What Happens in a Methadone Clinic?


If you or a loved one is battling an opiate addiction, you are more than likely familiar with what methadone is. You might have heard about methadone clinics as the best treatment option for opiate addiction, but you may not know how it works.

Opioid addiction is one of the most serious cases of addiction because the substances are obtained from fully synthetic products. That is why fentanyl is one of the most dangerous and addictive substances as a synthetic opiate. Naturally, opiates are good painkillers, but these pain alleviating properties can also be addictive.

A greater problem with opioid addiction is that there are serious opiate withdrawal symptoms that come up during treatment. As a result, the treatment program should also address the withdrawal symptoms in order to be effective and save lives. This is where methadone maintenance treatment in methadone clinics comes in.

What is a Methadone Clinic?

A methadone clinic is a clinic used to administer methadone maintenance treatment for addiction to various opioid drugs such as morphine, OxyContin, fentanyl and heroin. The process of administering methadone to patients to relieve cravings and withdrawal symptoms is called replacement therapy. All methadone clinics should be Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) certified.

How Does Methadone Treatment Work?

If you are ready to stop taking opioids, it’s time to visit a methadone clinic for assessment. Methadone is an opioid in itself; however, it has unique properties that make it effective in treating addiction as a rehabilitation tool. Methadone has a release time that makes it remain active in the human body for about 24 to 36 hours. During the 24 to 36 hours duration, methadone blocks the ecstatic effects of other opioids. It also removes the often excruciating withdrawal symptoms users experience when they discontinue misuse of other opioids.

When a patient gets to a methadone clinic, a member of the clinic staff will screen and evaluate them. This is to establish the medical history of the patient in terms of drug use and allergies. Methadone maintenance treatment can be risky for people with some preexisting health conditions. It is important to have a clear patient’s health background before commencing treatment.

What Will the Initial Clinical Assessment Involve?

To get the safest and most effective treatment, ensure that the staff has the right information about your health. It must be accurate and up-to-date. They will ask for:

  • Demographic Data – They will need your age, sex and date of birth. They could also go further to ask for place of residence.
  • Medical History – The staff checks for any diseases, including sexually transmitted infections. This is important because a lot of drug use involves sharing needles. Also, the presence of a disease will affect dosage, drug interaction, as well as treatment.
  • Psychiatric History – Psychiatric history is particularly important for dual diagnosis. The staff will diagnose for disorders such as depression, anxiety and psychosis. The approach of treatment is going to be different if you have an underlying mental illness. They will need to make a decision on what to treat first or how to go about treating the two conditions.
  • Risk Assessment – The staff will check for things like attempts of suicide in the past or present. They will need this information to make decisions when transitioning to outpatients or determining daily clinic visits.
  • Drug Use – The clinic staff will examine your past and present drug use. They may want to extract a report of the drugs you have used in the last month up to 12 months. Be as truthful as possible if you want to get clean.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms – Give a history of all withdrawal symptoms you have experienced recently or in the past.

The staff at a methadone clinic Fayetteville, NC will ask all these rigorous questions to ensure safety in your treatment plan. The initial 2 weeks of treatment can be quite dangerous. If you lie about the drugs that you are currently using, it could put you at a very high risk of an accidental overdose. Tell the truth about any central nervous system depressants that you are using, such as alcohol, other opiates and prescribed drugs such as sleep medications, barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

The clinic staff will not ask for your details to judge you. They are there to help you and keep you safe. All they need is your honesty so that they can get the best results from your treatment.

How Long Does Methadone Treatment Take?

Once you are clear in terms of health background, you can get your first treatment on the day of the first assessment. You are safe as long your history is clear.

The initial dosage of methadone should never exceed 40mg. It will be increased slowly over time in the coming weeks. The final dosage can go as far as 80 to 120 mg depending on the patient’s response, years of addiction and extent of damage.

When you are placed in outpatient treatment, you will be required to visit the clinic on a daily basis to get your supervised daily dose. You need to build trust by adhering to your appointments at the right time for about 6 months to a year. Once you have proven that you are reliable and committed the clinic can trust you to take dosages home of up to four weeks per visit.

The Treatment Plan for Methadone

Methadone treatment varies from one patient to another. Some patients need close monitoring when administering the dose. Their doses also need strict regulation. Some patients only need a weekly visit as proof of the ability to administer daily doses. For some patients, additional treatment plans, particularly counseling and therapy will be required.

Patients with severe cases of an active opioid addiction may need to go through a medical detox before embarking on a methadone treatment. Such patients are put under constant monitoring by staff and specialists to ensure they are safe, comfortable and generally in good health especially because of violent withdrawal symptoms. The early physical withdrawal symptoms may take about a week and last even a month.

What Are the Risks Associated to Methadone Treatment?

There are minimal risks associated with prolonged use of methadone. There are no documented cases of methadone having an adverse effect on systems or organs in the body. As mentioned, it can also be addictive like other opioids. However, if you are taking it in prescribed measures you have nothing to worry about. There are few side effects of methadone compared to the harmful effects of unlawful opioid use.