If a person has an addiction to drugs, his or her body has become chemically conditioned to expect those drugs. When the body is suddenly deprived of the drugs it is expecting, unconscious physical withdrawal occurs. The physical and emotional effects of withdrawal are typically very severe. During this time, a person has little ability to handle daily life, much less the behavioral counseling that must also occur to achieve and sustain recovery. Thus, methadone medication is used to reduce these symptoms and physically stabilize the body. Once stabilized, we are able to begin working with the patient to treat the behavioral factors that contributed to the addiction in the first place.
Methadone is a highly regulated, prescription medicine used to help temporarily replace the body's craving for opioids. It is very similar to prescribing insulin as a replacement or “substitution” therapy for diabetes patients. Methadone treatment has been used this way for more than 45 years and has helped millions of people on their path to recovery. A stable maintenance dose of methadone does not make our patients feel “high” or drowsy. As a result, our patients can socialize, go to work or school, and otherwise carry on a normal life. Vincent Dole, MD, a pioneer in medication substitution therapy said, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with using crutches if it helps the person get back on his feet and move forward in addiction recovery.