Why Medication-Assisted Therapy Does Not Work

Preoccupied man

As the U.S. drug problem continues to grow and become more serious, our nation invents newer and more desperate methods of addressing such problems. A very “popular” approach to drug addiction treatment has been Medication-Assisted Therapy. While medication-assisted therapy is presented as a “solution” to addiction, it is anything but that. In fact, medication-assisted therapy is merely a way for struggling addicts to supplement one drug for another, further denying themselves the chance at a lifetime of totally drug-free living.

21st century America has been tainted with a persistent reliance on pharmaceutical drugs to supposedly “solve” our problems for us. We are the nation that has a pill for everything. We use pills as “band-aid quick fix” solutions. We use pills to cover the symptoms of a problem without actually solving the problem itself. While the United States only makes up about five percent of the global population of the country, the U.S. consumes more than seventy percent of the world’s supply of prescription drugs every year. We are an over-medicated nation. There is no doubt about that.

So it should come as no surprise that we are now trying to use prescription drugs to solve addiction to other drugs. This is folly incarnate, and it completely defeats the principle of drug-free living.

Methadone “Maintenance”


The most relevant medication-assisted therapy uses the drug methadone. This approach is officially titled “Methadone Maintenance.” In 2009, methadone had risen to total prevalence in the medication-assisted therapy industry, with more than one-hundred thousand individuals using methadone as a replacement for heroin or other opiates.

Methadone maintenance is a form of “substitution therapy” where a patient takes methadone for pain relief and to curb withdrawal symptoms and cravings for other opiates. It is called substitution therapy because the individual is avoiding one opiate by taking another opiate. Methadone is a full opioid agonist, meaning it has the full, physiological effects on the user of taking an opiate drug.

Suboxone “Replacement Drug Therapy”

Suboxone film

Another medication-assisted therapy, suboxone, is sort of like methadone’s little brother. Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist, which means that it does not have the full reaction on opioid receptors in the brain that other opioids have.

Suboxone is not used as often in maintenance programs as methadone is, but interest in Suboxone as a maintenance substance is growing. While suboxone is only a partial opioid agonist, that does not mean that it is not addictive. Suboxone is addictive.



In an error, sometimes naloxone is labeled as a “medication-assisted therapy” drug. It is not. Naloxone is a full opioid antagonist, meaning that it reverses the effects of opioids. Naloxone is branded as Narcan and is used to reverse opioid overdoses in emergency settings. It is used to save lives. It is not a form of medication-assisted therapy. It is a lifesaving medicine that emergency medical responders use to bring an addict back from the brink of death and to stabilize them so that further treatment can be utilized.

The Value of Drug-Free Living

The true value of drug-free living is undersold in our society today. Our proclivity to rely on medicines and pills to solve our problems for us causes us to push away the concept of lasting recovery, lasting abstinence. The best and the irrefutability most desirable approach for winning against addiction would be to vanquish all reliance on all drugs, illegal and legal drugs alike.

Drug addicts and alcoholics deserve a chance at a new future, a clean slate. Life with no reliance on substances is tantamount to true freedom from substances. Anything else is just a mockery.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.