How long should you be on Methadone?
Authored by Ken Redmile
Medication assisted treatment (MAT) can be a life-saving type of addiction treatment. When used in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, MAT can help jumpstart a life in recovery. Methadone is just one of many MAT medications available to help with this. Methadone is an FDA-approved medication used to treat opioid use disorder. Question is, how long should you be on methadone? Is it a life-long commitment?
Like most medical treatments, there is no predetermined length of time or a one-size-fits-all. Rather, the length of any treatment, including a Methadone program, depends on individual progress. With that being said, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse publication Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition), the length of methadone treatment should be a minimum of 12 months. However, if you’re using methadone just to detox, it will be much shorter. Below, we dive a bit deeper into both of these options.
Methadone maintenance program
Methadone is administered by medical staff and can only be provided at a licensed methadone clinic or methadone treatment center under the guidance of trained healthcare providers. Part of a comprehensive methadone maintenance program includes substance abuse counseling. After all, addiction is a physical, mental, and spiritual disease, so it makes sense to treat all aspects of it.
Research shows that a comprehensive methadone program – which includes counseling and other psychosocial services – increases treatment success rates. This may include individual and group counseling, medical exams, case management, community education, and more.
When you’re ready to get off methadone, you should not just suddenly stop taking it. The safest way to get off methadone is to work closely with your treatment team. Start by having a conversation about why you want to get off methadone and set goals. Your healthcare provider will determine a safe taper level that will gradually wean you off methadone. A taper done by a medical professional can prevent severe withdrawal symptoms.
Often as one of the first steps toward recovery, detox is the process in which drugs and alcohol are removed from the body. It’s critical to detox safety and under medical supervision, as detox can be very difficult and life-threatening when attempted on your own.
Some individuals who don’t want to go into Inpatient treatment or commit to Outpatient treatment may just try to go through detox. While the length of detox depends on many factors – such as the substance used, frequency, amount, and the person’s age and gender – people generally see detox as a “quick” route to recovery. While the process of detox varies person by person, it’s usually only 5-7 days.
Problem is, just detox doesn’t solve any other issues that could be fueling the addiction, like unresolved trauma or mental health symptoms. The brain can’t heal from addiction until it has also healed from these conditions.
***The purpose of this blog is to promote an understanding and knowledge of medication assisted treatment. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or clinical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.