Methadone maintenance has been around for years- it's development stemmed from predictions in Nazi Germany that the war would cause shortages in opiates being able to cross into Germany's borders. In 1947 Eli Lilly's company started producing methadone stateside, and off we went. The drug was first published as a pain reliever, and now is mostly used in harm reduction around addiction.
I'm torn on the effectiveness of this methodology. What I've heard in anecdotes from members of 12-step programs is that their lives only really started to get better once they were able to detox off of the methadone, which creates a physical dependence of it's own. What is difficult to discern is that most of the people I've spoken with bout this have had resources for private addiction treatment- for those without resources, methadone seems to be a good start.
Methadone can be a start towards a path to a new life; however, it is not the be-all, end-all solution. Without therapy, a recovery program, and a plan to eventually remove oneself from a mind-altering substance, the chances of someone really recovering from addiction are slim. When planned correctly, methadone can be an important component in helping an individual get better.
The problem is in the profits- methadone maintenance is one of the most profitable businesses today, and I worry that clinics don't attempt to taper people off solely to make their numbers work on the bottom line. We need to respect the quality of life of our patients, and the easiest way to do this is to make a long term plan when someone begins a methadone maintenance plan. With all of the tools and resources available to us, we can put a plan together that allows methadone to be an active part of recovery.
Here's a link to the HBO special "Methadonia," a documentary regarding people who are hooked on methadone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mULJZzq4-cQ
And here's a video on methadone and the consequences of not managing it correctly:
And, as always, here's something funny.
Find me on Twitter and LinkedIn. Looking forward to your feedback!