Methadone Maintenance

Methadone is a medication from the class of drugs known as opioids that is commonly prescribed for the treatment of severe pain such as that associated with chronic illnesses such as cancer.  The drug can also be used under the supervision of a doctor or treatment professional to control opiate withdrawal symptoms in patients who are physically dependent on opiates or opioids.

Methadone is a synthetic opioid which has been effectively used in the treatment of heroin and related opiate addiction for more than 30 years.  Although the drug is highly addictive and does have a wide potential for abuse, methadone maintenance therapy has proven an effective model of treatment for many recovering addicts. The uphill battle that many opiate addicts find themselves forever fighting can be beat with the effective treatment of a methadone maintenance program that is directed by a healthcare professional.

To find a methadone clinic near you, call 800-584-3274.

What is Methadone Maintenance?

Methadone Maintenance

Methadone maintenance was developed in 1964.

Opiate addiction is very difficult to treat and for some, the only way to effectively stay away from drugs like heroin or Oxycontin is to take a medication that will replace the urge and craving to use other opiates.  Methadone maintenance is the process of using methadone to treat an individual who is addicted to heroin or other opioids.  Those who do not respond well to opiate detox or who relapse when they attempt to stop using opiates can benefit from methadone maintenance treatment which provides a controlled dose of methadone to the patient to curb cravings and reduce the risk of relapse.

How Methadone Maintenance Helps with Opiate Addiction

Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) helps those who suffer from opiate addiction to return to a more normal state in which they can function regularly.  When prescribed at the right dose and taken as prescribed, methadone does not result in drowsiness or an intoxicated effect.  Users are able to function clearly and correctly.  In fact, those who are taking the properly prescribed dose of methadone as part of a maintenance program can drive a car or perform other routine tasks without fear of intoxication getting in the way.

Methadone maintenance restores the sense of social aptitude within those who have spent the past months or even years under the influence of drugs such as heroin, codeine or morphine.  Effective methadone maintenance treatment will combine daily dosing of methadone with counseling to help patients completely overcome their opiate addiction and take back control of daily life, routines and happiness.

Because methadone is legal, the user who takes this drug instead of heroin or another opiate or opioid will instantly be relieved of the status of drug addict.  Furthermore, methadone costs much less than the typical opiate addiction habit which costs the average user in excess of $200 per day.  When stable dosing of methadone is provided, the recovering addict can return to being a functioning member of society, free from withdrawal symptoms and the drug seeking behaviors that once controlled daily routines and activities as an addict.

Is MMT the Most Effective Treatment for Opiate Addiction?

There is evidence that methadone maintenance treatment or MMT is an effective treatment for opiate addiction but there is little evidence to support that it is the MOST effective treatment available.  There are other methods of treatment which are widely used to help those who suffer from opiate addiction and they may or may not be effective for each individual user.  Many people benefit from the help of an MMT program when they are trying to effectively overcome an opiate addiction but this treatment is not for everone.

Benefits for Addicted Individuals

There are many benefits to methadone maintenance treatment for the recovering addict.  Some of the benefits that an addict can expect include:

  • Elimination from any illegal involvement in trying to obtain illicit drugs to control cravings
  • Methadone is legal with a prescription so the user has no fear of criminal prosecution for possessing or using the medication as prescribed
  • Methadone comes in liquid or tablet form and is administered by mouth which eliminates that dangers associated with injecting heroin or other opiates
  • Methadone does not produce a high unless taken improperly so in most cases, those in recovery can return to normal daily routines which include driving a car or operating machinery
  • Methadone can stop withdrawal symptoms
  • Methadone will prevent the risky drug seeking behaviors that the average opiate addict goes through
  • Methadone is a slow acting medication that can be administered once every 24 hours
  • Stabilization on methadone allows users to feel normal again

Benefits for Society

  • The costs associated with a methadone maintenance program versus illicit drug use are much lower
  • Methadone reduces the number of injectable drug users
  • Methadone reduces the illicit activities that many opiate addicts are involved in as they seek more drugs
  • Methadone reduces the intoxicated state of the user which can result in fewer accidents, greater productivity and better overall performance

MMT Dose

The methadone maintenance treatment dose that you take will vary based on the severity of your opiate addiction.  Initially, the doctor or treatment center will prescribe a dose of methadone and monitor its effectiveness.  Being open and honest with your healthcare provider is the best way to ensure that you get the right type of treatment for your individual needs.  If the methadone doesn’t seem to be warding off your withdrawal symptoms, the dose may not be high enough.  Likewise, if the dose of methadone that you are taking seems to be leaving you lethargic and out of energy, you may be taking too much.  This will be a trial and error process that you must go through until the doctor determines a dose that will help to stabilize you.  Just stick with it and keep your doctor informed of any of the questions, comments, concerns or side effects that  you may be feeling.

This process of being provided with a specific dose of methadone and then later adjusting the dose gradually until the right dose is found is called induction.  During the induction period, you may have ups and downs but it’s important not to give up.  Once a comfortable dose is found you can expect to feel better and your life will begin to change for the better allowing your mental clarity and ability to function regularly to come forward.

Length of Treatment

Methadone maintenance treatment is a long-term solution to opiate addiction and in many cases, will last many years. The length of treatment is ultimately up to you and your desire to completely stop taking medications.  Some people will take methadone for a very long time while others may only use the medication for a couple of months as they taper off the drug and ultimately return to a life of complete sobriety without any medication assisted treatment.

There are various methods of eliminating methadone from your daily regimen once you have made your way past the worst of your opiate addiction.  In order to prevent withdrawal, your methadone dosage will have to be tapered off.  Most doctors and treatment professionals recommend tapering the drug off at a rate of about 2-3mg per week.  So if you are taking 100mg per day, you would drop it down to 97mg the first week, 94mg the second week, 91mg the third week and so on.  Although this process could take quite some time, the time and gradual reduction of dosage will allow your body to adjust and will reduce the risk of relapse or of you having to feel symptoms of opiate withdrawal.

To learn more about methadone maintenance, of for help finding a treatment center, call 800-584-3274.

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