this study found that methadone adversely affected learning capability, making new memories, and even retaining old ones.

While these changes weren’t dangerous, the study also found that the damage caused to the nerve cells could also change a person’s behavior in unpredictable ways. They could suddenly develop mood swings or even change in their personalities. Problems like these could make it more difficult for individuals to achieve success while taking methadone.

However, the biggest problem associated with methadone clinics is their relatively weak focus on mental health treatment. While physical withdrawal is essential to manage when caring for dependency, the mental aspects are perhaps even more critical, if harder, to control. Without a focused psychological approach, methadone clinics could simply trap somebody in a cycle of abuse in which they receive potentially brain-damaging methadone for years at a time.

And while methadone clinics clearly do more good than harm in treating drug abuse, they may not be the best possible treatment option. That’s why dual-diagnosis is such an essential care method to understand if you are addicted to opioids or opiates.

How Dual-Diagnosis Can Help

If you are uncertain if methadone clinic care is right for you, then you might want to consider detox in a dual-diagnosis treatment center. Dual-diagnosis is a unique care treatment that focuses on managing every symptom of addiction. Like methadone clinics, dual-diagnosis care centers treat drug dependency like a real medical problem and work to keep it from recurring.

For example, specialists in these medical facilities will help you through the process of detoxification from opiates. They often use opioid replacement medications – including methadone – to minimize withdrawal symptoms and make it easier for a person to overcome addictive behaviors. These medications are distributed in a controlled manner that makes it simpler for individuals to wean off of regular abuse.

During this process, nutritional care provides patients with healthier food to increase their physical strength. Many people addicted to opioids experience undernourishment because they fail to eat regularly. With the help of nutritional specialists, you’ll get back into better shape and boost your immune system to fight off diseases and infections that may be plaguing you.

However, the most crucial element of dual-diagnosis is the way it treats mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Often, people with addiction experience severe mental health issues that contribute to the development of dependency. For example, those with depression may use the euphoric effects of opioids to fight their negative emotions.

Instances like these are referred to as co-occurring disorders. They occur when mental health problems like PTSD force a person into a deeper cycle of depression. These disorders feed off of addiction and vice versa, trapping a person in a cycle of abuse that often feels impossible to escape. However, dual-diagnosis manages these issues in a way that makes them easier to overcome.

Just as importantly, dual-diagnosis provides behavioral adjustment techniques that help a person create healthier and more positive coping factors to replace their addiction. So while methadone clinics are useful for managing the physical element of addiction, they don’t have the comprehensive benefits offered by dual-diagnosis. Therefore, dual-diagnosis may be a better treatment option for many individuals.

Getting the Help That You Need

As you can see, methadone clinics have their place in the fight against addiction. While their use may still be somewhat controversial and the results more than a bit mixed, the positives likely outweigh the negatives. However, it is also clear that treating only the physical aspect of addiction is not enough to overcome drug dependency.

Moreover, while it is true that methadone clinics offer therapy options for mental health issues, these treatments are rarely as comprehensive as those provided by dual-diagnosis centers. So please don’t hesitate to contact us today if you want to overcome addiction and regain a healthy and happy life that is free of drugs.

Our dual-diagnosis center is staffed by highly professional and caring individuals who understand the physical and mental elements of drug abuse. They will work with you to identify the core of your addiction and will provide you with the treatment and recovery methods you need to overcome the dangers of opiate addiction.

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