How Long Can I Go to a Free Methadone Clinic?

Considering the high costs of health care, free methadone clinics provide a valuable and much needed service for people struggling with opiate addiction. According to the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, the costs that come with drug addiction treatment prevent scores of people from getting needed treatment help. Consequently, free methadone clinics developed out of a growing need for affordable drug treatment help.

Anyone considering free methadone clinic treatment likely has a number of questions regarding how these programs work as well as how long any one program runs. As with all aspects of addiction treatment, each person brings his or her own set of circumstances to the treatment process. Likewise, program duration lengths at free methadone clinics typically vary from person to person.

methadone treatment

Some free clinics offer long-term treatment, but others are more limited.

Like other types of addiction treatment programs, free methadone clinics can vary in terms of the stages or aspects of addiction they treat. These differences inevitably influence how long any one program will run.

Since methadone clinics treat both the physical and psychological components of opiate addiction, a person’s individual rehabilitation needs also influence how long he or she will attend a free methadone clinic program. As with all things government-funded, program availability and program durations can also vary depending on the types of funding each clinic receives.

Methadone Treatment

Methadone has a long history within the addictions treatment field. Originating in the early 1970s, government-sponsored methadone programs quickly became the standard as a viable treatment for chronic opiate addiction problems.

As a treatment approach, methadone works in much the same way as insulin is used in the treatment of diabetes. In effect, methadone works as a maintenance-type approach that helps addicts better cope with the aftereffects of long-term opiate abuse, according to Columbia Psychiatry.

Chemically speaking, methadone is a synthetic opiate medication. As a synthetic opiate, methadone produces many of the same effects as other opiate-type drugs. However, methadone’s effects differ from addictive-type opiates in significant ways –

  • Considerably lower addiction potential
  • Produces long-acting effects
  • Only requires a daily dosage schedule

When taken daily, methadone’s effects help to quench a person’s drug cravings while at the same relieving the uncomfortable withdrawal aftereffects so often experienced in recovery. These characteristics enable free methadone clinics to base methadone treatment duration times on a person’s specific treatment needs.

Types of Free Methadone Clinic Programs

The types of methadone clinic programs available cater to different levels or severities of addiction. Program types include –

  • Outpatient – works best for people at the early stages of addiction who live relatively stable lives in terms of still having work and family responsibilities.
  • Short-term residential – works well for people who have a healthy support system at home
  • Long-term residential – works best for people struggling with co-occurring medical or psychological problems

In general, the severity of a person’s addiction determines how long he or she should receive methadone treatment. For chronic addictions, treatment should run a minimum of 12-months in order to ensure recovering addicts can maintain abstinence on their own.

Assessment Procedures

As government-run programs, free methadone clinics operate according to standard protocols that dictate the course of treatment as well as eligibility requirements for entering a program. Before starting treatment, service providers must conduct a comprehensive assessment of a person’s medical and psychological status.

More oftentimes than not, a free methadone clinic will provide rehabilitative services in addiction to methadone treatment, so the evaluation process provides much needed information for ensuring participants receive the types of treatment that will be of most benefit.

According to the University of Hawaii, areas covered by an assessment include:

  • Identifying medical problems resulting drug abuse
  • Identifying a person’s addiction severity
  • Identifying psychological problems resulting from drug abuse

The information gathered during an evaluation determines whether a person is eligible for free methadone clinic services. A diagnosis of opiate dependency must be made in order to be eligible. From there, participants begin methadone treatment.

At the start of treatment, service providers must determine a person’s initial daily dosage level in order to ensure the drug produces the desired therapeutic effects. Not surprisingly, people coming off long-term addictions will likely start out at higher dosage levels than those coming off mild or moderate addiction problems. In general, the higher the dosage level the longer a person will require ongoing methadone treatment.

Rehabilitation Needs

Long-term opiate abuse can cause widespread damage to overall brain function. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for people entering free methadone clinic treatment to suffer from one or psychological disorders on top of an addiction problem. Mental health issues can greatly impair a person’s ability to benefit from treatment and will oftentimes prolong his or her stay in a program.

Free methadone clinics offer a range of rehabilitation services to address the various challenges addicts face in the recovery process. Rehabilitation is designed to meet a person’s psychological treatment needs while also preparing him or her to function independently in daily life.

According to the University of Delaware, rehabilitation services may take the form of:

  • Vocational assistance
  • Childcare assistance
  • Parenting training
  • Housing assistance
  • Psychotherapy
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Support group work

The level of rehabilitation any one person needs can have a considerable bearing on how long he or she will require ongoing methadone treatment. Ultimately, free methadone clinic programs work to provide a person with the level of care most needed to give him or her the best chance at a successful recovery.


While free methadone clinics do provide a valuable and much needed service, these programs rely heavily on government to operate. In turn, funding availability can ultimately dictate how long you can go to a free methadone clinic.

A clinic’s funding sources may include:

  • Medicaid
  • Non-profit agencies
  • State grants

When considering free methadone clinic treatment, it’s always a good idea to do a little research on a programs available funding, as this will likely influence any one program’s treatment duration length as well as its overall treatment effectiveness.

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ARK Behavioral Health

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