How Long Should I Stay on Methadone?

The length of time that any one individual should stay on methadone treatment depends on many factors, including the person’s addiction and its severity, their recovery trajectory, and whether or not the medication is still currently helpful to them. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical,” but this period of time depends on you.

How Long Does Methadone Treatment Usually Last?

As stated by the NIDA, generally, most residential and outpatient treatment programs that last for 90 days or more are more effective, and treatment lasting significantly longer is recommended for maintaining positive outcomes.” Methadone maintenance, however, has a different timeline, and “12 months is considered the minimum” while “some opioid –addicted individuals continue to benefit from methadone maintenance for many years.”

Most individuals are able to receive the benefits of methadone by being on it for a considerably longer time when compared to other treatment options, but methadone is an option that lends itself well to long-term treatment. As the program helps patients stabilize themselves and move back into more normal, everyday lives by providing housing and vocational help, most people would want to stay on the medication for a year or longer. While some merely receive methadone as a withdrawal treatment, this is not a solution for opioid addiction and, therefore, should not be considered as a treatment program itself.

When Should I End My Methadone Maintenance?

stopping methadone treatment

When you feel stable in your recovery, you may no longer need methadone treatment.

First and foremost, it is important to remember “long-term methadone maintenance treatment at doses of 80 to 120 mg per day is not toxic or dangerous to any organ system after continuous treatment for 10 to 14 years in adults and 5 to 7 years in adolescents” (Methadone Research Web Guide). Therefore, one should not be very concerned about the safety of taking the medication for a long period of time. In general, if you feel that methadone is helpful to you, it is likely safe to continue taking the medication.

However, you may feel that it is time to stop treatment with methadone and move into the withdrawal phase where you will be slowly tapered off the drug. If you feel this is true, consider the statements below:

  • I feel stable in my recovery from opioid abuse.
  • I have not abused opioids in a long time, thanks to the help of methadone treatment.
  • I have discussed my desire to withdraw from methadone with my doctor who agrees this is the best option for me.
  • I have a stable home life and work life.
  • I am no longer experiencing severe cravings or coming into contact with triggers often.
  • I have another type of treatment program that is still a part of my life, such as a support group, in order to help me continue with my safe recovery.

If you agree that the statements above are truthful, it may be time for you to withdraw from methadone. There is no way to be certain how long each individual should stay on the drug, and while most need more than a year’s worth of treatment, this is the minimum amount. If you would like more advice on your treatment options or whether or not you might be ready to withdraw from methadone, call 800-891-9360.