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The Myths and Facts about Addiction

Myth: Methadone gets into the bones and weakens them.
Fact: Methadone does not "get into the bones" or in any other way cause harm to the skeletal system. Although some methadone patients report having aches in their arms and legs, the discomfort is probably a mild withdrawal symptom and may be eased by adjusting the patient’s dose of methadone. Also, some substances can cause more rapid metabolism of methadone. If a patient is taking another substance that is affecting the metabolism of methadone, the clinic doctor may need to adjust the patient’s methadone dose.

Myth: It's harder to kick methadone than it is to kick a dope habit.
Fact: Stopping methadone use is different from kicking a heroin habit. Some people find it harder because the withdrawal lasts longer. Others say that although the withdrawal lasts longer, it is milder than heroin withdrawal.

Myth: Taking methadone damages your body.
Fact: People have been taking methadone for more than 30 years, and there has been no evidence that long-term use causes any physical damage whatsoever. Some people do have side effects from methadone such as constipation, increased sweating, and dry mouth, but these usually go away over time or with dose adjustments. Other effects, such as menstrual abnormalities and decreased sexual desire have been reported by some patients but have not been clearly linked to methadone use.

Myth: Methadone is worse for your body than heroin.
Fact: Methadone is not worse for your body than heroin. Both heroin and methadone are non-toxic, yet both can be dangerous if taken in excess, which is true of everything, from aspirin to food and even water! Methadone is safer than street heroin because it is a legally prescribed medication and it is taken orally. Unregulated street drugs often contain many harmful additives that are used to "cut" the drug.

Myth: Methadone harms your liver.
Fact: The liver metabolizes (breaks down and processes) methadone, but methadone does not "harm" the liver. Methadone is actually much easier for the liver to metabolize than many other types of medications. People with hepatitis or other liver diseases can take methadone safely.

Myth: Methadone is harmful to your immune system.
Fact: Methadone does not harm the immune system in any way. In fact, several studies suggest that HIV-positive patients who are taking methadone are healthier and live longer than drug users who are not on methadone.

Myth: Methadone rots your teeth.
Fact: Occasional dental problems are normal in human beings, even if they have never used drugs. When patients go on methadone maintenance therapy, they begin to abandon the “drug seeking” behavior that has dominated their lives in the past and to notice things they have ignored for a while, like the fact that they may need dental work.

Myth: Methadone makes you get fat.
Fact: Methadone does not influence the weight of a patient’s body in any way. Some patients do report that they enjoy the taste of their food a lot better now that they have eliminated drug use as the center of their lives, and so they may actually be eating more!

Myth: Methadone causes people to use cocaine.
Fact: Methadone does not cause people to use cocaine or any other drug. Many people who use cocaine started taking it before they started treatment with methadone and many stop using cocaine while they are being treated with methadone.

Myth: The lower the dose of methadone, the better.
Fact: While it is true that lower doses of methadone will reduce withdrawal symptoms, higher doses are sometimes needed to block the effect of heroin and other opioids. Most patients will need between 60 and 120 milligrams of methadone a day to stop using illicit opioids. A few patients, however, will feel well with much lower doses. Patients have the opportunity to work carefully with the clinic physician to determine the dose that is proper for them. Each individual is different.

Myth: Methadone causes drowsiness and sedation.
Fact: All people feel drowsy or tired at times. Patients on a stabilized dose of methadone will not feel any more drowsy or sedated than normal people feel during the day.

Catania, Holly JD, About Methadone, Herlin Press, INC. 2000 (drugpolicy.org). From Methadone Today, Vol VI, Number IX, page 2

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