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Medication Treatment: Methadone

What is Methadone?1

  • Methadone is a type of opioid that acts like an agonist in the brain.
  • Methadone is different from opioids such as heroin or oxycodone, because instead of rapidly switching on physical changes and reactions, it activates opioid receptors in the brain very slowly over a long period of time which allows a person to stop going into withdrawal.
  • Because methadone activates opioid receptors so slowly, it does not activate the rewarding/highly pleasurable sensations as strongly as other opioids do. This means that methadone has less risk for overuse compared to heroin or oxycodone. 
  • Methadone does have more risk for overuse and physical side effects than buprenorphine, which is why it is carefully administered and regulated by the government.1
  • Unlike buprenorphine and naltrexone, a person does not have to be in withdrawal or opioid free to start methadone, it can be safely started at low doses at any time.1

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