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How to Find a Safe & Effective Methadone Clinic

The need for opioid treatment medications is as urgent as ever. The carnage from the opioid epidemic makes long-standing traditional treatment medications like methadone vital.

Of the 700,000 people who died from a drug overdose between 1999 to 2017, nearly 400,000 of them succumbed from an opioid-related overdose. On average, 130 people in the U.S. die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Whether opioids are of the prescription or illicit variety, they possess an unparalleled ability to induce addiction. If you or a loved one is in search of a methadone clinic, read on to find out more about locating a safe and effective methadone clinic.

What is Methadone? 

Since its introduction in 1964, methadone has been regarded as the go-to treatment medication for opioid use disorders.  On its List of Essential Medicines, the World Health Organization (WHO) includes methadone, which makes it one of the safest, most effective medicines needed in a health system. It is also prescribed to treat pain.

An estimated 350,000 people receive daily methadone doses, in addition to counseling and other health services from 1,460 opioid treatment centers, The Pew Charitable Trusts says. 

Methadone’s pharmacological properties make it ideal as an opioid treatment medication. 

Methadone, which is also an opioid, activates the same receptors in the brain as other opioids, but it does so more slowly.

It remains in the body far longer than other opioids because it has a half-life of between 15 to 55 hours. Because it is slow-acting, it does not produce the euphoric effects of other opioids.

When administered in proper doses, methadone can ward off the painful and uncomfortable symptoms of opioid withdrawal. It can also provide pain relief to patients for up to eight hours and prevent withdrawal symptoms for up to two days.

However, methadone is a tightly-regulated treatment drug that is only dispensed in federally-approved Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) or clinics.

Clients can only receive methadone at these clinics where it can be administered daily, and take-home dosages are only allowed when they have been on a maintenance program for an extended period, as reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

What Makes an Effective and Safe Methadone Clinic

Methadone is best administered in combination with therapy and counseling. This practice is known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), the most effective approach in treating opioid addiction.

The best methadone clinics recognize that addiction impacts the entire individual, that real treatment should include a slate of services to address the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of opioid addiction. Clinics that administer methadone and nothing else are not adequately treating your addiction. 

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) says methadone treatment centers should offer the following services:

Counseling is vital because it allows you to identify the root causes of your opioid addiction.

“Methadone patients need access to inpatient and outpatient treatment for medical, surgical, psychiatric, and non-opioid chemical dependency conditions without interruption of methadone maintenance,” according to ASAM.

Opioid addiction causes people to prioritize obtaining the drug over everything else, including employment. The best treatment centers can offer you the necessary resources and information to help you find a job.

If a client requires a stable housing solution, the best methadone clinics can connect them to existing programs to fulfill that need. A stable living environment can help clients avoid relapse.

Clients who have criminal convictions for drug use may need to provide proof of treatment to authorities. If you are receiving treatment from a clinic, they should be able to help you in this arena, which can help clear up any legal complications.

How to Find a Safe and Effective Methadone Clinic

To find a clinic that fits your needs, here are some questions to consider:

Methadone needs to be administered daily. Thus, it is critical that you can find a clinic near where you live. Otherwise, going to a clinic further away from home can be time-consuming to the point where a visit hinders your daily life.

As mentioned above, the best methadone clinics incorporate methadone with therapy and counseling. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states MAT can slow opioid use, stop overdose deaths, lead to a decrease in criminal activity, and stop the transmission of infectious disease. It also says that a MAT program can increase a patient’s social functioning and help them remain in treatment.

It is not unusual for clients to wait in long lines to receive their methadone dose, making a trip to the clinic a job itself. If multiple clinics are close by and available to you, then it may be best to choose the one with the shortest lines and/or quickest service.

If you have insurance, you will want to make sure the clinic accepts it. If you do not, are there alternate payment options available, like grants or sliding-scale payment options? Such opportunities can make treatment more affordable.

The Dangers of Methadone

Since its introduction, methadone use has always been deemed controversial. Critics who favor abstinence treatment deride the logic of administering a drug to treat drug addiction. What’s more, methadone is capable of being a substance of abuse. Its use can also produce an array of troubling side effects.

According to MedlinePlus.gov, methadone-induced side effects can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Vision problems
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Mood changes
  • Headache
  • Weight gain
  • Stomach pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore tongue
  • Flushing

Serious side effects that can occur are:

  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Fever, sweating, shivering, confusion, fast heartbeat, severe muscle stiffness or twitching, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, loss of coordination
  • Loss of appetite, weakness, or dizziness
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, tongue, or throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Inability to get or keep an erection
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Decreased sexual desire

Methadone Alternatives

Methadone is not the only opioid treatment medication available. Buprenorphine, naltrexone, and buprenorphine-naloxone medication Suboxone are similarly useful to methadone when administered in under a MAT protocol.

These medications have a lower risk of addiction than methadone because they generally do not produce the same level of euphoria. Suboxone medications treat withdrawal symptoms, and naltrexone can block the euphoric and sedative sensations associated with all opioids.

Another significant advantage that these medications have over methadone is the medication can be administered in a doctor’s clinic or drug treatment setting, areas outside of a federally-sanctioned clinic.  

Sources

Alderks, C. (2017, August 22). Trends in the Use of Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Extended-release Naltrexone at Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities: 2003-2015 (Update). Retrieved July 15, 2019 from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_3192/ShortReport-3192.html

American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). (n.d.). American Society of Addiction Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.asam.org/advocacy/find-a-policy-statement/view-policy-statement/public-policy-statements/2011/12/15/methadone-treatment-of-addiction

MedlinePlus.gov. (n.d.). Methadone: MedlinePlus Drug Information. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682134.html

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/effective-treatments-opioid-addiction/effective-treatments-opioid-addiction

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, December 19). Opioid Overdose. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html

Vestal, C. (n.d.). In Opioid Epidemic, Prejudice Persists Against Methadone. Retrieved from https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2016/11/11/in-opioid-epidemic-prejudice-persists-against-methadone

WHO Model List of Essential Medicines[PDF File]. (2017, March). World Health Organization. Date retrieved: July 15, 2019. from https://www.who.int/medicines/publications/essentialmedicines/20th_EML2017_FINAL_amendedAug2017.pdf?ua=1

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