How Methadone Maintenance Treatment Works

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Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) for heroin and opioid addictions is limited to select number of clinics and physicians willing to undergo the strict regulations and monitoring of federal and state licensing and governing agencies.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid that works as an agonist drug possessing the same characteristics and producing similar effects as other opioids to reduce cravings and withdrawals from opioid dependency. With proper dosages provided mainly on a day to day basis in MMT, it blocks the effects of other opioids with an intended purpose to stem their use for 24 hours or longer while keeping the addict stabilized and promote their positive health.

Methadone Risks

Methadone is highly addictive and to many addicts it is a preferred drug of choice to use recreationally. Although in normal dosages methadone does not induce euphoria, a mild euphoria can be felt in high amounts or when administered through alternative routes.

Methadone is a central nervous system depressant that should not be used in combination with alcohol or other drugs because it decreases respiration and heart rate. It has been linked to a growing number of unintentional overdoses and in the United States, is responsible for more than 5,000 deaths a year, according to a 2009 estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How Methadone Maintenance Treatment Works

methadone maintenance treatment

Methadone is given daily in dosages determined by a special methadone doctor.

Upon intake, the person is evaluated and tested for opioid tolerance and dependency levels. The assessment involves a urinalysis and physical and mental health exam which will help the MMT provider determine a starting dosage level of methadone to be dispensed on a day to day basis. Because methadone causes a tolerance, these dosages can be adjusted upwards as needed or down as determined by the addict’s ongoing needs to control cravings and prevent withdrawals between doses.

The MMT programs are designed to be effective by combining therapies, counseling, drug monitoring, referrals, education, and other valuable resources along with the doses of methadone. Participants are required to comply with the treatment program outlined for them and refrain from using other drugs.

The rules of each MMT facility may vary along with fees, settings, and resource access, but, the main goal is to promote stability so the addict can live a normal life without the constant preoccupation of opiate abuse and the behaviors associated with it.

There is no specific time related to participating in an MMT program although a year or more is advisable and some people remain in the programs indefinitely. As long as the patient benefits from MMT, wishes to remain engaged, is at risk of relapse, and suffers no ill side effects, treatment should continue as determined by the provider.


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