Methadone maintenance is a treatment method for opioids that can help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and minimize cravings by using methadone.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a long-acting drug that is used in the heroin detoxification process. During the 1960s, two researchers, Vincent Dole, and Marie Nyswander discovered that methadone relieved the craving for heroin and prevented withdrawal symptoms. Since then, methadone has been used to help people addicted to drugs like heroin, morphine, and codeine.

How Does Methadone Work?

Methadone is an opiate agonist, which means it binds to receptors in your brain, effectively blocking cravings and eliminating withdrawal symptoms. It works by tricking your brain into thinking you’re taking the drugs you’re trying to stop using.

How Effective is Methadone Maintenance?

Methadone maintenance treatment has been shown to be effective in improving daily function, as well as lessening the withdrawal effects of narcotic drugs, like heroin. Methadone maintenance can be more effective than detoxification, receiving no treatment, buprenorphine, LAAM, and heroin plus methadone.

Methadone treatment has been found to be effective in reducing:

  • The use of illicit drugs
  • Criminal activity
  • Needle sharing
  • HIV infection rates and transmission
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Commercial sex work
  • Number of reports of multiple sex partners
  • Suicide
  • Lethal overdose

It’s also been shown to improve social health and productivity, as well as retention in addiction treatment centers.

The second phase of withdrawal is sometimes experienced with methadone maintenance, but usually by fewer patients. Symptoms can include aches, insomnia, and loss of appetite, and are likely attributed to tapering off methadone.

Is Methadone Safe?

Methadone can be addictive. Taking the proper dose, as prescribed, is essential to successful treatment.

How Much Methadone Will I Need?

Methadone dosing on your own is highly discouraged. Because methadone use can itself become an issue of addiction, methadone maintenance should be undertaken in a medical environment and overseen by a professional staff.

There is no single answer to how much methadone you will need. The amount of methadone required for therapeutic effect depends on many factors, including:

  • Body metabolism
  • Bodyweight
  • Type of drug being used
  • Amount of drug being used

A proper dose of methadone will eliminate cravings without causing a high or euphoric state.

How Long Do I need to be on a Methadone Maintenance Plan?

A treatment counselor will work with you to determine what’s needed for long-term success. Methadone maintenance often occurs over a period of years, with re-evaluation every 60 to 90 days. Counseling and other therapeutic work are essential to your success.

VIDEO: When Should Methadone Be Used?

Methadone is a temporary solution for some kinds of addiction. Dr.Kevin Wandler discusses when it is appropriate to use methadone during treatment in addition to other behavioral therapies. The combination of methadone and other therapies will lead to long-term recovery.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.