Who Qualifies for Methadone Maintenance Treatment?

With opiate addiction rates running higher than ever before, the demand for methadone maintenance treatment has increased considerably. Methadone sets the standard for opiate addiction treatment medications, offering those in recovering much needed relief from difficult withdrawal and cravings effects.

While most anyone with a long-term history of opiate abuse can benefit from methadone maintenance treatment, certain qualifications must be met in order to be admitted to a treatment program. People who do qualify for methadone maintenance treatment stand to benefit from a range of treatment interventions as well as from the therapeutic effects of the drug.

Opiate Addiction Aftereffects

More often than not, people coming off a long history of opiate abuse experience withdrawal aftereffects long after they stop using the drug. Also known as protracted withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal syndrome, ongoing withdrawal-type symptoms can continue for months or even years into the recovery process.

According to Semel Institute, symptoms commonly associated with protracted withdrawal include:

  • Hypersensitivity to stress
  • Bouts of anxiety
  • Depression
  • Drug cravings
  • Irritability
  • Problems concentrating

In effect, protracted withdrawal symptoms account for why it’s so difficult for people in recovery to maintain abstinence for any length of time.

Methadone Maintenance Treatment

teen MMT

Teens require parental consent to receive MMT.

Methadone maintenance treatment addresses much of the physical and psychological discomfort addicts experience in recovery. As a synthetic opiate drug, methadone produces many of the same effects as other opiate drugs without producing the “high” effects that come when abusing opiates, according to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. Methadone also has a slow-release effect that lasts anywhere from 24 to 36 hours so a person doesn’t require frequent “fixes” throughout the day. In terms of helping addicts work through the psychological dysfunction left in addiction’s wake, methadone maintenance treatment programs offer behavioral-based interventions, such as group therapy, individual psychotherapy and support group work.

Admission Criteria for Methadone Maintenance Treatment

Adult Qualification Requirements

As a federally regulated form of treatment, methadone maintenance treatment programs must follow strict guidelines when determining who qualifies for treatment. As far as adult-aged applicants go, a person must have documented evidence that he or she is currently addicted to opiates and has been for a minimum of a year, according to Cornell University Law School. Treatment programs must also conduct a thorough physical and psychological evaluation prior to admission to the program.

Qualifications for Teenagers

Qualification requirements for teenagers applying for methadone maintenance treatment are a bit more extensive than those for adults. Teenage applicants must have documentation showing two attempts at detox and/or drug treatment occurring within a one-year period in order to qualify. Written consent from a parent, guardian or State-appointed guardian must also be provided.


Under special circumstances, a person may be able to receive an exception to the standard qualification requirements for methadone maintenance treatment. Special circumstances considered include:

  • People who’ve been released from prison within the past six months
  • Pregnancy
  • People who’ve been treated and discharged from a methadone maintenance treatment program within the past two years


Overall, being able to show documented evidence of a drug problem becomes the deciding factor when qualifying for methadone maintenance treatment, even in cases where a person’s condition clearly warrants needed treatment help.

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