What is LAAM? How Is It Different from Methadone?

LAAM (Levomethadyl acetate) works very much like methadone. LAAM and methadone are both synthetic opiates, and when given to opiate-dependent drug users, they both take away feelings of withdrawal and drug cravings. They also both block opiate receptors, limiting the effects of other opiate drugs.

LAAM and methadone are both currently available for the treatment of opiate addiction. LAAM lasts longer and can be taken on alternate days, while methadone must be taken daily.

LAAM cannot, however, be given in take-home doses.

LAAM was introduced at methadone clinics in the 1980s. With the rise in HIV/AIDS, health officials realized that they could reduce the transmission of the disease and provide essential services through methadone and methadone clinics. LAAM was offered in an attempt to increase the desirability of opiate substitution treatment, the advantage of LAAM being its longer active lifespan (which gives patients a longer time period between doses).

Both LAAM and methadone cause physical dependency, and ending one’s use of either of these drugs will cause withdrawal symptoms.

Which Is Right for You?

Both medications work well and are well tolerated, though methadone is prescribed more often by physicians and requested more often by patients than LAAM is.

Patients who must travel long distances to a methadone clinic each day might prefer LAAM’s schedule of alternate-day visits, but many are hesitant to begin using a drug (LAAM) that they will never be able to acquire in take-home doses.

Due to a lack of study on the effects of the drug during pregnancy, LAAM is not indicated for use during pregnancy. Also, LAAM has been associated with some deaths from cardiac arrhythmia.