Methadone maintenance is not meant to be a short term treatment. It usually lasts for a year or longer to be substantially effective and some people stay in the programs indefinitely.
What is a Methadone Maintenance Program?
Methadone maintenance involves the use of methadone to alleviate cravings for other opioids and blocks their sedative and euphoric effects to deter their abuse while the person in treatment reconstructs their life. Opiate addictions are difficult to overcome with the chances of relapse remaining high for a long time after the last dose.
Methadone maintenance helps the individual stay in treatment to improve physical and psychological health, quality of life, and social functioning. The methadone keeps them reasonably comfortable by reducing cravings and withdrawals to other opiates and balancing physiological functions so they can, according to the National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery (NAMA-R) “be engaged in socially acceptable and constructive activities, such as working, schooling, full-time volunteer work, or being a stay-at- home parent.”
Other Benefits of Time in Treatment
Methadone maintenance has been proven to reduce mortality, the spread of diseases such as AIDs, HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and STD’s, and associated behaviors such as IV use, needle sharing, and crime. The interventions, counseling, and support efforts to do this, however, generally take a considerably long amount of time as addicts are faced with a number of aspects and consequences from their addictions.
According to a NIDA International Program report,” Patients receiving methadone maintenance treatment exhibit reductions in illicit opioid use that are directly related to methadone dose, the amount of psychosocial counseling, and the period of time that patients stay in treatment.”
Time in treatment is a key to recovery success and the decision ultimately, lies solely between the patient and the clinician as to choosing and ending a methadone maintenance program as long as the person:
- Meets the eligibility requirements and criteria of opiate dependence
- Complies with program requirements and continues to progress in treatment plans and goals
- Is at risk of relapse
- Wishes to remain in the program
- Suffers no significant side effects
Unlike other opiates the tolerance to methadone does not continuously increase and many people are maintained at the same dosage levels, safely for years.
Progress reviews are conducted throughout the stages of the methadone maintenance program and in some cases, treatment may be discontinued if the clinician determines that the person has violated rules, missed appointments or dosing schedules, or has become ineligible to pay. In most cases, however, these circumstances can be a only a temporary setback, but, it is wise to know the expectations and rules and to diligently follow them.