How a Methadone Maintenance Program Works
Methadone maintenance programs have a long history of effectiveness in treating opiate dependent individuals by providing adequate doses of methadone combined with counseling, education, and psychosocial services to help reduce or eliminate illicit opiate abuse and the destructive behaviors associated with its use.
Benefits of a Methadone Maintenance Program
Methadone maintenance programs have been proven to improve:
- Physical and psychological health
- Social Functioning
- Quality of Life
- Retention in treatment
The programs also have been proven to reduce:
- Crime and social problems
- The cravings and withdrawals other opioids while their dependency is eliminated
- The use and effects of other opioids after a cross tolerance is established
- IV use and other dangerous behaviors such as unprotected sex which can lead to dangerous infections and communicable diseases
Determining Eligibility Requirements
Few people are excluded from being eligible to participate in a methadone maintenance program as long as they have a clear history of opioid dependence, and meet safety assessments to use the medication. Individuals under the age of 18 need informed parent or legal guardian consent with two documented unsuccessful opioid treatments prior.
Methadone dosing is based on opioid tolerance and begins with an appropriate dose based on the assessment of the intake-counselor and a physician after examination. Methadone is a long-lasting opioid that, at optimal doses reduces cravings and withdrawals for other opioids up to 24 to 36 hours.
Adjustments are made based on the individual’s symptoms 2-4 hours (peak period) after dosing and through daily assessments and monitoring for illicit use of opioids or other substances. Methadone accumulates in bodily tissues and the person should reach a steady state of dosing within the first 5-7days where the effects last longer, the person reaches a comfort zone, and they become tolerant to the sedative and euphoric effects.
Counseling, Support, and Interventions
Another main element of the methadone maintenance program is to provide counseling and psychosocial services for the individual that helps to educate them regarding the program and dangers of illicit substance abuse along with helping them to identify, avoid, and cope with problematic issues.
An effective treatment involves behavioral therapies, individual, family, and group counseling sessions, relapse prevention, and support. The treatment approaches will vary based on the individual’s needs and plans can be designed to help them meet their goals of recovery with referrals to psychosocial services or other resources that can help maximize their treatment outcomes.
Methadone addicts often have co-existing physical and mental health disorders, legal, financial, housing, employment, family, and social difficulties that must be addressed in order to live productive and satisfying lives. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “treatment of opioid addiction with maintenance medication, along with other treatment services for related problems that affect patients’ motivation and treatment compliance, increases the likelihood of cessation of opioid abuse.”