What Every Spouse Must Know about Methadone Maintenance

Once a person becomes addicted to opiates, recovery entails a process in which body and brain functions undergo needed healing and repair. Methadone maintenance provides the physical support needed for recovering addicts to maintain a drug-free existence.

Spouses of recovering addicts should know and understand the types of challenges a recovering addicts faces when on methadone maintenance treatments. This awareness can help spouses be better prepared to deal with the types of difficulties a couple may face when one of them is receiving methadone maintenance treatment.

Methadone Maintenance Treatment Duration

Methadone treatment is designed to help recovering addicts learn to live life without abusing drugs while giving the body time to repair. According to the Center for Addictions and Mental Health, methadone programs typically operate from one of two schools of thought regarding treatment duration: short-term maintenance and long-term maintenance.

The short-term maintenance approach views opiate addiction as a coping mechanism that’s used by addicts to handle inner emotional conflicts and turmoil. Methadone acts as safety net that reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms while a person works through the emotional issues driving the addiction. For most people, short-term methadone maintenance treatment lasts from one to two years.


Informing yourself about methadone will enable you to better help your spouse if they are in treatment for opiate addiction.

Long-term methadone maintenance treatment views opiate addiction as a medical disorder that requires lifelong treatment. In this case, methadone acts as an “elixir” much like insulin treatments provide relief for diabetes conditions.

Opiate addictions, in general, wreak havoc on a person’s brain and body functions and the more the severe the addiction the worse the damage. Recovering addicts often have emotional difficulties to deal with as a result of chemical imbalances in the brain. Ultimately, the severity and duration of a person’s withdrawal effects determines which approach will work best.

Sexual Dysfunction

As a treatment, methadone itself is an opiate-based drug. This accounts for why methadone maintenance treatment works so well to reduce withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. Since opiate effects work to slow down body functions as a whole, sexual functions slow down as well.

Long-term sexual dysfunction can potentially cause problems between intimate partners. It’s also one of the main reasons why recovering addicts discontinue methadone maintenance treatment. Males, in particular, often experience erectile dysfunction due to the sedating effects of methadone. Spouses may want to keep this in mind for the duration of treatment, as partners on methadone may very well see a considerable decrease in sex drive for as long as they receive methadone treatments.

Overdose Risks

The potential for overdose poses the most dangerous risk for opiate addicts. As methadone itself is an opiate drug, the risk of overdose becomes all the more real in cases where a person continues to use while undergoing methadone maintenance treatment. This risk remains an issue whether a person attempts to use other opiate drugs or consumes alcohol while in treatment.

While methadone is designed to be a treatment medication, a person can still get “high” when abused or taken in doses that exceed prescription limits. This also poses a risk for overdose. Someone who attempts to get “high” by administering methadone in IV form also risks an overdose incident.

With methadone’s history as an effective opiate addiction treatment, knowing the ups and downs that recovery entails can help a spouse better cope during the methadone maintenance treatment process.

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