What is Methadone?

Methadone is an opioid treatment medication that reduces withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin or other narcotic drugs without causing the “high” associated with the drug. Methadone can be used as part of drug withdrawal management and maintenance programs. When utilized for treatment of opioid addiction, it can only be dispensed at designated clinical sites and cannot be prescribed through the pharmacy. 

Methadone can be administered in multiple forms, including liquid, powder, diskettes, and tablets. Root Center generally dispenses methadone in liquid form. As with all medications used in MAT programs, methadone is used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes group therapy, individual therapy, and a focus on developing social and familial support. 

Methadone must be taken under the supervision of a medical doctor. The physician will obtain a full medical history to assess appropriateness of the intervention and identify possible interactions with other medications or health conditions. It is essential that methadone is taken as prescribed and at the dosage indicated to ensure the effectiveness and safety of the intervention. Methadone remains in the body for an extended period of time, and overdose is possible if it is not taken as directed. Methadone is a controlled substance and should never be shared or acquired from an unofficial source.

What to expect when starting Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT)

Upon starting Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT), all clients at Root Center are assessed by a master’s-level clinician to determine if additional interventions are indicated. Many clients enroll in the Teen IOP program for substance use disorders. This provides comprehensive support for clients starting MMT and can help clients in achieving maximal outcomes. 

Clients must demonstrate progress in the initial stages of their treatment, including compliance with the agreed-upon medication regimen, before they are able to safely begin taking home and self-administering doses of methadone between office visits. During the initial treatment phase, MMT program participants will come to the center daily for dosing, medical appointments, and group and individual therapy sessions. 

If a client misses a dose of their methadone, they should call their prescriber immediately. Clients should not take an extra dose of methadone after a missed dose without medical consultation and instruction. It is critical that clients do not use drugs or alcohol when taking methadone. Clients should not operate heavy machinery or engage in other high-risk activities while taking the medication. Methadone may be a safe option for women with OUD who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Options for treating OUD during pregnancy or breastfeeding can be explored during an appointment with a licensed physician. 

The duration of methadone treatment varies from person to person, depending on individual needs, circumstances, and responses to the medication. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the minimum length of MMT should be 12 months, and long-term methadone treatment is often required to support sustained recovery. When discontinuing a methadone maintenance regimen, it is critical that the client works closely with their doctor to gradually reduce the dosage and prevent adverse side effects and withdrawal. Proper titration of medication is key in preventing relapse when making changes in any MAT regimen.

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