How Does Methadone Maintenance Work?

When methadone is taken as directed in methadone maintenance therapy (MMT), it “will not cause euphoria”, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. It is a long lasting synthetic opioid that binds to the same opioid receptors in the brain producing gradual and milder effects. It blocks the effects of other opioids and reduces craving which allows the person to be able to engage in normal functions such as work and school, while their mind and bodies become adjusted to living without the opioids. Methadone can suppress opioid withdrawals up to 24 hours and is also prescribed to treat chronic pain.

Methadone Abuse

Because methadone is a synthetic opioid, it is highly addictive and causes physical dependency when used frequently or in high amounts. Withdrawal symptoms are much like other opioid withdrawals and many opioid addicts use methadone as a replacement to continue their opioid dependency, but, in a methadone maintenance program, the physical and psychological aspects of methadone use can be maintained.

Methadone Maintenance

These programs combine methadone with appropriate counseling services, drug monitoring, and supportive resources, and have been proven to decrease opioid abuse and related crimes, reduce the spread of diseases such as HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis, improve physical and mental health, and reduce mortality, including opioid overdose.

How Does Methadone Maintenance Work?

methadone therapy

Methadone eliminates cravings and withdrawal symptoms to reduce relapse episodes.

Anyone who has an opioid dependency can enter a methadone maintenance program. The providers are specially licensed to prescribe methadone for treatment of this problem. The initial visit will include an assessment of drug abuse history including determining the levels of abuse, the methods of abuse, and the frequencies. A physical examination will involve a urinalysis to verify current drugs in the person’s system and blood tests will determine if the individual is pregnant or has any infectious diseases. Qualified counselors design program plans based on the needs of the individual and provide resources, referrals, or access to other counseling and support programs.

Methadone maintenance programs monitor the person daily as they administer doses of methadone. The first dose is given at a minimum based on the initial assessment and examination. Administrators will adjust the following doses as needed. After a certain period, some people become eligible for take home doses and the clinic visits are reduced to every few days. Take home doses require a commitment to safety and people who are availed of this option are held accountable for the proper use and storage of those doses.

There is no specific duration for how long a methadone maintenance program should last. Some people stay with the program for weeks, months, or indefinitely. It all depends on the addict and their compliance with the program.