Nuclear and renewables look like methadone

February 27, 2022 by Joshua
in Nature, Nonjudgment

I wrote how I found someone’s suboxone and syringes on a picnic table in the park a few weeks ago. I had to look up suboxone. It’s like methadone.

I didn’t really know what methadone was, but knew the name better than suboxone so I’ll describe methadone, then connect it to sustainability. Here’s what it does:

How Methadone Works

When people become addicted to heroin, they crave the drug so strongly that, even when they know what consequences they face as a result of their heroin use, they are unable to stay away from the drug. This makes relapse to heroin use incredibly likely after detox. Often, those struggling with heroin addiction experience multiple episodes of relapse on their road to recovery.

In some instances, methadone can help these people to avoid relapse. Since methadone works as a long-acting opioid, it fills the same opioid receptors in the brain that heroin and prescription painkillers do. As a result, when people are taking methadone as part of an addiction recovery program, they won’t experience cravings for heroin or the intense withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin withdrawal. This can allow those in treatment to fully focus on therapy, establishing a strong basis for recovery, without continually battling cravings and urges to relapse.

The problem? You can still get addicted:

Recreational Methadone Abuse

As methadone has increasingly been used to treat pain, not just opioid addiction, more of this long-acting opiate has become available to people who abuse drugs. Much like the wide availability of hydrocodone or oxycodone, people who abuse opiate drugs can more easily find methadone by stealing it from friends or family, or by buying it illegally. Illegal selling of a prescription medication is called diversion, and it is the leading cause of the opioid drug abuse epidemic in the US.

Renewables and nuclear are like methadone

The more I see polluting behaviors as addictions—that is, compulsively choosing what feels rewarding when you know it hurts you—the more it fits. Even a decade ago we could imagine pollution wouldn’t really hurt us that much. Now we know otherwise. Behavior we thought wouldn’t hurt us doesn’t, so something that wouldn’t have qualified as an addiction since we didn’t know it could hurt us became addictive.

Within that view, since nuclear and so-called renewables require fossil fuels, and therefore pollute, just less than burning fossil fuels directly, they are like methadone. They’re like the addictive problem, but not as strong and not as addictive. Used effectively, they can help someone who wants to stop to stop.

For someone who doesn’t want to stop, they reproduce the problem, just not as strong.

You can’t beat avoiding addiction in the first place

It’s tempting to say addiction to methadone or renewables beats addiction to heroin, but I don’t want to take for granted that we have to use addictive products in the first place.

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1 response to “Nuclear and renewables look like methadone

  1. Pingback: Reader question: Why do I say solar and wind aren’t clean, green, or renewable? » Joshua Spodek

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