For more than 50 years, methadone has been proven time and time again as the most effective treatment for individuals afflicted with the disease of opioid use disorder, or opioid addiction. Its safety and effectiveness can be found in countless research studies around the world.
What Is Methadone?
Methadone is a synthetic opioid medication that can be used to treat chronic pain, but it is primarily utilized in treating opioid addiction. Methadone is regulated by the DEA and is only administered for addiction treatment through an approved opioid treatment program (OTP). Methadone is a full agonist opioid meaning that it acts similarly to other opioids by fully activating the receptors in the brain.
How Does Methadone Work?
Methadone attaches fully to the opioid receptors in the brain, and at an appropriate dose, does not create the euphoria or “high” illicit opioids create. It does eliminate the physical withdrawal symptoms felt when opioids are no longer present in the system of the individual using the drugs. This is critical in controlling the cravings that cause relapse early in recovery for so many. When withdrawals and cravings are controlled, individuals can focus on addressing the causes of addiction and repairing the damage done to their lives. Additionally, methadone has some opioid blocking properties, limiting the effect of other opioids used while methadone is present.
“Methadone maintenance has been demonstrated repeatedly to be safe and effective when used with appropriate safeguards and psychosocial services. Maintenance treatment typically leads to reduction or cessation of illicit opioid use and its adverse consequences, including cellulitis, hepatitis, and HIV infection from use of non-sterile injection equipment, as well as criminal behavior associated with obtaining drugs.”
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Tip 43 Handbook
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Frequently Asked Questions
Methadone has a longer half-life than other opioids, such as heroin, fentanyl or prescription pain medications. A single therapeutic dose of methadone typically last 24-36 hours. This allows patients, even early in recovery, to make only one visit to the treatment program each day.
The proper dose of methadone is different for each person. It is found when an individual no longer feels withdrawal symptoms, but also does not feel euphoric effects from the medication. Adjustments may be made by your physician until the appropriate dose is reached, being mindful to not overmedicate.
When not administered in a medically-supervised, therapeutic environment, methadone can be addictive. However, in a highly regulated OTP environment, it is difficult, if not impossible, to misuse the medication. Dependence on the medication can be reduced, or tapered down, for some patients over time, but if not tapered under medical supervision, withdrawal symptoms will be felt.
Some medications may have dangerous interactions with methadone and patients should make their medical provider aware of all medications they are taking. Use of alcohol, benzodiazepines or illicit opioids while on methadone can be very dangerous, causing serious respiratory issues. Those who discontinue their methadone treatment who return to using illicit opioids are at an increased risk for overdose. However, if taken as prescribed, under medical supervision, methadone is a safe and effective treatment for opioid addiction.
Methadone is the preferred treatment during pregnancy as it is far safer then detoxing or continuing to use opioids illicitly and does not cause any fetal abnormalities. When managed by a medical provider, methadone reduces the risk of miscarriage and physical stress on the infant, as well as preventing premature labor. Withdrawal symptoms after birth may be present, but are often much milder than they would be if illicit opioids were used during the pregnancy.
Methadone and buprenorphine do have serious drug interaction potential that should be discussed with a doctor and fully understood before participating in medication-assisted treatment.
The cost of methadone varies by location, but is generally known to be the least expensive option of the three approved medications approved for use in treating opioid addiction. The cost varies based on insurance coverage, the state in which a person lives and other factors such as ability to pay. Many states offer funded grants or sliding fee scales for those who qualify.
Unlike heroin or prescription pain medications, methadone will not produce positive results on a standard test for opiates. It will only be detected if an individual is specifically tested for methadone, which is not a common practice. Individuals in a medication-assisted treatment program are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and cannot be denied employment based on their participation in such a program.
To start a medication-assisted treatment program call us today or send us a message, and a staff member can complete an assessment and schedule an intake appointment. Intakes are scheduled as quickly as possible and are based on availability. Click here for more information about eligibility and intake.
Advantages of Opioid Use Disorder Treatment With Methadone
The benefits of methadone treatment for opioid addiction include:
- Decades of positive results: Methadone has a history of use in addiction medicine that goes back to 1947. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research suggests that it can increase a patient's chance of staying in treatment by 4.44 times.
- Effective for severe symptoms: The lack of a ceiling effect in methadone makes it very effective for patients who take large amounts of potent opioids. With medical supervision, methadone treatment can relieve the associated withdrawal symptoms during recovery.
- Safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding: Breastfeeding and pregnant patients can safely take methadone. It helps these patients manage their addiction as they go through these life changes.
What to Expect During BAART Programs Methadone Treatment
Patients at BAART Programs Treatment Centers take methadone as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program that includes these care services:
- Intake: Your first appointment at BAART Programs will involve an intake where your treatment team will work with you to develop a care plan. This treatment strategy will include services tailored to your symptoms and situation.
- Medication visits: During the beginning of your MAT program, you will take methadone every day at the clinic. Once you meet certain benchmarks under federal law, you may earn the privilege of taking your medicine at home.
- Psychosocial support: MAT also involves psychosocial services like counseling and case management. These services aim to help you develop recovery skills and build an opioid-free life.
Differences Between Methadone Treatment and Buprenorphine Treatment
During treatment at BAART Programs, your doctor may prescribe methadone or buprenorphine. Methadone treatment differs from buprenorphine treatment in the following ways:
- Methadone requires daily visits early in treatment while buprenorphine may have options depending on the type of program you are enrolled in. Some buprenorphine is prescribed and taken at home, while some is only provided on-site as with methadone.
- Buprenorphine dosages are different, and over-time a physician may indicate you take it every other day while methadone is always a daily medication. A patients dose of either medication is adjusted to meet their unique needs and can change overtime as necessary. A physician should always be consulted about a dosage change.
- Over-time, methadone take-homes can be earned so that patients aren't required to visit the program every day.
Side Effects of Methadone
Methadone may cause side effects during your MAT program. If any of these symptoms become difficult to manage, talk to your doctor about modifying your treatment. Potential side effects of methadone treatment include:
- Cold or flu-like symptoms
- Digestive issues such as constipation, nausea and vomiting
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
How to Take Methadone Safely
As you take methadone, remember to take these precautions:
- Take methadone exactly as prescribed by your doctor if you take it at home. When you take methadone at the clinic, the staff will provide the exact amount that you need.
- Do not combine methadone with alcohol, sedatives, tranquilizers or other depressant drugs. These substances can amplify the effects of methadone, resulting in overdose or death.
- If you take methadone at home, dispose of any unused medication safely. Keep methadone out of reach of children.
Start Methadone Treatment at BAART Programs Treatment Centers
At BAART Programs Treatment Centers, we offer methadone MAT to patients across the United States. Schedule your first appointment today by contacting a location near you.