Methadone is a drug treatment method for opioid addictions. It can be obtained from a pharmacy but only with a written prescription from a doctor who is authorized to prescribe it.
Methadone, an opioid itself, works by binding to pain receptors in the brain in the same way that other opioids do. The main difference between methadone and other opioids is that once it binds to the pain receptors it blocks any other opioids from binding to them as well. This prevents withdrawal symptoms, allowing users of methadone to be able to carry out their everyday lives.
However, methadone can have some side effects. On the first use, it can cause sedation – common for many opioids – as well as sweating, constipation and weight gain. Methadone can also be dangerous in large doses or when mixed with alcohol or other drugs.
According to Dr. Peter Butt, addictions consultant for the Saskatchewan Health Authority there’s a number of things that need to be done in order for opioid users to get their lives back in order. “Methadone alone won’t do that,” said Butt. “But a program around it can help with a number of those issues.” He also says that programs run by the Saskatchewan Health Authority, are composed of drug treatment and counseling for addiction.
Methadone is not a cure-all drug. It cannot end addiction, it simply gets rid of the craving that a user feels. Many people still view methadone as a drug of dependency, including Shawna Oochoo, co-founder of White Pony Lodge. “I know that methadone is part of harm reduction, but they’re still reliant on it to be able to function normally,” she said.
Oochoo’s concerns are not unfounded. “People do develop a physiological dependency on methadone like any opioid,” said Butt. “They’re not addicted because it doesn’t lead to a life of chaos, but there is a physical dependency. So that creates an ongoing need for access.”