The American opioid crisis has had many negative effects on public health in the United States, including the overall decline in the average American’s lifespan for the third year in a row.1 In addition, drug overdose deaths have soared, reaching an all-time high of 70,237 in 2017.2
As a result of the ongoing opioid crisis, more and more methadone clinics are opening all around the country, providing methadone maintenance treatment as well as screening and treatment for infectious diseases like hepatitis C.
Finding effective treatment for opioid treatment is a struggle, as many people don’t know where to go, how to find treatment, or even have access to it at all. As these methadone clinics continue to emerge nationwide, it’s important to understand exactly what they are, what services they provide, and how they compare to an individualized opioid detox program.
If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin addiction, illegal opioid abuse, or prescription opioid abuse, here’s everything you need to know about methadone clinics and opioid detox programs to make the choice that’s best for you.
What is a Methadone Clinic?
A methadone clinic is a facility where opioid-addicted people can go to receive replacement therapy (also known as medication-assisted treatment) with methadone. These opioid treatment programs (OTPs) are intended to reduce or eliminate the abuse of opioid drugs and reduce the spread of infectious disease.3
Methadone clinics in the U.S. are strictly regulated and according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, methadone can only be legally dispensed through a certified OTP center. Patients who receive treatment at a methadone clinic are also legally required to attend counseling, vocational, educational, or other types of treatment along with the medication.
How Does Methadone Treatment Work?
Methadone is an important medication used in the treatment of heroin and opioid addiction. It has been used to treat opioid addiction and dependence since the 1950s, and since it is also an opioid, it is highly addictive. However, proponents of methadone treatment argue that it is safer to take methadone under medical supervision than it is to inject heroin of unknown purity.4
Methadone works by reducing the uncomfortable symptoms of opioid withdrawal and blocking the euphoric effects of other opioid drugs like heroin, morphine, and oxycodone, among others.5 A person who is receiving methadone treatment for opioid addiction will take methadone once a day by ingesting a pill, wafer, or liquid form of the drug. Dosage amounts are tailored to the individual and may be adjusted frequently to meet the person’s fluctuating needs.
Patients who are completing methadone treatment have to physically go to a methadone clinic each day to receive a dose of the drug. They are not permitted to take any methadone home with them between clinic visits unless they have proven they can do so responsibly. This can be achieved by establishing a track record of stability, consistent progress, and compliant behaviors, such as regularly taking the correct dosage amount required for the methadone treatment program.5
Upon completing methadone treatment, patients are gently weaned off the drug. If a patient abruptly stops using it, they may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and side effects.
Is Methadone Treatment Effective for Opioid Addiction?
Generally speaking, medication-assisted treatment is most effective when it is combined with behavioral therapy, counseling and peer support services.6 Regarding methadone treatment for opioid addiction, the National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends 12 months of continuous methadone treatment for safety purposes and to achieve the best results possible.7 However, some clients may need to complete several years of methadone treatment, as the duration of treatment needed typically varies from person to person.
It is also very important to note that methadone treatment may only be effective when patients are completely compliant and take the drug exactly as directed by their doctor. If the methadone is misused in any way, shape, or form, it could severely compromise their physical health, the person could become dependent or addicted, or they may also get into legal trouble.
Methadone High and Other Risks
Since methadone is an addictive opioid, it is possible to experience a methadone high if you abuse the drug. There are also some other potential risks and negative aspects of using it to prevent opioid withdrawal and to function normally on a daily basis.
The primary risks of medication-assisted treatment at a methadone clinic are as follows.
- Patients are tied to a methadone clinic. Although methadone treatment enables many people to hold down jobs and avoid violence or drug-related criminal behavior, they must also remain tied to the drug to avoid experiencing any unpleasant side effects of opioid withdrawal.
- Patients may develop an addiction to methadone. While it is an effective treatment method, methadone is still an addictive drug. Patients who choose to stray from the correct dosage amount prescribed by a doctor may risk becoming addicted to the methadone itself.
- Patients may resume their drug abuse and have a regular supply to fuel those habits. Some patients who are receiving methadone treatment at a methadone clinic may encounter life stressors or difficult circumstances that increase their risk for relapse. If they lapse and begin abusing the methadone, they’ll have a regular supply of the drug that is easily accessible.
- Patients may suffer from the physical side effects of methadone treatment. Side effects of taking methadone may include rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, gastrointestinal problems, hallucinations, and muscle tremors.8 These side effects can make life miserable, which may also lead a person to believe they were better off just abusing the heroin or prescription drugs.
- Patients may share methadone with friends, which can cause an overdose. Since each methadone dosage is tailored to the individual, a single dose may be too much for another person to take safely. Additionally, methadone is not as potent as other opioids, so a person may take incredibly large doses just to get high.
- Patients never really experience true sobriety. Methadone treatment involves taking an opioid daily for at least one year. For those seeking sustained sobriety, this may not be the best type treatment option. Completing opioid withdrawal and learning how to live without opioid drugs will require a comprehensive treatment program that includes professional drug detox, individual and group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, peer support, and social services like employment and education assistance.
Opioid Detox Programs for Prescription Opioid and Heroin Withdrawal
Opioid detox programs offer several specific and unique benefits in contrast with methadone clinics. Although a methadone clinic may be helpful in some instances, daily travel to a methadone clinic for an extended amount of time is not ideal. Additionally, if a patient previously struggled with methadone abuse and addiction, methadone treatment may not be an effective or wise way to overcome opioid dependence. Gaining employment while testing positive for an opioid like methadone may also be very difficult and inconvenient.
Unlike the strict procedures associated with methadone treatment, personalized opioid detox provides more flexible and fluid treatment for anyone suffering from opioid addiction. A professional detox program offers comprehensive, private care in a therapeutic environment that encourages healing. With caring staff members and varying levels of support, privacy, and amenities, anyone struggling with opioid addiction can find a program that suits their lifestyle and expectations.
Treatment at a medical detox center always begins with a comprehensive assessment to determine the patient’s needs and ensure that medical detox is the right fit. The results of the assessment are then used to create a personalized program that will not only address the person’s physical dependence, but also any psychological issues or nutritional deficiencies that would otherwise hinder their ability to achieve and maintain sobriety.
When clients are ready, they may also participate in individual and group therapy. This provides an opportunity to work through additional psychological and social issues related to addiction while also preparing them for ongoing addiction treatment at a rehab center.
Learn More About Opioid Detox at Briarwood
When it comes to opioid addiction, no singular treatment option is right for everyone. In some instances, methadone treatment may be the right choice for an addicted individual. Although methadone treatment may give someone the ability to function from day to day, a personalized detox program offers a more comprehensive, private, and personalized experience and is more likely to lead to sustained sobriety and overall wellness.