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Updated on September 27, 2022
5 min read

How Methadone Clinics Work

What is a Methadone Clinic?

A methadone clinic is a place where people go to seek treatment for:

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

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

They make use of replacement therapy. This helps people deal with drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms when they stop using opioids.

State and federal laws regulate private and public methadone clinics. According to federal law, all methadone clinics must be SAMHSA-certified.

Methadone Clinic Certification Requirements

Clinics are required to reach certain federal standards so they can get certified to provide treatment.

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.

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How Methadone Clinics Work

Methadone is a less-lethal alternative drug for people with opioid use disorder. It makes the transition off of opioids and heroin easier. Clinics also provide recovery support in addition to methadone treatment.

The following people are involved in your recovery at a methadone clinic:

  • Medical professionals such as physicians, nurses, and counselors
  • Administrative and business staff members
  • Partners, spouses, family members, and friends

Clinics can't administer methadone without additional resources. By law, programs must focus on individual treatment options, including:

  • Family and work life
  • Ability to function in society
  • Access to resources for co-occurring conditions

It's also essential to understand the guidelines and goals of treatment before it begins. Treatment starts with a complete health evaluation. The evaluation includes:

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

You may receive medication during your first visit to the clinic. For the medical staff to administer the appropriate amount of medication, you have to be displaying signs of withdrawal.

Once the evaluation and diagnosis are complete, treatment begins. Aside from receiving prescribed methadone, you also have access to:

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

Early on in the treatment, you usually visit the methadone clinic daily. This is so you can receive your dose of treatment medication and attend counseling sessions.

When someone displays long-term stability and dependability, they may receive take-home medication privileges and only need periodic check-ups.

Loved ones can also accompany you to an appointment at any time, as long as you agree to it.

Who is Eligible for Methadone Treatment?

The following people are eligible to receive Methadone treatment:

  • Those addicted to opioids or heroin and is supervised by a doctor
  • Those who need medical detox or maintenance

Most people in an opioid treatment program are there for detox. About a quarter of those admitted to treatment are there for methadone maintenance treatment alone.

2011 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Survey

How are People Looked After at Methadone Clinics?

Opioid addicts receive prescribed methadone for opioid addiction. They don't experience cravings or the euphoric rush associated with the drug. Methadone suppresses drug withdrawal symptoms for between 24 to 36 hours.

In addition to methadone treatment, you also attend counseling sessions. Counseling prevents drug relapse and helps people:

  • Deal with stress
  • Restore personal relationships
  • Rebuild professional goals

Group, family, and individual counseling sessions are provided for the recovery of the patient. Some people see improvements almost immediately, while others take more time.

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Benefits, Side Effects & Risks 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 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

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

The most common side effects include:

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

Methadone also interacts with other medications. You must be upfront about any drugs that they are using. This includes prescription drugs or otherwise.

A trace of a drug in someone’s system triggers potential adverse effects. There is also a risk of overdose.

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

Disadvantages of methadone treatment include:

  • Potential daily visits to the clinic
  • Limited travel
  • Low self-esteem
  • Positive employment drug test

Cost of Methadone Treatment

The cost of methadone treatment varies. It depends on the type of treatment a person chooses 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 cae. It requires fewer resources. It is a cheaper option compared to inpatient treatment.

Methadone treatment costs around $126 every week. This adds up to $6,552 per year.

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

However, some communities offer low-cost and free alternatives. Some treatment clinics receive financial support from:

  • State and federal sources
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Government grants

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

Health Insurance Coverage

The Affordable Care Act became law in 2008. With this, 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 are required to 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 are offered in addition to methadone, including mental health services
  • 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

Click to learn more about the most effective types of addiction treatment:


DTMS is a non-invasive treatment that can help you overcome depression symptoms. You may have to meet certain requirements to be eligible for this treatment. Medical professionals will monitor your symptoms and recovery both during and after treatment.

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Updated on September 27, 2022
6 sources cited
Updated on September 27, 2022
  1. Methadone.” Www.Samhsa.Gov. Accessed 26 Oct. 2020.
  2. Methadone and Buprenorphine Reduce Risk of Death after Opioid Overdose.” National Institutes of Health (NIH), 19 June 2018.
  3. Methadone (Oral Route) Side Effects - Mayo Clinic.” Www.Mayoclinic.Org.
  4. Ronel, Natti, et al. “Can a 12-Step Program Work in Methadone Maintenance Treatment?” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, vol. 55, no. 7, 4 Oct. 2010, pp. 1135–1153.
  5. Gossop, M 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 vol. 49,438 : 31-4.
  6. Ali, Shahid et al. “Methadone Treatment of Opiate Addiction: A Systematic Review of Comparative Studies.” Innovations in clinical neuroscience vol. 14,7-8 8-19. 1 Aug. 2017.

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