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The Pros and Cons of Medication-Assisted Drug Addiction Treatment

Using drugs to handle drug addiction is today’s trend. Instead of getting people through drug rehab so they can stop drugs and get their life back, they’re given other drugs. Some experts call that trading one drug for another. Others see taking the new drug as an actual solution, as treatment. Is taking drugs to treat drug addiction forward progress, or not?

Decades ago we started giving heroin addicts methadone. The idea was that they would stay on the drug – which would reduce cravings and could help a person stay off other drugs while they received actual drug rehabilitation.

Methadone was a band-aid. It was an attempt to reduce the harm the addicts were doing to themselves and others. It had the potential of reducing overdoses and deaths, drug-related crime, accidents, injuries, and so on.

The problem was that the addicts didn’t receive the rehabilitation treatment. Instead, they wound up on methadone for years, decades or even their entire life. Plus, it turned out methadone was much more difficult to quit than heroin and any other drug the addict might have been using. In fact, at one point there were more deaths from methadone than from heroin.

One drug was traded for another. Now people were dying from heroin AND methadone, and the drug addicts were still drug addicts.

The solution would have been to use methadone for a short time, if necessary, but only for a week or two while the person went through withdrawal. It would make withdrawal easier. Then, when they’re feeling better, get them off the methadone and started on rehabilitation.

That didn’t happen. Now we’re in the same situation. The addicts are still addicts.

So, they’re now giving addicts drugs other than methadone – while continuing to give methadone to some as well. True, it may help reduce overdoses, deaths, crime, expense to the government and so on.

BUT, it’s only going to help those particular situations if one of two things happen:

  1. The person is kept on the drug, doesn’t take any others, and it becomes a substitute for the other one they were addicted to, or
  2. They come off that drug and are put through a drug rehab program that works so they are no longer addicts, no longer have the need to take drugs.

Pros of Medication-Assisted Treatment

How can this treatment help addicts and others who might be affected by them? Although these drugs haven’t been taken long enough or given to addicts long enough to really know what the outcome will be, there are some possibilities:

  • The specific people who take these drugs may not be as likely to overdose and die as those who don’t take them.
  • They are also more likely to come into close contact with a drug rehab program and possibly have one at their disposal.
  • Since they’ll only be taking that one drug and it is given to them free of charge, or close to it, or covered by their insurance, they’re less likely to commit crimes to get drugs because the drug they’re now taking is given to them by the government either free of charge, or covered by insurance.

All good – no doubt about it.

But what is the downside?

Cons of Medication-Assisted Drug Treatment

Unfortunately, there are very few things that don’t have a downside. Here are the possibilities:

  • The addicts will remain addicts, but on a different drug.
  • It will be discovered – as more people use these drugs long term – that the side effects of these drugs will lead to taking more drugs.
  • People will take the drug for a while and then not be able to get off them.
  • The new drugs, as happened with methadone, will turn out to be more of a problem than the drug(s) the person was trying to quit.
  • Actual drug rehab, the kind that works to change people from addicts to non-addicts, from someone who is dependent on drugs to someone who is not, will not be offered to the addicts so they can change the things in their life that need it. Instead, they’ll be kept on the drug for months, years, or decades, Which is what happened, and is still happening, with methadone.
  • The number of drugged citizens continues to climb as the substitute drug takes the place of drug rehab. Drugs become the normal ‘treatment’, and rehab is ignored.

The irony of all this is that with long-term residential drug rehab people can get off drugs without taking any other drugs at all, let along for months, years or decades.

You have to ask yourself why more of the treatment that is known to work isn’t being offered. Why does half-baked treatment continue to be financed and encouraged?

Whatever the reason, it remains true that if you want someone to be able to change their life so they no longer take drugs, don’t want to, and are happy living their life, they need drug rehab. Using other drugs might be fine to make withdrawal easier but beyond that, they really just delay fixing the problem. At best.

Posted in: Drug Rehab

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