How Do I Start a Methadone Treatment Program?

If you are suffering from an opiate addiction, you are not alone. Opiates are highly addicting and any attempt to cease their use, after becoming dependent on them, leads to withdrawal symptoms that can be painfully unpleasant. Opiate addiction is a chronic disease with high relapse rates and overdose risks. If you have developed a dependency to opiates, methadone treatment programs have been extensively reviewed and found to be the most primary treatment options available.

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To start methadone treatment look for clinics near you.

Getting started in a methadone treatment program has been made much easier than it was several years ago. In the past, the programs were only available through established methadone clinics with limited facilities available across the nation, but, as of 2012, according to the SAMHSA’s National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, 63% of the Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) were private for profit facilities. While this is the latest data available, the numbers are sure to have increased in response to the epidemic rise in need.

How Does Methadone Treatment Help?

All opioids including heroin, morphine, oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone, and the synthetic opioids methadone and fentanyl produce similar effects by interacting with opioid receptors in the brain. Methadone works differently than the other opioids, however, because its binding effects to the opiate receptors are more gradual with a longer duration of action.

Methadone can be used to help you to detox from the other short acting opioids by reducing the cravings and withdrawals symptoms and because it has a stronger binding action to the opioid receptors, it can block the euphoria of other opioids, via cross tolerance, to deter their abuse. By doing this, methadone helps to rebalance physiological processes that have been disrupted through the repeat intoxications and withdrawals of short term opiate use.

In long term methadone detox and maintenance treatments, methadone can improve overall stability and functioning so that other treatment components such as counseling and your individual case management can be maximized.

Methadone Treatment Program Eligibility Requirements

The initial screening or intake procedures will determine your eligibility and readiness for admission into the methadone treatment program. There are few requirements to starting a methadone treatment program other than having a dependency to opiates for at least one year, able to attend regular treatment sessions, and that the treatment is deemed safe for you to participate in.

If you or are under the age of 18, there is a requirement of 2 documented, unsuccessful, attempts of drug detox or maintenance treatment within the past year and, that your parent, legal guardian, or responsible adult designated by the relevant State authority consents in writing to such treatment.

Determining Your Opiate Dependency

Determining your opiate dependency and levels are important steps in diagnosing your dependence risks and the needs for a methadone treatment program. According to the World Health Organization, the International Classification of Diseases, 10th edition (ICD-10) defines opioid dependence as “a cluster of physiological, behavioral, and cognitive phenomena in which the use of opioids takes on a much higher priority for a given individual than other behaviors that once had greater value”.

Some characteristics that determine opioid dependence are:

  • Cravings – strong desires or sense of compulsion to take opioids
  • Uncontrollable opioid use
  • Withdrawals upon cessation of opioid use
  • Increased amounts of time spent seeking and using opioids
  • Loss of interest in alternative pleasures because of opioid use
  • Persistent use of opioids despite consequences to self or others

Methadone Treatment Program Options

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Federal regulations allow for the use of methadone in both a short-term detoxification treatment of less than 30 days and a long-term treatment of 30 to 180 days. The regulations also specify that if a patient has failed two detoxification attempts in a 12-month period he or she must be evaluated for a different course of treatment (e.g., ongoing opioid substitution therapy).”

You may be hesitant about beginning a methadone maintenance program and that’s ok because your first step is to plan for detox from the short acting opioids that continue to turn your world upside down. Many people who initially begin a medically supervised withdrawal with methadone end up choosing to participate in a methadone maintenance program within several days of beginning their methadone detox programs.

Treatment retention is a main benefit of the methadone maintenance treatment programs. This prolonged period will give you time to reap the added benefits of recovery as you rebuild your life. Along with the methadone medication, these programs combine counseling and psychosocial services to help you with medical, domestic, housing, legal, employment, vocational, educational, and other critical issues that should be addressed in order for you to make the most progress in recovery. There are no time restrictions and some people continue in the programs indefinitely.

Finding a Methadone Treatment Program

Your physician or local hospital may be able to refer you to a local methadone treatment program or the following sources may be helpful: