Why are other drugs usually better than Methadone for addiction therapy?
Medication therapies have been used for decades to control drug use and diminish cravings. Addiction medicine has evolved tremendously, where detoxification methods have shown to be much better than methadone, in order to achieve a drug-free state. Drug addiction can be a very complex illness, usually characterized by very strong and most of the time uncontrollable drug cravings, along with compulsive drug-seeking behaviors, which overpowers the possibility of devastating consequences. Once drug addiction sets in the person’s ability to choose not to do drugs become somewhat compromised. The behavior of seeking and consuming drugs becomes compulsive. This behavior is mostly a result of the effects caused by prolonged drug exposure on brain functioning. Addiction is considered a brain disease that affects multiple brain functions, that will influence reward paths, motivation, learning abilities, memory, and behavior.
The world was shocked when it was reported that one of the Kennedy’s, Mary Richardson Kennedy, committed suicide. Even more shocking was the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s autopsy report showing that she had at least three anti-depressants and painkillers in her system. A lot of those addicted to prescription drugs deal with pain – be it emotional or psychological pain. Alone, depressed and with a history of domestic problems is a common profile. Incidental addicts are those who were given prescription pain killer and became physically dependent.
A recovering alcoholic, Kennedy was free of alcohol when she committed suicide. Cross-addiction is very strong especially when complete abstinence is not practiced due to uncontrolled urges.
In the 70’s Quaaludes and Valium were considered safe by the pharmaceutical industry – until these were found to be problematic for those who had strong addiction potential. Currently, the medical world is vigilant on what it classifies as “safe” for drug-dependent individuals.
Options available better than Methadone
Aside from new drugs in the testing phase, a dual combination of two well-known drugs is contesting methadone’s supremacy for drug detoxification and treatment. Buprenorphine, classified as an analgesic has a stronger affinity for the opiate sites in the brain. In effect, it bumps off the opiate but does not result in a “high” whether in therapeutic or increased dosage. It is classified as a “narcotic” but unlike those in its class, Buprenorphine is capable of eliminating withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Unlike methadone, there is no build-up of tolerance to Buprenorphine and prevents a “high” even when taken with heroin. In combination with Naloxone, the detoxification potential of Buprenorphine, a semi-synthetic agonist is enhanced.
Negative Impact of Buprenorphine
Pharmaceutical companies claim that Buprenorphine is safe. However, it has been shown that abuse potential exists and that when snorted results in faster uptake which upsets the balance between buprenorphine and Naloxone.
In short, this drug still carries potential abuse for street addicts who cannot commit to long-term abstinence. Long-term use may result to negative effects on sex hormone levels and sexual function. The possibility of long-term sobriety is a contested topic but until newer, safer, less addicting drugs are approved, buprenorphine remains used by a large number of detoxification professionals, regardless of its addictive components.