Guide To Methadone Maintenance

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Are you curious about methadone?  Are you or a loved one in need of treatment and considering methadone maintenance?  Maybe you’re already prescribed methadone but you have unanswered questions?  No matter what your reasoning, you are in the right place.  This is an intensive guide to methadone maintenance treatment.  You will find every answer to every question you may have.  No longer will you have to find different posts to get all the answers.  Here all the info on methadone maintenance treatment is explained in its’ entirety, in one place.

With that being said, let’s dive right in.

An Overview of Methadone

Methadone is a narcotic.  A medication prescribed by doctors as a pain reliever or to treat opiate addiction.

In this case, we are discussing methadone as a treatment for drug addiction.  Specifically, heroin addiction but methadone can also be used to treat other forms of opiate addiction.

Most often, methadone is given to patients in liquid form but, may also be found in tablet or wafer form.

In order to be prescribed methadone as a treatment option for heroin addiction, one must be a client at a methadone clinic.

How Methadone Works

When an addict uses heroin (or other opiates), the heroin actually changes into morphine in the brain.  It binds to opioid receptors on different brain cells.  Specifically to the cells that control a person’s pain and pleasure.

Heroin also binds to receptors located in the brain stem which affects a person’s arousal, breathing, and blood pressure.  Those 3 things explain why a person on heroin feels good yet is nodding out. (A trait that will lessen with time).

A person’s opioid receptors become addicted to this feeling and having heroin in the brain.  This is exactly why an addict goes through withdrawal when he has no heroin. The brain and body are physically addicted to it.  To find out more about the effects of heroin, visit this site.

Methadone changes how a person’s brain and nervous system responds to pain. The methadone fills up a person’s opioid sensors so they do not experience the euphoric feelings as with heroin. Yet, it reduces the addict from feeling any withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin detox. taking methadone, it’s pointless. Together these factors increase the potential for an addict to recover.

Once a person is stable on their dose of methadone, methadone can not only reduce withdrawal symptoms but, completely eliminate them. This means the person can go on to function as a normal individual would.  Not being high and not having withdrawal.

Even better is the fact that methadone blocks the effects of heroin.  That being said, if a person chooses to use heroin while on methadone, one of two things will happen.

  1. They will not get high at all and be pretty pissed off they wasted their money.
  2. They will have to use much more heroin than usual to even feel anything so it’s pointless.
  3. So if a person does use and uses A LOT more than they should, an overdose is then possible. If you are going to get on methadone to quit using heroin then, don’t USE HEROIN!


Stable Dose of Methadone

Many people ask the following question.  How much methadone does it take for a person to become stable? Unfortunately, no one can give a specific number of milligrams.  Stabilizing an individual’s dose depends on a variety of factors.

  • a person’s weight
  • metabolism
  • person’s overall size
  • kidney function
  • percentage of body fat

Typically, when you first start going to a methadone clinic.  Initially, you are on a low dose of approximately 40 milligrams.  The methadone doctor will they increase your dose as he sees fit until you are stabilized.

A stable dose of methadone means you will be able to function normally.  You will not experience withdrawal symptoms, tiredness, or feelings of euphoria.  Once stable, your daily dosage will hold you between 24 and 36 hours.

methadone maintenance is the best treatment for heroin addiction

Overview of Methadone Maintenance Treatment

Methadone Maintenance Treatment also referred to as MMT entails much more than taking a daily dose of methadone.

Requirements of MMT

  • daily dosing
  • group therapy
  • individual counseling sessions
  • no dirty UDS (urinary drug screen)  Also called UA (urinary analysis)
  • following all rules and guidelines of your methadone clinic

As you can see, methadone maintenance treatment requires you to complete a variety of requirements in order to successfully be part of the treatment.  Some people do not like this, being tied to a clinic every day.  Remember, it takes very little of your time to go there to dose daily. In early recovery, people need to be on a short leash if you will.  The potential for relapse is at its highest because you may not be stable yet and still are not in the proper mindset.

Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of the methadone maintenance treatment and what your requirements will be.

Group Therapy

The vast majority of methadone clinics will require you to complete a specific number of group therapy sessions per month.  You will either have to commit to a specific number of groups or complete a number of hours in group therapy.

Individual clinics offer a variety of groups to the clients.  Each group is conducted by a licensed therapist and includes other clients at your clinic.  This allows you to learn about different topics related to methadone maintenance and addiction recovery.  As well as giving you the chance to interact with your peers, people in a similar situation.

One on One Counseling

Each month, you must complete individual counseling for a mandated number of hours. This is a simple one on one interaction with your methadone counselor to discuss your treatment, your progress, and personal issues directly affecting you. This is a time for you to open up and talk freely about you and your addiction.  Your counselor will help you get to the root of your problem. Together, you both will set up an individualized treatment plan specifically designed for you. This type of therapy is quite beneficial even for those who do not like to open up about their problems.


Once your dose is stable and you meet all of your requirements, you will then be eligible for take-home privileges.  Keep in mind that every methadone clinic is different in their privilege process but, here is a rough outline. This way you have somewhat of an idea of what you can expect and work towards.

Weekend Take Homes (Saturday + Sunday)

  • Clean from all illicit drugs for 6 months
  • Meet group therapy requirements
  • Meet individual counseling requirements

3 times per week ( Mon + Wed + Friday)

  • Clean from all illicit drugs while having weekend take-home privileges for 6 months
  • Meet group therapy requirements
  • Meet individual counseling requirements

2 Times per week (Tues + Friday)

  • Clean from all illicit drugs
  • Been at the clinic for at least 2 years
  • Complete all group therapy requirements
  • Complete all individual counseling requirements
  • Had take homes 3x per week for 6 months or more

Once a Week

  • Clean from all illicit drugs
  • Complete all group therapy requirements
  • Complete all individual counseling requirements
  • Had take homes 2x a week for at least one year
  • Been at the clinic for 3 years

To a person, who wants take-homes, this may seem overwhelming.  It’s really quite easy and time flies.  Methadone has the best success rate as a long-term recovery tool.  If you are serious about getting clean and wanting recovery, follow the guidelines and this will be easy for you.

Long-Term Treatment

Methadone maintenance is a long-term treatment.  Typically, people are on methadone for several years.  Some may even be on methadone forever.  It’s a personal choice, going to the clinic once a week compared to getting money, committing crimes, and copping all day, every day isn’t hard at all.  As with anything else in life, it becomes a pattern, a routine.

Methadone Maintenance Statistic


Methadone is a form of medicine-assisted treatment(MAT).  Other forms of MAT include:

  • Subutex
  • Suboxone

Neither of these MATs is regulated and controlled as methadone maintenance is.  That is one reason why methadone has higher success rates. It is harder for people to misuse methadone since it is in a controlled environment.  Other forms of MAT are simply given as a monthly prescription which leads to more cases of abuse.

Side Effects

Always take methadone as prescribed.  Taking more methadone than your prescribed dosage could result in a possible overdose.  Likewise, you should never take any medication you do not have a prescription for or illegal drugs while on methadone.  Nor should you give your methadone to somebody else.

Methadone does have a few common side effects.  Yet, the benefits of methadone highly outweigh the cons.

Common Side Effects

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness (until stable)
  • Increased sweating
  • Nausea
  • Lack of any sexual arousal or sexual ambition

Severe Side effects

If you experience any of the following symptoms, immediately contact emergency services.

  • Trouble breathing
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Swelling of the face or hands
  • Rash
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling light-headed or even faint

Benefits of Methadone Maintenance

If you take your methadone correctly as a doctor prescribes, the outcome is both rewarding and beneficial.


  • disease transmission
  • sharing of needles
  • criminal activity including burglary, prostitution, shoplifting, etc.
  • incarceration
  • possibly overdoses
  • use of illegal drugs
  • promiscuity


  • the quality of life
  • social interaction
  • relationships
  • financial trouble
  • productivity (careers, home life, family, etc.)
  • overall health


Methadone maintenance treatment is a proven method of treatment for heroin and other opiate drugs.  If recovering addicts properly use methadone, they can change their life for the better.  I am a personal assessment of this.  As a recovering addict, methadone maintenance has been the only treatment option for heroin addiction that actually works.  Recovering addicts can become productive members of society and live a full life free of the pain of addiction.

Methadone maintenance statistic

FYI – If you want to know the best way to taper off of methadone, then read my post about that, right HERE.

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I am NOT a licensed therapist. For immediate help call the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Adminstration’s 1-800-662-HELP. It's a free 24/7 service for ppl facing mental +/or substance use disorders.Or you can use the online treatment locator HERE.

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