Last updated: 11/12/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
While heroin addicts and methadone clinics may seem to go hand-in-hand, methadone treatment also applies for people addicted to prescription pain pills. According to the American Family Physician, anywhere from 500,000 to one million Americans suffer from prescription pain pill addictions within any given year. Opiate substances are the active ingredients in both heroin and prescription pain pills.
Methadone maintenance has become a commonly used approach for opiate addiction treatment. With a 40+ year history of use, methadone maintenance offers an effective opiate addiction treatment method for people wanting to live a drug-free existence. In addition to methadone medication therapy, maintenance programs offer both physical and psychological supports as part of a multi-pronged approach to opiate addiction treatment.
Unlike other forms of drug addiction, opiates have unusually subversive effects on a person’s body and mind. Opiates tap directly into the brain’s natural neurotransmitter or chemical processes. In doing so, these drugs alter the brain’s chemistry, and even its overall physiology when used for long periods of time. For these reasons, opiate addiction treatments make use of replacement medication therapies, one of which uses methadone.
Methadone, a synthetic opiate drug, produces effects similar to opiates. When used as an opiate addiction treatment, recovering addicts find relief from the usual drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms that occur when a person stops using.
Along with its use as a maintenance opiate addiction treatment, methadone can also be administered during the detox stage of recovery. Short-term detox use typically doesn’t exceed 30 days, while long-term detox approaches may include methadone treatment for anywhere from 30 to 180 days.
Whether used for detox or maintenance purposes, methadone’s effectiveness as an opiate addiction treatment relies on doctors finding a dosage level that best treats a person’s level of cravings and withdrawal.
Methadone Maintenance Therapy
First developed in the early 1960’s, methadone maintenance therapy has become the most widely known and researched opiate addiction treatment, according to an American Family Physician report. At its start, methadone maintenance therapy was only offered through specialty methadone clinics. As of 1999, Federal regulations extended methadone availability to office-based treatment settings. While methadone clinics combine medication therapy with counseling and rehabilitative services, office-based treatment settings enable recovering addicts to receive needed medical care along with methadone treatments.
For opiate addiction treatment purposes, methadone maintenance involves a gradual process of steady-state dosing until a person’s becomes stabilized. Stabilization occurs when dosage levels provide ongoing relief from drug cravings and withdrawals without producing an opiate “high” or creating sedation effects.
Methadone maintenance opiate addiction treatment follows a set protocol for administering doses during the early stages of treatment as well as during the maintenance period. At the start, daily dosages range around 20 to 30 milligrams. As methadone remains in the bloodstream longer than most other opiate agents, it takes four to 10 days before a steady-state maintenance dose can be gauged correctly.
Once the maintenance dosage level is reached, some people may require periodic dosage increases in cases where a person abuses other drugs or relapse episodes occur. Recovering addicts can remain on methadone maintenance therapy for as long as needed. Once drug cravings and withdrawal effects are no longer a problem, methadone doses can be tapered off to a point where treatments are no longer needed.