A. Methadone hydrochloride is a synthetic opiate used as a form of “harm reduction” for heroin addicts. Harm reduction is intended as a progressive alternative to certain lifestyle
choices such as casual sex, prostitution, and drug use. The philosophy of harm reduction has developed over the years and the thinking goes like this: Some people just won’t quit no matter what; therefore, let’s see what can be done so they do less harm to themselves and society.
I used to inject methadone, but I lost fifty pounds.
My limbs became just strings of muscle.
When I could no longer find a place to inject,
that was the end.
One initiative of harm reduction is a free government-sponsored program where methadone is given to heroin addicts in place of heroin.
The high from the drug is very similar to the high from heroin, but it does not provide the euphoric rush and the high also lasts longer. It’s given to heroin addicts so they won’t have to commit crimes to get more money for dope. Methadone is given once a day and is taken orally in liquid or pill form. (Whether the person truly is a heroin addict and not just someone looking for free drugs can be determined by their arrest record, any previous unsuccessful treatment for heroin, or marks on the arms showing IV drug use.)
Most people who begin the methadone maintenance program will be on it for life. The good news is that once a person becomes stable on methadone, they can function normally. They can work, drive a car, feel pain, and experience emotional reactions. Methadone relieves the craving associated with opiate addiction. The bad news is that methadone is more addictive than heroin, and the withdrawal symptoms are much more severe. Personal accounts from those who have experienced withdrawal from both heroin and methadone describe the withdrawal from methadone as a living hell.
My feeling is that taking methadone is like trading one drug for another. I am not a big fan of harm reduction. In my opinion, even heroin addicts can quit. An additional drug that has become popular for withdrawal from opiates is Suboxone. This drug was originally intended to be used briefly for detox. Unfortunately, many will stay on this drug for a long time. Again, this appears to be another opportunity to switch from one drug to another.
This “Q & A with Joe” is excerpted from Part 5 of “Why Don’t They Just Quit? What families and friends need to know about addiction and recovery.”
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What is methadone? What is harm reduction? What is methadone?