How Long Does Methadone Maintenance Treatment Take?
With each passing year, more and more people have fallen prey to the devastating effects of opiate addiction. Whether it be heroin or prescription-based pain medications, opiate drugs carry a high addiction potential that increases the longer a person uses the drug.
Methadone maintenance treatment, also known as MMT exists as one of a handful of medication-based treatment approaches designed to help recovering addicts overcome the aftereffects of addiction, which can last long after a person stops using the drug. The length of time a person remains in methadone maintenance treatment can vary depending on his or her circumstances and history of drug abuse.
For many people, methadone maintenance treatment is the “treatment of last resort” in cases where the effects of chronic opiate addiction have rendered other drug treatment approaches ineffective.
Methadone Maintenance Treatment Objectives
During the course of opiate use, the drug gradually takes over control of the brain’s neurotransmitter chemical processes. Opiates, by nature, possess chemical properties similar to the body’s endorphin chemicals, such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. These chemicals work to regulate pain/pleasure sensations, mood states, along with a range of central nervous system functions.
According to the Journal of American Society of Addiction Medicine, chronic opiate abuse not only disrupts the brain’s chemical environment, but also weakens its ability to produce needed endorphin materials on its own.
Once a person stops using the drug, the brain has a long way to go before it can restore normal chemical functioning. Until that time, recovering addicts are left to contend with ongoing aftereffects, including:
- Sleep problems
- Flat emotional affect or inability to experience feelings of well-being
- Drug cravings
Methadone maintenance treatment picks up where the brain’s limited functional abilities leave off in terms of restoring a normal chemical balance in the brain.
For information on whether your insurance can help pay for treatment costs, call 800-891-9360(Who Answers?).
Methadone Dosing Procedure
Methadone maintenance treatment falls under strict government regulation due to methadone’s classification as a Schedule II opiate narcotic drug. Consequently, methadone programs must follow procedural guidelines when administering the drug and monitoring its effects.
According to American Family Physician, MMT consists of three stages: induction, stabilization and maintenance. The induction stage entails finding a baseline dosage level in terms of the amount of methadone needed to relieve withdrawal aftereffects and drug cravings.
During the stabilization stage, dosage amounts may be readjusted to reduce or eliminate any side effects a person may be experiencing. The maintenance stage entails continued monitoring to determine if or when a person is ready to stop taking methadone.
Factors that Determine How Long Methadone Maintenance Treatment Will Take
Anyone who stands to benefit from methadone maintenance treatment has likely gone through drug treatment in the past and has made multiple attempts to overcome opiate addiction. Considering the extent of damage that results from long-term opiate abuse, there’s no “quick fix” to be had.
Methadone maintenance treatment works as an ongoing medication therapy in terms of supporting brain chemical functions until normal chemical balances can be restored. For these reasons, MMT durations should last for a minimum of a year in order to ensure the best chance of a successful treatment outcome, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Other conditions that factor into treatment duration include:
- Co-occurring medical conditions
- Co-occurring psychological disorders
- Support system availability
- Motivation for treatment
If you or someone you know is considering methadone maintenance treatment and need help finding a program that meets your needs, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-891-9360(Who Answers?) to speak with one of our addictions specialists.