How Methadone Maintenance Clinics Help Heroin Addicts

As one of the most addictive drugs in existence, heroin has destroyed more than a few people’s lives since its inception in the 1960s. Once addicted, addicts lose control over any sense of will, intent or purpose in their lives. In effect, heroin addiction leaves a shell of a person in its wake.

By the time someone’s ready to get needed help, any sense of reason, judgment or purpose all remain at the mercy of heroin’s hold over his or her life. Without ongoing, long-term treatment help, addicts are hard-pressed to follow through an any attempts to live a drug-free life.

Methadone maintenance clinics approach heroin addiction recovery from a long-term perspective, using methadone’s therapeutic effects as a central part of their treatment approach. According to the University of Washington, methadone’s effects provide ongoing relief from the long-term aftereffects left behind by chronic heroin abuse.

Considering the degree of damage long-term heroin abuse does to the brain, for many in recovery, methadone maintenance clinics offer the only viable means for maintaining abstinence for any length of time. Methadone maintenance clinics also help addicts overcome the psychological effects of addiction in their daily lives.

Methadone’s therapeutic effects combined with daily treatment programming provide those in recovery with the tools for avoiding relapse and developing the type of drug-free lifestyle that makes ongoing abstinence a real possibility.

How Methadone Works

methadone maintenance

Methadone is a synthetic opiate.

Methadone exists as one of a handful of heroin addiction treatment medications, each of which targets different chemical processes in the brain, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. After months or years of heroin abuse, these chemicals become depleted while the brain cells responsible for secreting these chemicals undergo considerable structural damage in the process. These effects account for the residual withdrawal and drug cravings symptoms recovering addicts experience long after they stop using drugs.

Methadone belongs to the class of drugs known as synthetic opiates, much like morphine and codeine do, both highly addictive drugs. Methadone differs from other addictive opiates in that it produces a slow-acting effect, making it less addictive overall.

In effect, methadone’s ability to trigger the release of needed neurotransmitter chemical supplies greatly reduces the discomfort addicts experience in recovery. Methadone maintenance clinics leverage the beneficial effects of methadone to help provide addicts with much needed relief during the recovery process.

Methadone Maintenance Clinics

Methadone maintenance clinics administer methadone on a daily basis, with dosage amounts based on each person’s individual treatment needs. When calibrated correctly, a single dose of methadone should ward off withdrawal and drug cravings for up to 36 hours.

As a condition of receiving daily medication treatments, methadone maintenance clinics require a person to receive a range of treatment interventions, all of which work to help replace destructive addiction-based thinking and behavior with healthy coping skills.

Treatment interventions commonly used by methadone maintenance clinics include –

  • Drug education training
  • Counseling
  • Psychotherapy
  • Support group work
  • Group therapy

These treatment interventions work to reinforce methadone’s therapeutic effects by giving those in recovery the daily-living skills needed to live a drug-free lifestyle.

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Conditions

Someone who’s used heroin for a long time may well develop a psychological disorder as a result of long-term drug use. People who struggle with addiction and psychological dysfunction have developed a dual diagnosis disorder.

More oftentimes than not, someone coming off a chronic addiction will develop a psychological disorder simply because of the brain chemical imbalances that take root as a result of drug use. In effect, the presence of mental illness and drug addiction makes it considerably more difficult for a person to maintain abstinence for any length of time, according to the University of Utah.

For these reasons, methadone maintenance clinics are well equipped to treat both addiction and psychological disorders at the same time.

Addiction-Based Interventions

While methadone medication therapy plays a central role in the treatment offered by methadone maintenance clinics, medication is only part of the treatment process. Methadone maintenance clinics provide a range of treatment interventions specifically designed to help addicts develop drug-free lifestyles.

In effect, heroin addiction takes root within a person’s psychological make-up, which dictates his or her overall outlook on everyday life. Ultimately, heroin warps a person’s sense of values, priorities and motivations to the point where his or her thinking centers solely on supporting an addiction-based lifestyle.

Methadone maintenance clinics place a heavy emphasis on helping addicts replace addiction-based behaviors and thinking with healthy coping skills for dealing with everyday living.

Individual Psychotherapy

Someone receiving treatment from a methadone maintenance clinic will be required to attend individual psychotherapy sessions on a regular basis. Sessions may take place once, twice or three times a week depending on each person’s treatment needs.

Individual psychotherapy enables recovering addicts to get to the underlying issues that drive the need to escape through drugs. As it’s not uncommon for an addict to have experienced physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse in the past, working through the emotional turmoil left behind by these experiences can go a long way towards helping reinforce a person’s desire to live drug-free.

Group Therapy

While psychotherapy helps addicts address addiction problems from an individual or personal standpoint, group therapy equips a person with real-world tools for dealing with stress and conflict in everyday life.

Methadone maintenance clinics use group therapy sessions as a type of training ground to help addicts develop healthy relationships skills and confront destructive behaviors in themselves. As group therapy participants consist of like-minded peers, everyone works towards the same overall goal in terms of learning how to live drug-free from day-to-day.

12 Step Support Groups

The 12 Step support group model remains an effective means for helping those in recovery maintain abstinence for the long-term. Methadone maintenance clinics encourage ongoing participation in support groups throughout treatment, as well as after a person completes the methadone program. In effect, the support and guidance made available through ongoing 12 Step support group attendance helps to addicts engaged in the recovery process.

Overall, the social supports provided through methadone maintenance clinics work to reinforce methadone’s therapeutic effects and strengthen a person’s motivation to stay drug-free.

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