A methadone clinic is a location also known as an OTP (opioid treatment program) where those addicted to opioids like heroin or prescription painkillers undergo MAT (medication-assisted treatment).
What is Methadone?
Methadone is a medication used to treat opioid use disorder as part of a medication-assisted treatment program. Methadone can also be prescribed for pain management.
Approved by the FDA in 1947 for antitussive and analgesic uses, the medication was shown to effectively treat opiate addiction in the 1960s. By 1972, the FDA approved methadone for this use.
If you take methadone as prescribed, it is safe and effective. The medication can promote abstinence from opioids and help sustain recovery.
Methadone is not used in isolation, but rather as part of an integrated treatment plan incorporating counseling and behavioral interventions like psychotherapy.
How Methadone Works
Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist taken daily. The medication comes in the following forms:
The medication can help to reduce the intensity of opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms, while at the same time blocking the effects of opioids, discouraging further opioid abuse by those in recovery.
As an opioid agonist, methadone works by targeting the opioid receptors in the brain. As a synthetic opioid with a slow release, methadone activates your opioid receptors more slowly than other opioids. This causes the medication to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms without delivering the rewarding effects associated with opioids.
What is a Methadone Clinic For?
Those seeking treatment for opioid addiction can receive medication at a methadone clinic.
Methadone clinics are also known as OTPs (opioid treatment programs) or SUDS (substance use disorder services clinics).
Methadone clinics can dispense Suboxone and naltrexone in addition to methadone. Most people visiting these clinics seek methadone, so the informal name of methadone clinics is most commonly used.
Every methadone clinic must be:
- Certified by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
- Registered with the DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency)
There are around 1700 methadone clinics in the United States. Most of these clinics are located in California, New York, and New Jersey.
There are two types of methadone clinic:
- Public methadone clinic: These clinics are inexpensive, but the limited government funding public clinics attract often means lengthy wait times. For many people grappling with severe opioid use disorder, this barrier to affordable treatment can have damaging consequences.
- Private methadone clinic: You can expect rapid treatment from a private methadone clinic, but that treatment often comes at a significant cost.
There are many benefits of methadone as a form of treatment for opioid use disorder, including:
- Reduced cravings for opioids.
- Less intense withdrawal symptoms during detox.
- Block the rewarding effects of opioids, discouraging further use.
- Removing the physical need for opioids of abuse, improving functionality.
Methadone is most effective when used to treat opioid use disorder in combination with counseling and psychotherapy like CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy). Working closely with a therapist, you’ll learn to identify triggers for substance use, how to change ingrained behaviors, and how to implement healthier coping skills.
For more severe opioid use disorders, MAT typically starts with a medical detox. A medically supervised detoxification will streamline the withdrawal process, making it as safe and comfortable as possible.
All clinics must offer a minimum range of services to gain the required certification. These include:
- Initial examination and evaluation: All patients receive a complete physical. Clinics must provide documentation.
- Assessments: An initial assessment will include a treatment plan. Clinics must also provide periodic assessments throughout MAT.
- Drug testing: All methadone clinics are mandated to conduct at least eight annual drug tests. Short-term methadone treatment typically requires an initial drug test. Long-term methadone treatment at an approved clinic usually features randomized monthly tests.
- Counseling: Clinics must offer patients access to counseling from qualified mental health professionals.
- Services for pregnant patients: Methadone clinics must address the needs of pregnant patients.
All of the best methadone clinics will offer more than just the above basics, often providing many types of counseling and psychotherapy alongside holistic therapies.