Does methadone treatment impair mental function?
Methadone treatment has no adverse effects on intelligence, mental capability, or employability. Methadone treated patients are comparable to non-patients in reaction time and in ability to learn, focus, and make complex judgements. Methadone treated patients do well in a wide array of vocational endeavors, including professional positions, service occupations, and skilled, technical, and support jobs.
How is success in methadone and other pharmacotherapy treatments defined?
The primary goals are to help addicts cease heroin use and lead more stable, productive lives. But, as knowledge about heroin addiction and effective treatment practices has grown, so too have the objectives of most methadone treatment programs, which also aim to:
Decrease criminality and reduce the numbers of substance abusers entering the criminal justice system.
Assist patients in addressing multiple substance abuse (including crack/cocaine addiction and alcoholism).
Assure treatment for general health matters, especially those related to drug use, such as HIV/ AIDS, tuberculosis and hepatitis
Promote patient employability and educational development.
Identify and treat mental health problems and alleviate homelessness, family substance abuse and child and family dysfunction.
Why do drug-addicted persons keep using drugs?
Nearly all addicted individuals believe at the outset that they can stop using drugs on their own, and most try to stop without treatment. Although some people are successful, many attempts result in failure to achieve long-term abstinence. Research has shown that long-term drug abuse results in changes in the brain that persist long after a person stops using drugs. These drug-induced changes in brain function can have many behavioral consequences including an inability to exert control over the impulse to use drugs despite adverse consequences – the defining characteristic of addiction.
How effective is drug addiction treatment?
In addition to stopping drug abuse, the goal of treatment is to return people to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and community. According to research that tracks individuals in treatment over extended periods, most people who get into and remain in treatment stop using drugs, decrease their criminal activity, and improve their occupational, social, and psychological functioning. For example, methadone treatment has been shown to increase participation in behavioral therapy and decrease both drug use and criminal behavior. However, individual treatment outcomes depend on the extent and nature of the patient’s problems, the appropriateness of treatment, and related services used to address those problems and the quality of interaction between the patient and his or her treatment providers.
How long does drug addiction treatment usually last?
Individuals progress through drug addiction treatment at various rates, so there is no predetermined length of treatment. However, research has shown unequivocally that good outcomes are contingent on adequate treatment length. Generally, for residential or outpatient treatment, participation for less than 90 days is of limited effectiveness, and treatment lasting significantly longer is recommended for maintaining positive outcomes. For methadone maintenance, 12 months is considered the minimum, and some opioid addicted individuals continue to benefit from methadone maintenance for many years.
How do other mental disorders coexisting with drug addiction affect drug addiction treatment?
Drug addiction is a disease of the brain that frequently occurs with other mental disorders. In fact, as many as 6 in 10 people with an illicit substance use disorder also suffer from another mental illness; and rates are similar for users of licit drugs-i.e., tobacco and alcohol. For these individuals, one condition becomes more difficult to treat successfully as an additional condition is intertwined.
Is the use of a medication like methadone simply replacing one drug addiction with another?
No – as used in maintenance treatment, methadone is not a heroin/opioid substitute. It is prescribed or administered under monitored, controlled conditions and is safe and effective for treating opioid addiction when used as directed.
Source: NIDA, “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment”