Methadone is a fully synthetic prescription opioid. It is a slow-acting drug that is currently used as a painkiller and in the treatment of addiction to opioids (such as heroin). It can be taken orally (tablet) or injected intravenously, depending on the situation. Methadone is available through prescription only.
Although people often prescribe it to combat opioid addiction, it has a high potential for abuse. The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that almost a quarter (23.5%) of all the people who used methadone in the last year misused it at least once during that period; this represented around 256,000 Americans.
Methadone Used in Detox vs. Methadone maintenance
Methadone can be used to help someone detox from drugs such as heroin. Heroin is a short-acting opioid; therefore, the withdrawal symptoms appear quickly and can be quite severe. Using methadone can help delay those symptoms and make them less painful because of its long duration of action. When used to get someone through the detoxification process, doses are usually lowered throughout with the ultimate purpose of being completely drug-free. There are some risks of tolerance and dependence developing during this process, which is why methadone should be used for the shortest duration possible.
Methadone maintenance is the long-term administration of methadone to someone who is addicted to opioids. There are some debates about whether or not methadone maintenance is actually a real solution or just replacing one form of addiction with another. Because of the devastation caused by heroin abuse and addiction (high overdose rates, the spread of HIV because of intravenous abuse, etc.), methadone is the lesser of two evils as it aids curb many of the problems associated with opioid abuse. However, some will argue that the person is not drug-free. Given the evidence of physical tolerance and dependence that methadone brings about, people can make a case that this doesn't solve the addiction problem in the person, it just masks it.
Methadone vs. Buprenorphine
Buprenorphine (brand name Suboxone) is another drug used to treat opioid addiction. There are some key differences between the two. Buprenorphine acts in the same way by binding itself to opioid receptors in the brain but will have lesser effects since it is a partial opiate agonist (methadone is a full agonist). This means that it will cause less analgesia and euphoria than methadone w