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Chemicals that changed the world: Methadone | theVARSITY.ca

Chemicals that changed the world: Methadone | theVARSITY.ca.

Chemicals that changed the world: Methadone

Controversy has surrounded the use of methadone in treating opiate addiction, and for good reasons: recent increases in overdose deaths, illegal trafficking, and the apparent replacement of one addictive substance for another. Yet this negative press has at times overshadowed the life-changing potential of methadone in helping addicts finally take control of their habit.

Originally synthesized in Nazi Germany as pain medication, its patent was seized by the United States following the end of the Second World War. In 1964, Dr. Dole pioneered the use of methadone for in treating opiate addicts. He observed withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and body aches and pains, alongside the quick onset of withdrawal (3-4 hours after ingestion) and a long withdrawal period (1-2 weeks). Using these observations, Dr. Dole concluded that methadone could be used in treating opiate addiction, because it reduced withdrawal symptoms, did not provide a “high,” and furthermore had a much longer half-life than regular opiate street drugs, thereby reducing the number of times addicts needed to ingest drugs from around three times to once per day.

This stability allowed addicts to focus on other things besides drug seeking, such as getting a job, taking care of their families, and getting their lives back.

While methadone has a direct effect on those who abuse drugs, it also indirectly affects many aspects of everyday life. Since methadone was introduced in Canada, illegal activity has been significantly reduced, thereby making communities safer. It has also reduced the spread of deadly diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis transmitted via infected needles, which reduces the burden on our healthcare system.

The use of methadone is controversial, but behind this controversy lies a drug which has brought much hope and stability into an otherwise bleak and prison-like way of life. It helps change the world for those who really need it.

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