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Methadone maintenance is the use of methadone, administered over a period of time, as treatment for someone who is addicted to opioids. It allows addicts who struggle with maintaining sobriety through attending regular treatment programs to stop using opioids such as heroin or pain medication without experiencing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms associated with complete abstinence.

Since methadone is similar to other synthetic opioids like morphine, it essentially acts as a replacement for whatever opiate was being abused. Methadone is used as a form of Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT.

In this type of treatment, as opposed to complete abstinence, a replacement opioid is administered by a health care professional to the patient under consistent medical supervision. When used properly, it can help opioid addicts who find abstinence incredibly challenging and suffer from chronic relapses finally experience relief from their opioid addiction.

However, methadone maintenance isn’t simply receiving a dose of methadone from your doctor on a daily basis. Methadone is, instead, incorporated into a comprehensive treatment plan designed to address underlying mental health issues through therapy and social support programs and should be taken as a portion of a much bigger picture.

While many people in different recovery programs tout methadone maintenance as a “shortcut” to recovery, it can prove to be a highly effective form of treatment for certain individuals. Methadone maintenance can be a grueling process, and should not be taken lightly. It’s important to fully understand how it works before diving in.


Methadone itself isn’t simply just an opioid replacement medication, either. It changes how the brain and central nervous system react to pain. While it stifles the overwhelming symptoms correlated with opiate withdrawal, it also simultaneously blocks the effects of opiates like heroin and pain medication.

You cannot take methadone and then still get high off of opiates. Instead of the euphoric rush associated with using opiates, the user will feel no response to consuming opioid substances. The idea is that by removing the reward factor, the user will see no need to use opioids in general and will, therefore, abstain naturally.

Methadone is offered in a variety of forms. It comes in pill, liquid, and wafer form. It is administered once daily and its pain-relieving effects last four to eight hours.

Since methadone maintenance must be monitored and conducted by a medical professional, you must enroll in a methadone program, available only at methadone clinics or offices specifically designated for providing methadone maintenance. They are in every state throughout the United States.

Prior to receiving methadone, you must qualify for treatment. Methadone maintenance is also a long-term commitment and must be completed in its entirety. It is recommended that treatment last a minimum of 12 months, though it can be longer. It varies on a case-by-case basis.

You also cannot simply stop methadone. It is a process to wean you off the drug. Failure to do so properly under the supervision of a medical professional may result in experiencing significant withdrawal symptoms that are typically more severe than other opioids.

Anyone can receive an assessment for treatment, but the clinic may not approve you based on a variety of factors. Age, duration of addiction, and severity of addiction all come into the decision making process. It is ultimately up to the clinic if they will accept you.

If approved for treatment, the clinic will have you sign various documents outlining the rules and expectations of their program as well as promising your commitment to following medical advice. Should you violate the parameters of the program, you could find yourself barred from receiving treatment.

It’s also important to note that you must be clean from all opiates and other depressants like alcohol and benzodiazepines prior to starting methadone maintenance. Since mixing methadone with any other depressant can result in accidental overdose, and even death, if you cannot pass the initial drug screen, your request will be denied.

If all goes well and you are accepted into the methadone maintenance program, treatment can begin that day. You will start off on a lower dosage, typically 40 mg. This dose will be slowly increased over the following weeks until eventually you arrive at 80 to 120 mg.

You must arrive at the clinic at the designated time in order to receive your daily dose. If, over time, you show that you are both reliable and committed to your treatment program, you may begin to take some doses home with you as opposed to coming into the office. Usually this happens after anywhere from six months to a year of consistency.

Regular attendance of therapy sessions is also usually implemented into the treatment program. These sessions will address in depth relapse prevention, key elements relating to your addiction, and learning positive coping mechanisms.


It’s not easy to find the right drug treatment center, especially when there are thousands of them available and minimal information on how to narrow the possibilities down to the best fit. Choosing the right rehab requires lots of information and answers to tricky questions many people have of the recovery process, such as the difference between inpatient and outpatient programs and how to pay for rehab.


Despite the naysayers of the effectiveness of methadone maintenance, statistically, success in these programs is high. Many addicts who are desperate for relief from their opioid addiction who have been unable to stop using via any other method have been able to because of methadone maintenance. It can be a great solution for those who have been unsuccessful in more traditional routes.

Methadone has also been around for a number of years. Originally synthesized in 1937 by German scientists, it has been legal in the United States since 1947. Throughout the years, methadone has proven itself as a great alternative for other types of addiction recovery.

Methadone maintenance also benefits addicts by preventing them from being able to continually get high. This substantially lowers the rate of relapse in these programs since there is no physical high experienced when attempting to use opiates. This allows for addicts to stay enrolled in the therapeutic aspect of methadone maintenance for longer periods of time. By staying in these programs, it allows for more substantial progress to be made on the mental health front.

Methadone maintenance is also accessible to all who qualify. Since it is government regulated, out-of-pocket costs can be little-to-nothing to clients based on a sliding scale. That means, for the most part, it is very affordable to everyone. While different factors such as location, patient income level, and profit or non-profit status do affect costs associated with treatment, it is still easily accessible.


Knowing if methadone maintenance is right for you is a very personal decision. Some people feel that it acts like more of a Band-Aid instead of a solution. Your life still revolves around taking the medication on a daily basis. You may prefer to be completely clean and no longer dependent on any substance.

You also must take into consideration the duration of the program. Most methadone maintenance programs are long-term, lasting well over a year. In some cases, treatment may be ongoing for years at a time. You must be willing to commit to whatever length of time is determined for your specific treatment program.

You are also usually locked into receiving treatment at a particular clinic. This means you cannot move or change locations. You must finish treatment with your practitioner.

Methadone maintenance should also not necessarily be looked at as a first-choice in treatment methods. It is typically reserved for addicts who have continually tried and failed at other recovery methods and programs. If, after multiple honest attempts in other recovery programs you still cannot find relief, taking methadone maintenance into consideration may be best.

Methadone, like other synthetic opioids, can also be addictive. If the medication is mishandled and not administered correctly, you may find yourself addicted. It’s also important to understand that once you start, even if you take it correctly, you cannot simply just stop your treatment. Methadone is a powerful synthetic opiate that can produce severe withdrawal symptoms if you do not wean off of it properly.

Methadone maintenance is not for everyone but can be a great alternative to more traditional forms of treatment that have proven unsuccessful. Take an honest assessment as to why you feel it is the best treatment option, and make sure to always follow your doctor’s advice.


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