How to Find a Methadone Clinic for Opioid Use Disorder

If your treatment team recommends medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD), you will receive medication such as methadone to safely manage OUD symptoms while pursuing counseling and therapy. Finding a methadone clinic will be necessary to pursue this treatment option since a medical professional can only administer methadone in a certified clinic.
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Methadone as a Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

Methadone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid use disorder. 1

OUD is a complex disorder in which you continue misusing an opioid, such as heroin, morphine, or oxycodone, despite negative effects. You may also develop an opioid dependence, which means that you cannot stop using the drug without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Further, you could become tolerant to the drug, needing to take higher doses to experience the same effects. These effects make it difficult to pursue treatment for OUD without medical aid to ease symptoms.

Methadone is used to help you prevent withdrawal symptoms you may experience when trying to detox. It is also effective when used for addiction treatment, as it acts on receptors in your brain to block the euphoric high of opioids and decrease cravings for the substance.2

Unlike opioids, methadone does not produce euphoria and acts more slowly on opioid receptors in the brain. This decreases your chances of becoming dependent on methadone in the same way your body becomes dependent on opioids.

If you are treating opioid addiction, methadone medication is just one component of a comprehensive treatment plan, which will usually include counseling and other behavioral therapies to provide you with a well-rounded approach to dealing with your substance misuse.

How Effective is Methadone as a Treatment?

Methadone has been proven to be highly effective when used in medication-assisted treatment for OUD. One study found that those taking methadone had 33% fewer opioid-positive drug tests than those who were in recovery but not taking methadone as part of the treatment plan.3 This same study discovered that those in methadone treatment were 4.5 times more likely to stay in treatment than those not taking the medication.3

The World Health Organization has included methadone on its list of essential medicines because research shows that it:4

  • Significantly reduces drug injecting, in turn reducing HIV transmission
  • Lowers the death rate associated with OUD
  • Reduces the risk of getting involved in criminal activity alongside drug use
  • Lowers risk of relapsing into drug use again
  • Allows for getting the most out of recovery treatments such as therapy and support groups

Should I Consider Methadone for Opioid Use Disorder?

Methadone treatment is typically recommended if you have an opioid use disorder and are unable to quit using opioids on your own. Seeking help from a medical professional is a great first step to determining if MAT is right for you. However, in general, the use of methadone as a MAT is often recommended for those who:4

  • Are currently physically dependent on opioid drugs
  • Have a history of opioid dependence
  • Are not currently physically dependent on opioids but would like to prevent a relapse
  • Have a history of overdose or self-harm behavior about opioid use
  • Are pregnant and dependent on opioids

Some of the reasons why your healthcare provider may decide you are not a candidate for methadone treatment include:4

  • You have liver disease
  • You have an intolerance of methadone
  • You are experiencing adverse effects from methadone
  • You have a desire or need to be completely “drug-free” because of work-related stigmas or for legal reasons
  • You are experiencing social pressure or harassment to divert your methadone to other people without a prescription
  • You have been caught diverting or misusing your methadone prescription

What are Other Treatments for OUD?

Even if methadone treatment is not recommended for you, other treatment interventions may help you recover from your opioid use disorder. Some of these modalities, such as behavioral therapies, are even recommended in addition to methadone and may be offered at some methadone clinics. Treatment interventions that may help you in addressing OUD include:3,4

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy that seeks to identify patterns of thinking and behavior and change them
  • Family therapy to assist in relational stress caused by opioid use
  • Peer support groups that offer a safe and judgment-free environment to learn from others on a similar journey

How Do Methadone Clinics Work?

You can only receive methadone treatments at a methadone clinic or opioid treatment program (OTP) certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).5 A physician will monitor and administer your doses, which usually requires daily trips to see your doctor. After you have been in methadone treatment for some time, your doctor may allow you to take treatments at home in between check-ins with the doctor if it is appropriate for your situation.

Anyone can go to an OTP to seek methadone treatments. The process will most likely involve the following:4,5

  • Medical professionals will assess you to determine your immediate care needs.
  • If you arrive while in withdrawal from opioids, you will start methadone treatments as part of your detox.
  • Once detox is complete, you may continue methadone for addiction treatment as recommended by your care team.
  • Those beginning methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) will be administered daily doses and be closely monitored for seven to 10 days.
  • You will be referred to other interventions to help in recovery, such as individual therapy and peer support groups.

The amount of time you spend in a methadone clinic or receiving methadone doses varies depending on several factors. Twelve months is considered the minimum amount of time you will be in methadone treatment, and you could continue taking methadone for years or even for your lifetime if needed.6

Many people choose to remain on methadone indefinitely because it is a safe way to prevent a possible relapse into using opioids again. When taken as prescribed, methadone is a safe way to manage your opioid addiction long-term. Studies have shown that the longer you remain in treatment, the better your recovery outcomes will be.4

Where Can I Find a Methadone Clinic?

If you think methadone treatment may be right for you, you can begin talking to a health care provider about your condition and asking for referrals to clinics that can provide methadone treatments. You may also reach out directly to a nearby methadone clinic. The SAMHSA website can be used to search for methadone treatment centers near you.

How to Get into a Methadone Clinic

Methadone is a controlled and regulated substance. As such, you must meet certain requirements in order to be eligible for methadone treatment. Your first step into finding a methadone clinic should include reaching out to your primary care provider or an accessible medical professional to discuss your OUD and treatment options. If entering a methadone clinic, a medical team will assess your eligibility for the medication through a screening process.7

For a clinic to become certified to provide methadone treatments, it must also meet certain federal requirements and must do the following:7

  • Giving you a complete physical examination by a doctor
  • Providing an initial assessment of what your treatment plan should look like
  • Providing follow up assessments throughout treatment progression
  • Enabling you access to counseling services for your substance use
  • Giving social and psychological assessments alongside physical examinations
  • Carrying out at least eight random drug tests per year

What is the Screening Process Like?

Because of the federal requirements on methadone clinics, you can expect a thorough screening process before you begin methadone treatment. Some of the things you’ll be asked to do during this process are the following:7,8

  • Provide blood and urine samples for drug testing
  • Give truthful information on your history of opioid use and any other substances
  • Agree to a physical examination
  • Provide a history and current state of mental health conditions
  • Provide information on your history of drug misuse
  • Undergo a physical exam
  • Provide information concerning your previous or existing mental health issues

To qualify for admittance into a methadone clinic, you will be assessed on the severity of your opioid addiction and history of opioid use. Typically, you will be admitted if you:8

  • Have been addicted to opioids for many years
  • Have a history of trying to quit and relapsing multiple times
  • Have developed tolerance and physical dependence on opioids
  • Are unlikely to stop opioid use on your own

If you or someone you love has opioid use disorder, please call 800-662-HELP (4357) (Info iconWho Answers?) to speak to a specialist about treatment options.

Resources

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Methadone.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). How do medications to treat opioid use disorder work?
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). How effective is drug addiction treatment?.
  4. World Health Organization. (2009). Methadone maintenance treatment – Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Setting.
  5. Psychiatric Research Institute. (2022). What Is Methadone? University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). How long does drug addiction treatment usually last? National Institutes of Health.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Federal Guidelines for Opioid Treatment Programs.
  8. Institute of Medicine United States Committee on Federal Regulation of Methadone Treatment. (1995). Treatment Standards and Optimal Treatment – Federal Regulation of Methadone Treatment. National Academies Press.

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