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Methadone for Addiction Treatment

Methadone is often used to help people recover from opioid use disorder (OUD).1 This article will explore what methadone is, how it works, side effects of use, and how it is used in the treatment of OUD. Medications like methadone benefit those receiving addiction treatment by lessening or eliminating withdrawal symptoms, reducing cravings, and blunting or blocking the euphoric effects from self-administration of opioids. Methadone is just one type of medication that is used in the treatment of opioid addiction.

What Is Methadone?

Methadone is an FDA-approved drug used to treat opioid use disorder.1 It is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance.1 When used as a treatment for opioid use disorder, methadone blocks the effects of illicit or misused opioids, reduces craving and withdrawal symptoms, and can help to achieve lasting recovery.1

Methadone comes in liquid, powder, or pill form and is usually taken under the supervision of a practitioner.1 Methadone is obtained mostly through specialty clinics designated as opioid treatment programs (OTPs), which operate under federal OTP regulations.2 Medication treatment is only one part of a person’s treatment plan and typically also includes counseling and/or other behavioral therapies and supportive services.1

When taken as prescribed, methadone is a safe and effective medication treatment for opioid use disorder.1 However, methadone has the potential to be diverted and misused as well and can result in unintentional overdose if it is not taken correctly or if it is used concurrently with other substances, such as alcohol or benzodiazpines.1

What Is Methadone Used For?

When used to manage opioid withdrawal, methadone can help reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms as well as blunt or block the euphoric effects of opioids.3

Methadone doses are typically given under supervision at an opioid treatment program.3 Once there is a period of stability on methadone, then take-home doses may be prescribed.3 Methadone is administered under supervision due to its high potential for diversion and misuse and risk of fatal overdose.4 There is a risk of withdrawal symptoms developing if you suddenly stop taking methadone; therefore, always consult with your doctor to develop the best plan of action if you wish to stop taking methadone.1

What Is Methadone Maintenance?

Methadone maintenance treatment is typically continued for as long as it provides a benefit and a person wishes to continue it; tapering off the medication is often associated with a return to opioid misuse and an increased overdose risk.5 While undergoing treatment, patients with opioid use disorder may undergo methadone maintenance treatment for months or several years, or for the rest of their life.5

How Does Methadone Work?

Methadone is an opioid agonist that occupies and activates the same opioid receptors as heroin and prescription painkillers like morphine.6 Methadone is long-acting and does not induce euphoria in opioid-dependent people. It strongly binds at the receptor site, essentially blocking the ability for illicit and misused opioids to exert their desirable effects, while at the same time ensuring a person doesn’t feel the onset of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.7

What Are the Side Effects of Methadone?

Methadone’s side effects are like those of other opioids:1

  • Restlessness.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Slowed breathing.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Heavy sweating.
  • Constipation.
  • Sexual problems.

Addiction Rehab Settings that Use Methadone

There is no “one size fits all” approach to the treatment of OUD. Many people benefit from methadone treatment for varying lengths of time, including lifelong treatment. Therefore, the medication may be delivered in a variety of settings, including:5

  • Outpatient substance use treatment centers.
  • Inpatient or residential substance use treatment centers.
  • Community-based health centers.
  • Hospital-based health clinics.
  • Mental health hospitals.
  • Long-term therapeutic communities.

Ongoing outpatient medication treatment for OUD is linked to better retention and outcomes than treatment without medication. In some outpatient programs it may even be possible for some patients to be given take-home doses.5

Methadone Use in Detox Programs

Detoxification can be a beneficial first step for recovery of opioid use disorder.2 The goal of detox is to manage the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms and reduce any risk of serious medical consequences.2 Methadone is used in detox to suppress withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid discontinuation.6 Detox alone is rarely sufficient for long-lasting recovery from opioid use disorder.8 Without additional treatment and aftercare, a patient could go back to using opioids.8

Methadone Use in Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient or residential care is typically a good OUD treatment option for people with poor motivation, other substance use problems, serious or complicated cooccurring disorders, injection or binge use, an unstable living environment, or limited social support.5 Treatment may last several weeks or longer, depending on the patient’s needs.5

In long-term residential facilities, patients may stay for up to 12 months.9 With inpatient treatment, patients typically receive room and board, recovery support, counseling, case management, medically supervised withdrawal, and onsite mental health services.5 Inpatient treatment is highly structured.5

Methadone Use in Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment may be appropriate for individuals who have less severe substance use disorders and want to be able to attend to job or school responsibilities. It’s beneficial for them to have social support that can help them through their recovery.9 Outpatient treatment varies in terms of the type and intensity of services provided.9

Patients may have to attend outpatient therapy for 6 to 7 days per week at first, but frequency may reduce as the patient becomes more stable in their treatment.5 Methadone is typically administered at the outpatient facility, however, depending on a person’s  progress in treatment, methadone doses may be distributed directly to patients to self-administer at home.5 Outpatient opioid treatment programs often require patients to participate in individual and group counseling services and drug testing throughout their treatment.5

Does Insurance Cover Rehabs that Use Methadone Treatment?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) considers certain treatments as essential health benefits.10 All health insurance plans that are offered in the marketplace must cover essential health benefits, including:10

  • Mental health services.
  • Substance use disorder services.
  • Prescription drugs.

Health plans can vary based on type and state regulations.11 Call the admissions navigators at American Addiction Centers (AAC) at to verify your health insurance benefits or to learn about other payment options that are available. You can also verify your insurance quickly and easily online by filling out the form below.

Finding Opioid Addiction Rehab That Offers Methadone

Methadone treatment can help people with opioid use disorder achieve and sustain recovery and reclaim their life.1 If you or a loved one is having problems with opioids, reach out to AAC to speak with an admissions navigator today. Admissions navigators are available to help you understand your opioid treatment options. AAC also provides a tool to help you find a rehab in your area and to instantly check your health insurance coverage for addiction treatment.

If you are unsure about where to start, contact one of our admission navigators and they can help you figure out which program will be the right fit for you. You can also look at some of the facilities listed below to see if they provide the program you are looking for:

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