From Harvard Health By Dr. Sarah Wakeman, MD
Methadone Essential But Stigmatized
Methadone was first discovered in 1965 through the groundbreaking research of scientists at the Rockefeller Institute. Those early studies demonstrated methadone’s remarkable ability to alleviate withdrawal and craving while dramatically improving the ability to function emotionally and socially. In the subsequent decades, the evidence supporting methadone’s positive effects has grown. These include significant reductions in drug use, new HIV infection, crime, and death from overdose. The research is so strong that methadone, along with buprenorphine (Suboxone), has been added to the World Health Organization’s list of essential medications. And yet despite this, only a minority of programs offer methadone treatment and the undeserved shame associated with this lifesaving medication persists.
Medication Assisted Treatment Helps People Get Better
Many would be surprised to learn that most people with a substance use disorder will get better, and the lifesaving medications methadone and buprenorphine are the most effective pathway to recovery, not detoxification. Those doing well on medication are often invisible because they are scared to share their pathway to treatment in the face of such misunderstanding.
Words matter and continued use of stigmatizing language perpetuates false stereotypes, spreads misinformation, and keeps people out of care.