Methadone maintenance

Methadone maintenance

Methadone maintenance is the use of methadone over a prolonged time as treatment for someone who is addicted to opioids (such as heroin) or has severe pain problems that are resistant to other drugs.


Methadone maintenance has been used to treat opioid dependence for more than 45 years. Therapeutic dosing is contingent upon individual patient needs, and the therapeutic dosage range is generally between 25–150 mg. Such a dose would likely not be tolerated by an opioid-naive individual. Methadone is taken orally and is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, appearing in plasma within thirty minutes of being ingested. Methadone is also widely distributed to body tissues where it is stored and then released into the plasma. This combination of storage and release keeps the patient comfortable, free from craving, and feeling stable.

With the emergence of several treatment options such as buprenorphine and heroin treatment (Switzerland & U.K.) since 1990 some professionals no longer hold with the opinion of the General Accounting Office and maintain that buprenorphine is superior. This trend is being expanded in the Western U. S. in the Human Services field.

Methadone maintenance generally requires patients to visit the dispensing or dosing clinic daily, depending on state controlled substance laws. Most states allow Methadone clinics to close on Sundays and provide medication (take homes or exception doses)prior to the closed day/s. States may require or mandate drug testing, in clinic drug abuse groups and/or outside Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Generally, after 90 days take home medication and group meetings privileges are extended to more take homes and less mandated meetings. After several 90 day periods of negative drug tests and attendance to necessary meetings a patient may be allowed to only return to the clinic once a month to receive 30 days of methadone. Methadone, at constant daily miligram doses will stabilize patients and relieve all withdrawal symptoms. Patients will not feel the usual "high" or "euphoria" associated with methadone, other opiates, or heroin abuse.

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