Opiate Substitution Treatment (OST)


Methadone treatment for people dependent on opiates (such as heroin, morphine, codeine, Oxycontin, Dilaudid, etc.) relieves their withdrawal symptoms, reduces the physiological cravings and allows their body functions to return to normal. Available since 1967, methadone treatment has been confirmed effective in many scientific studies. 

Patients receive their medication from qualified health professionals and routinely meet with a primary counselor (social worker, caseworker or certified substance abuse counselor), attend treatment groups, and access medical and social services. 

Unlike heroin or other narcotic drugs, methadone does not cause the same “high” associated with drug addiction. When taken as prescribed, long-term administration of methadone causes no adverse effects to vital organs or body systems. Methadone treatment allows clients to get medical care and counseling, change their lifestyle, start recovery, and get social services such as SSI. 


The Drug Addiction and Treatment Act of 2000 allows physicians who meet certain requirements to treat addiction to opiates (such as heroin, morphine, codeine, Oxycontin, Dilaudid, etc.) with FDA- approved narcotic medications, such as buprenorphine. 

Unlike methadone, which must be dispensed under supervision at drug treatment clinics, buprenorphine is available by prescription at local pharmacies and can be taken anywhere by dissolving a pill under the tongue. Buprenorphine is designed to ease withdrawal and satisfy cravings without the “high” of abused opioid drugs. It can be used to treat addiction to pain killers such as OxyContin, Vicodin or codeine, as well as heroin, and can be as effective as methadone in most cases. 

Compared with other medications such as methadone, buprenorphine causes weaker opiate effects and is less likely to cause overdose problems. Buprenorphine also produces a lower level of physical dependence, so patients who discontinue the medication generally have fewer withdrawal symptoms. Because of these advantages, buprenorphine may be appropriate for use in a wider variety of treatment settings than currently available medications.* 

*Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH Publication Number 05-4165. Printed October 1997; Reprinted September 2000, Revised May 2005.

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