How Do I Get into a Methadone Program?
For many people, the decision to enter a methadone program comes after months, or even years of failed attempts at breaking an opiate addiction. With long-term users in particular, traditional addiction treatment approaches may not provide the level of support needed to maintain a drug-free lifestyle.
Methadone, a tightly regulated Schedule II controlled substance, can only be prescribed through authorized methadone programs and physicians’ offices. Methadone programs (as well as any authorized prescriber) must follow treatment guidelines as set forth by federal and state requirements.
Admission to a methadone program entails meeting certain eligibility requirements based on addiction severity and motivation to get well. Methadone programs place a heavy emphasis on a person’s past history of drug use as well as any evidence of drug-seeking behavior.
According to the American Family Physician site, methadone programs exist in 42 states as well as in the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. These programs offer a full spectrum of treatment services designed to help recovering addicts break long-term opiate addictions.
Methadone as a treatment medication works by reducing the level of drug cravings a person experiences while relieving uncomfortable withdrawal effects. This treatment combined with ongoing counseling, psychotherapy and support group work enables recovering addicts to rebuild their lives while maintaining abstinence from further drug use.
Once recovering addicts are able to manage drug craving and withdrawal effects on their own, a gradual methadone tapering process precedes completion of the program.
Methadone Program Eligibility Requirements
In order to be eligible for methadone treatment, applicants must fulfill be over 18 years of age with at least a one-year history of physical dependence on opiate drugs. Teenagers between 16 and 18 years old may also qualify provided they have a documented history of two or more failed drug treatment attempts.
Physicians gauge a person’s physical dependency based on the appearance of three or more of the following symptoms within a 12-month period –
- Withdrawal effects
- Inability to control or limit the amount of drugs consumed
- Continued drug use in the face of negative consequences
- Increasing tolerance levels
- Multiple failed attempts to stop using
- Spending considerable amounts of time obtaining, using and/or recovering from drug use
- Overall disinterest in work, social and/or recreational activities
According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, the assessment process determines an applicant’s eligibility for methadone treatment and eventually becomes the basis for a person’s individual treatment plan once he or she enters the program. The assessment stage allows treatment providers to identity the severity of a person’s addiction along with any other medical, psychological and social problems that aggravate the addiction.
Program applicants are required to provide the following items –
- Blood and urine samples for drug testing purposes
- Information on past drug abuse
- A physical examination
- Information on any past or existing psychological problems
While methadone programs do specialize in helping a person overcome opiate addiction, the screening process works especially well at weeding out applicants exhibiting drug-seeking behaviors. Information gathered during the screening process is used to ensure no one accepted into the program intends to “use” methadone for recreational purposes.