Updated on February 6, 2024
5 min read

What Is a Methadone Clinic and How Do Methadone Clinics Work?

What is a Methadone Clinic?

A methadone clinic uses replacement therapy by prescribing and administering methadone. They aim to help people manage drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms after they stop using opioids.

Methadone is an alternative drug for people with opioid use disorder. It is less lethal and helps people transition off opioids and heroin faster.

When you take methadone, you won’t experience cravings or the euphoric rush associated with opioids. Methadone suppresses drug withdrawal symptoms for 24 to 36 hours.

Methadone clinics are also called substance use disorder services (SUDS) clinics.

How Do Methadone Clinics Work?

Methadone clinics administer treatment by prescribing methadone and providing counseling sessions. Before beginning treatment, medical professionals will perform a complete health evaluation.

The health evaluation includes:

  • A discussion of your overall health and drug use history
  • A blood and/or urinalysis test
  • Education about the treatment programs
  • Creation of an individualized treatment plan

Your team of medical professionals will ensure you understand the guidelines and goals of treatment before they prescribe and administer methadone and begin your counseling sessions.

You can choose to attend group, family, or individual counseling sessions. Some people see improvements almost immediately during treatment, while others take more time.

Methadone Clinic Certification Requirements

State and federal laws regulate public and private methadone clinics. To be a certified clinic, they must reach certain federal standards and be SAMHSA-certified.

All methadone clinics must offer a minimum range of services, including:

  • Initial examinations
  • Pregnancy services
  • Assessments
  • Counseling

High-quality methadone clinics go above and beyond these requirements. They offer various types of counseling and holistic therapies.

Who is Eligible for Methadone Treatment?

Methadone clinics treat people with:

  • Opioid addiction
  • Oxycontin addiction
  • Morphine addiction
  • Heroin addiction

These people often go to methadone clinics for medical detox or maintenance. A doctor must closely supervise them. 

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Benefits of Methadone Treatment

People addicted to drugs like heroin are treated with methadone. Along with this, they also get professional counseling services.

Benefits of the combined treatments of methadone and counseling include:

  • Reduction or elimination of opioid withdrawal symptoms
  • Decrease in drug cravings
  • Blocked appealing effects of opioids
  • Improved ability to function in everyday life
  • Support for co-occurring disorders
  • Counseling services for loved ones

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Risks and Side Effects of Methadone Treatment

Taking methadone is safer. It is less addictive than heroin and prescription opioids. However, there are risks and side effects associated with methadone use.

The most common side effects of methadone treatment include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle tremors
  • Abdominal cramps

The risks of methadone treatment include:

  • Negative interactions with other medications (prescription or otherwise)
  • Risk of overdose

You must be upfront about any drugs that you are using. A trace of a drug in someone’s system triggers potential adverse effects.

Methadone must always be used under the direction of a doctor, and dosing instructions must be followed precisely to prevent overdose.

Cost of Methadone Treatment

The cost of methadone treatment is around $126 every week, which adds up to $6,552 per year. However, the total cost will vary depending on the type of treatment you choose to receive.

Inpatient, outpatient, and clinic-based treatments will have different costs:

  • Inpatient treatment centers provide 24/7 care and supervision. The patient will use the facility's amenities for the whole treatment period. This is often the most expensive option.
  • Outpatient treatment provides part-time care. It requires fewer resources and is a cheaper option compared to inpatient treatment.

Methadone treatment improves the chance of long-term recovery. Despite this, many people with SUD don't seek methadone treatment because of the high cost.

Some communities offer low-cost and free alternatives. They can do this because they receive financial support from:

  • State and federal sources
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Government grants

Low-cost clinics sometimes offer treatment on a sliding fee scale. The fee is based on a patient’s income earnings.

Other resources to help someone pay for methadone treatment include:

Medicaid Coverage

Medicaid insurance programs offer many substance abuse treatment options. This includes methadone treatment.

This option is ideal for low-income individuals. Some clinics assist qualified patients in applying for Medicaid.

Health Insurance Coverage

After the Affordable Care Act became law in 2008, all marketplace healthcare plans must provide substance abuse treatment as part of their standard policy offerings. This includes plans that are partially or fully funded by employers.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act is also helpful. Insurers must offer the same coverage benefits for standard medical care and addiction recovery.

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How Do I Find The Right Methadone Clinic?

Methadone clinics address aspects of opioid addiction that other forms of drug rehab cannot. But this success is only possible if you find the right methadone clinic.

First, choose between outpatient or inpatient treatment. Then, evaluate the following:

  • The need for monitoring and supervision
  • Types of treatment offered in addition to methadone, including mental health services
  • The intensity of the treatment (inpatient treatment programs tend to be more intense)
  • Cost of treatment
  • Location and convenience of traveling to the addiction treatment center

How Often Should You Visit a Methadone Clinic?

You must visit the methadone clinic daily to receive your dose of medication and attend counseling sessions. Your medical team may give you take-home medication privileges when you show long-term stability and dependability.

You can bring your loved ones to your appointments at any time. The main people involved in your recovery will often include:

  • Your team of medical professionals (physicians, nurses, and counselors)
  • Administrative and business staff members
  • Partners, spouses, family members, and friends

If you receive take-home medication privileges, you will only need to visit the clinic for periodic check-ups.

Other Treatment Options in Methadone Clinics

By law, methadone clinics will give you access to other treatment options, such as:

  • Group, family, and individual therapy
  • Behavioral health counseling
  • Therapy to address co-occurring disorders
  • Assistance dealing with stress and other life challenges

These treatment options will help improve your:

  • Family and work life
  • Ability to function in society
  • Access to resources for co-occurring conditions
  • Deal with stress
  • Restore personal relationships
  • Rebuild professional goals

Summary

Methadone clinics provide an alternative treatment that can help you overcome cravings and withdrawal symptoms after you stop using opioids. They treat people with an addiction to opioids, heroin, morphine, and oxycontin.

Medical professionals will conduct a health exam and ensure you understand the goals of treatment before prescribing methadone. During treatment, you must visit the clinic daily to receive your dose of medication and attend counseling sessions.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
6 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. Methadone.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, US Department of Health & Human Services, 2023.
  2. Methadone and Buprenorphine Reduce Risk of Death after Opioid Overdose.” National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2018.
  3. Methadone (Oral Route) Side Effects - Mayo Clinic.” Mayo Clinic, 2023.
  4. Ronel et al. “Can a 12-Step Program Work in Methadone Maintenance Treatment?” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 2010.
  5. Gossop et al. “Methadone treatment practices and outcome for opiate addicts treated in drug clinics and in general practice: results from the National Treatment Outcome Research Study.” The British Journal of General Practice: The Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 1999.
  6. Ali et al. “Methadone Treatment of Opiate Addiction: A Systematic Review of Comparative Studies.” Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 2017.

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