Methadone has come a long way from it's first use in the 1930's for pain. It wasn't until the 1960's that methadone was first used to help treat heroin and morphine addicts.
In 1964 Dr's. Vincent Dole and Marie Nyswander began their pioneering research of treating opiate addicts with methadone. They found that a client could substitute the opiate they were abusing, typically heroin or morphine at that time, for methadone without harsh side effects such as withdrawal symptoms, mood swings or euphoria. After their success in finding a treatment option for opiate addicts they opened the first methadone maintenance program in New York.
There are three main reasons why methadone is used today for treatment of opiate addicts:
1. Keep the patient from going into withdrawal. When an opiate addicts opiate receptors are empty, the person experiences withdrawal symptoms. As discussed in "What is Methadone?", methadone fills the same receptors that heroin or morphine would fill. When a person is properly dosed with methadone they will not feel any withdrawal symptoms.
2. Help the client from craving street opiates. Webster's dictionary defines a craving as: an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing. Opiate addicts crave opiates, both physically and emotionally. Methadone won't control a person's emotional desire to get high, but when properly dosed methadone will help prevent the physical need for a person to get high.
3. "Block" the effects of street opiates. When a person is properly dosed on methadone, the methadone filling the opiate receptors blocks other street opiates from filling those receptors. Someone properly dosed on methadone should not be able to feel the effects of street opiates, thus creating a negative reward for using street opiates.