Getting Started in Methadone Maintenance Treatment

If you’re considering methadone maintenance treatment after having attempted multiple rounds of drug rehab in the past, you’re not alone. Commonly known as the treatment of last resort, most people entering methadone maintenance treatment or MMT have long histories of chronic opiate abuse.

Unlike other opiate addiction treatment approaches, MMT combines the effects of methadone with ongoing psychosocial treatment interventions, and in the process equips recovering addicts with the tools needed to live a drug-free lifestyle.

Getting started in methadone maintenance treatment entails going through what’s known as the induction phase, followed by the stabilization and maintenance phases. As the induction phase can be the most difficult of the three, making it through this initial treatment phase is essential to your ongoing success in methadone maintenance treatment.

Methadone Maintenance Treatment Purpose

Getting Started

The proper dosage needed to eliminate withdrawal symptoms is discovered during the induction phase.

Even after stopping drug use, people recovering from chronic, long-term opiate addictions continue to experience intense drug cravings and residual withdrawal effects, such as irritability, muddled thinking, depression and/or anxiety for months and sometimes years into the recovery process.

These aftereffects stem from the harmful effects of long-term opiate abuse on the brain’s structural and chemical integrity. Without needed physical supports in place, those in recovery often fight a losing battle in terms of maintaining abstinence on an ongoing basis.

According to the Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, methadone maintenance treatment combines a medication therapy (methadone) with psychosocial interventions, such as psychotherapy, drug education and support group work.

For the medication component, methadone’s effectiveness depends on finding the dosage level that provides relief from uncomfortable withdrawal and cravings effects without inciting sedation or producing a “high” effect. The MMT induction phase involves finding the dosage amount that best addresses your specific dosage needs.

Methadone Induction Phase

The methadone maintenance treatment induction phases starts out with an initial dosage of amount of 30 milligrams. After the first dose is taken, clinic staff place you under observation for two hours to gauge the drug’s effects. After the observation period, it’s especially important to inform the physician of any degree of sedation or agitation as this information is needed to further calibrate your optimal dosage level, according to the University of Washington.

From there, dosage levels can be increased by five to 10 milligrams every day or every other day up to the 60 milligram dosage level. Once you reach the 60 milligram dose, dosage amounts are gradually increased until levels range somewhere between 80 to 120 milligrams. This level marks the start of the stabilization phase, at which point you should be experiencing considerable relief from drug cravings and withdrawal effects without feeling sedated.

Is Methadone Maintenance Treatment Safe?

Special Considerations

More than anything else, the risk of relapse becomes the greatest challenge to making it through the initial stage of methadone maintenance treatment. For these reasons, it’s imperative to maintain close communications with the treating physician as well as the clinic staff should you experience unpleasant side effects or continue to struggle with overwhelming drug cravings. After making it through this initial stage, you should start to feel more like yourself, both physically and emotionally as methadone’s effects take hold.

If you or someone you know is considering entering methadone maintenance treatment and have more questions, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-891-9360 to speak with one of our addictions specialists.