Many individuals who become addicted to opioids successfully use methadone as a treatment method in order to curb withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and more easily and comfortably live without the abuse of opioids. Methadone treatment centers are the most beneficial and safest place to obtain methadone in the correct dosage for treatment. However, you can receive methadone from other sources, such as a hospital, if you need the drug for a different type of treatment.
Methadone for the Treatment of Opioid Abuse
As one of the most successful and oldest treatment methods for opioid abuse, methadone is highly sought after by individuals who want to stop abusing opioids illicitly. According to the NLM, “If you have been addicted to an opiate (narcotic drug such as heroin), and you are taking methadone to help you stop taking or continue not taking the drug, you must enroll in a treatment program.” Usually, this means that your methadone treatment will be received from doctors and nurses at the facility itself.
This does not necessarily mean that you will need to receive your medication daily at the facility. Depending on your situation and how long you have been successfully taking methadone for opioid abuse treatment, “you may have to take your medication at the treatment program facility under the supervision of the program staff,” but certain individuals who are capable of more responsibility are sometimes able to take the medication home.
Effects of Methadone Treatment
Methadone is a synthetic opioid that produces many of the same effects as other opioids but, with stable dosing, can produce them in much smaller amounts. This means that if an individual takes the right amount of methadone, it can:
- Block the effects of other opioids
- Reduce cravings
- Reduce withdrawal symptoms
- Make it easier for patients to concentrate on behavioral treatments
- Do all the above without causing the euphoric or sedative effects that other opioids cause
However, if the drug is taken in higher doses, it can and will cause the same effects as other opioids, which is why it has a potential for abuse. As stated by the NLM, “In the United States, the most commonly abused opioids are heroin and methadone.” This is why it is necessary for individuals who are receiving methadone as a treatment for opioid addiction and abuse to get it from a methadone treatment center.
Across the board, it is accepted that “the treatment center must be approved by the state and federal governments and must treat patients according to specific federal laws” (NLM 1). Without these, methadone abuse would be much more prevalent, so having it dispensed from methadone clinics is necessary to avoid more methadone abuse.
Are Methadone Treatment Centers the Only Place to Get Methadone?
Legally, individuals who need methadone as a treatment for opioid dependence and abuse must receive their methadone treatment from a government-approved methadone treatment center or program, but there are other places where people get methadone. These are not always legal, but methadone is also used legally for other purposes.
Other Places People are Treated with Methadone
Patients who receive methadone for the treatment of pain can receive the drug from other facilities and clinics that are not strictly methadone treatment centers or methadone maintenance facilities. In this sense, methadone is “used to relive severe pain in people who are expected to need pain medication around the clock for a long time and who cannot be treated with other medications” (NLM 1). These individuals can receive methadone
- In a hospital
- In a non-methadone related clinic
- In a doctor’s office
However, this method of receiving methadone is NOT for those who need the drug as a treatment for opioid dependence and abuse. Methadone in this sense is strictly meant to treat patients who are in constant pain and who are tolerant to other opioid drugs, as methadone can be extremely dangerous when it comes to the potential for abuse.
Some individuals buy and sell methadone illegally and it can sometimes be found on the Internet as well. This use of methadone is not legal and is a definite abuse of the drug itself, as the individual is obtaining it without the prescription of a doctor. According to the DEA, “Methadone is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act. While it may legally be used under a doctor’s supervision, its non-medical use is illegal.”
In a technical sense, yes, there are other places where individuals can obtain methadone. But if the person is using the drug in order to try and stop abusing opioid drugs in general, the only legal way to do so is by obtaining it through formal treatment which means the person must go to a methadone treatment center.
Are All Methadone Treatment Centers the Same?
No. According to the NIJ, inpatient, outpatient, and “other community settings” are all places where methadone treatment programs can be practiced. There are some methadone centers that provide many types of additional treatments to patients while there are others that provide only the essential treatments in order to make the center more affordable to patients.
Why Do Patients Have to Get Methadone from Methadone Treatment Centers?
No matter what, patients who are receiving help for opioid abuse in the form of methadone treatment legally must obtain methadone from a methadone treatment center or program. This is because there is a danger of methadone abuse that must be avoided by healthcare providers as much as possible.
The NIJ states, “Although it is unclear from the current data available how many methadone-related deaths are associated with [methadone treatment]… steps are being taken to prevent deaths related to methadone abuse and overdose that include educating practitioners, improving safety, and establishing prescription monitoring programs.” Currently, this is one of the only ways that methadone abuse can be somewhat avoided whenever possible and especially that patients can be encouraged to take their medication in the correct and beneficial dosage.
At methadone treatment centers, patients can receive methadone treatment safely while also receiving other treatments like behavioral therapy that are often necessary for a fuller recovery.