Debunking the Myths About Methadone Clinics


Because methadone clinics serve recovering drug addicts, they are widely stigmatized and rarely talked about openly. Because of this stigma, it’s only natural that methadone and methadone clinics are shrouded in rumor, myth and misconception. The relatively few individuals who have had negative experiences with methadone tend to make the most noise, while the thousands of people who live happy and healthy lives thanks to methadone are rarely heard from.

Although there may be some methadone clinics that are poorly run or don’t have their patients’ best interests at heart, the vast majority of methadone clinics, especially the private ones, are well-run, professional, clean and supportive.

Let’s clear up a few of the more common myths about methadone clinics.

Myth: Methadone clinics make you trade one addiction for another.
Fact: According to the DSM-IV, the manual that doctors use to diagnose mental disorders, methadone does not qualify as an addictive drug. It is more akin to the insulin that diabetics use; it’s a medication that can be taken on a regular basis in order to keep the patient stable. Drugs that are truly addictive cause impairment, increased tolerance, and permanent damage to the brain and body. Methadone does none of these things.

Myth: Methadone is just as bad as or worse than heroin and prescription opioids.
Fact: There are many reasons why this myth is incorrect. The fact that methadone does not impair functioning is the most obvious reason why it’s not as bad as heroin and other opioids. Plus, methadone is regulated, which means that it is never cut with other substances. And unlike other opioids, methadone doesn’t require its users to engage in secretive, illegal and self-destructive behavior. It’s also very difficult to overdose on methadone when taken as prescribed.

Myth: It’s harder to kick methadone than an addiction to other drugs.
Fact: The effects of methadone withdrawal are different for everyone. Some people do find that the withdrawal from methadone is longer than that of heroin or other opioids, while others have no difficulty at all quitting methadone. But while the withdrawal from methadone sometimes lasts longer, it’s typically milder and done under safe, supervised conditions.

Myth: Methadone clinics overcharge.
Fact: There are two types of methadone clinics – public and private. Public clinics are more affordable, but they often have long waiting lists. Private clinics do cost more, but they have no wait lists, and the service they provide is typically better. Most people who go to private clinics find that they get what they pay for – great service, a clean and welcoming atmosphere, and a supportive staff.

Myth: Methadone clinics keep you hooked so you’ll keep buying drugs.
Fact: As you go through your treatment process, you’ll hear varying philosophies about how long recovering addicts should stay on methadone. Some say that six months to a year is a good term for methadone maintenance therapy, while others say that there’s nothing wrong with staying on methadone indefinitely if it’s your only sure way of staying clean. However you plan to go about your therapy, the decision is ultimately up to you. Private methadone clinics do make a profit, but they’re not pushy about keeping you on methadone.

Myth: Methadone clinics are dirty, depressing and unwelcoming places.
Fact: In the U.S., methadone clinics operate under strict federal and state regulation, so they must uphold certain standards. However, it’s possible to find poorly run establishments in every area across the medical field; just as there are some dirty and unwelcoming hospitals, dental clinics and medical specialist offices, there are undoubtedly a few methadone clinics that don’t provide top-notch service. However, they are the exception, not the rule.

If your doctor or treatment program sends you to a methadone clinic that you’re not comfortable with, don’t be discouraged. Most major metropolitan areas have at least two methadone clinics, and while you may have to drive a little further to get to your preferred clinic, it’s worth it if it encourages you to stick with your treatment. Also, keep in mind that public methadone clinics are, in general, not as welcoming as private ones.

Myth: Methadone clinics merely dole out the drug and can’t help in other ways.
Fact: Again, methadone clinics can vary in quality. Some essentially serve as methadone distribution centers and don’t do anything to help their patients. Others, on the other hand, have caring counselors, doctors and staff who are committed to helping their patients get off hard drugs and lead better lives.

Myth: Methadone clinics have a small success rate.
Fact: The best methadone clinics do everything in their power to make sure that their patients are successful in their recovery. In the end, however, each addict is in control of his or her own success. Yes, a small percentage of people who undergo methadone maintenance therapy end up getting back into drugs. But as shown by the thousands who have kicked opiate addiction with methadone maintenance therapy, the treatment itself is not the problem. If everything goes well in all other aspects of your treatment, then your methadone therapy should be successful.

Myth: Methadone causes long-term damage to the body.
Fact: There are a number of myths about methadone’s alleged long-term effects on the body, but most of them are untrue. Methadone does no harm to the liver, it does not cause your teeth to rot, it doesn’t cause you to gain weight, and it does not impede your immune system in any way. While some recovering addicts do experience these things, the symptoms cannot be traced to methadone use. Liver damage and dental problems often spring from years of addiction, and some addicts don’t realize anything is wrong until they kick their habit. Meanwhile, the weight gain that some recovering addicts experience often comes from the fact that opiate use suppresses appetite.

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