How Does Methadone Maintenance Work?

Tuesday, May 23, 2023 | By Andrew Bramlett


The opioid crisis continues to be a major problem for us in the United States, with millions affected by addiction and overdose deaths on the rise. However, there are some evidence-based treatment options out there that are helping to make a difference. Aside from residential treatment or inpatient rehab, two of the most well-known options are methadone maintenance and Suboxone Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).

In this blog, JourneyPure Emerald Coast takes a look at Methadone maintenance programs, who they are for, and possible alternatives. We hope you will find it informative in explaining how methadone maintenance works, but it also gives you some ideas about how to move forward with opioid addiction treatment for yourself or someone you love.

A History of Methadone Maintenance 

Methadone maintenance programs were first introduced in the 1960s by Drs. Vincent Dole and Marie Nyswander as a response to the growing heroin epidemic in New York City. These programs aimed to provide a safe and controlled alternative to illicit opioid use, reducing the risk of overdose, infectious diseases, and criminal activities associated with addiction.

While not a perfect solution to the problem, this harm-reduction measure undoubtedly saved many lives. Over time, methadone maintenance has become an accepted and effective form of treatment for opioid addiction worldwide. Methadone maintenance has decreased in popularity somewhat as buprenorphine (Suboxone) has increased in popularity. This is likely due to the fact that Suboxone has fewer side effects and tends to be more widely available across the country. Traditionally, methadone clinics tend to be concentrated in cities where the need is more acute, although methadone is also available outside of these clinics.

How Do Methadone Maintenance Programs Work?

Methadone is a long-acting synthetic opioid that, when taken as prescribed, can alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings without producing the euphoric high associated with illicit opioids. Patients enrolled in a methadone maintenance program receive daily doses of methadone under medical supervision. The dosage is carefully adjusted to meet each patient’s needs, ensuring a stable and comfortable transition into recovery.

Benefits and Potential Drawbacks of Methadone

Methadone maintenance has been shown to improve health outcomes, reduce overdose deaths, and increase the likelihood of long-term recovery for individuals with opioid addiction. However, there are potential drawbacks to consider. Methadone itself can be addictive, and some patients may require long-term or indefinite treatment to maintain their recovery. Additionally, methadone can interact with other medications, and patients must carefully follow their treatment plan to avoid adverse effects.

Suboxone MAT

Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine (a partial opioid agonist) and naloxone (an opioid antagonist), designed to treat opioid addiction. Like methadone, Suboxone MAT can alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings without producing the euphoric high associated with opioids. Suboxone MAT is preferred to methadone by many people due to it’s much milder side effects by comparison and it’s widespread availability. However, some people may still benefit more from methadone as an alternative.

Who Are Methadone And Suboxone FOr?

Both methadone and Suboxone are suitable for individuals with moderate to severe opioid addiction who have not responded well to other forms of treatment. The choice between methadone and Suboxone will depend on various factors, including the severity of the addiction, patient preferences, and the availability of treatment programs in the area.

How Long are Methadone Maintenance and Suboxone MAT Programs?

The duration of methadone maintenance programs and Suboxone MAT varies depending on the individual’s needs and progress in recovery. Some patients may require treatment for several months, while others may need ongoing support for years. It is essential to work closely with healthcare providers to determine the appropriate length of treatment.

How Do I Get on Methadone Maintenance or Start Suboxone MAT?

Methadone maintenance programs are typically offered through specialized clinics, while qualified physicians can prescribe Suboxone in outpatient settings. If you are interested in options like these and others for opioid addiction, JourneyPure Emerald Coast will be happy to assist you. Give us a call at 877-958-5354

Potential Side Effects and Downsides

Both methadone and Suboxone have potential side effects, including nausea, constipation, drowsiness, and dizziness. Methadone has a higher risk of overdose compared to Suboxone, as the latter contains naloxone, which helps deter abuse and prevent overdose. Additionally, methadone treatment requires daily visits to a clinic, which can be inconvenient for some patients.

What’s Your Next Step?

Methadone maintenance programs and Suboxone MAT are both treatment options you might consider if you are struggling with opioid addiction. While each option has pros and cons, the choice between methadone and Suboxone depends on you. If you’re unsure about how to proceed with opioid addiction treatment, JourneyPure at the River will be happy to provide you with more information and answer your questions so you can make the best decision for you or your loved ones. You can reach us at 877-958-5354

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