Sidebar: Medication Misconceptions

Use of medications to treat addiction has been controversial at times because of a longstanding misconception that methadone and, more recently, buprenorphine, which control opioid craving and withdrawal, merely “substitute one addiction for another.” This belief has reinforced scientifically unsound “abstinence-only” philosophies (meaning abstinence from opioid-based medications as well as from illicit and misused drugs) in many treatment centers and has severely limited the use of these medications. Restrictions on how these drugs may be prescribed or dispensed have also reduced their availability for many people who could benefit from them.

Abundant scientific data show that long-term use of maintenance medications successfully reduces substance use, risk of relapse and overdose, associated criminal behavior, and transmission of infectious disease, as well as helps patients return to a healthy, functional life.38-40



38. Fullerton, C. A., Kim, M., Thomas, C. P., Lyman, D. R., Montejano, L. B., Dougherty, R. H., . . . Delphin-Rittmon, M. E. (2014). Medication-assisted treatment with methadone: Assessing the evidence. Psychiatric Services, 65(2), 146-157.

39. Sees, K. L., Delucchi, K. L., Masson, C., Rosen, A., Clark, H. W., Robillard, H., . . . Hall, S. M. (2000). Methadone maintenance vs 180-day psychosocially enriched detoxification for treatment of opioid dependence: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 283(10), 1303-1310.

40. Gordon, M. S., Kinlock, T. W., Schwartz, R. P., & O’Grady, K. E. (2008). A randomized clinical trial of methadone maintenance for prisoners: Findings at 6 months post-release. Addiction, 103(8), 1333-1342.