Is There a Methadone Maintenance Age Limit?

With the epidemic rise in opiate prescriptions and the diversions of these drugs, there are many younger and older individuals becoming addicted to opiates. Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) has few prerequisites for enrollment other than an opioid dependency of at least a year with addition requirements for those under the age of 18.

Federal Guidelines

Federal guidelines for Opioid Treatment Programs (OTP’s) were established by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and remained unchanged for many years. Initial methadone treatment programs were focused on individuals between the ages of 18 and 40 assuming that those over 40 would “mature out” of opiate abuse. Improvements in access to methadone maintenance have eliminated the upper age limits and enrollments for these individuals have significantly increased.

In 2013 new federal guidelines were drafted requiring that a person under the age of 18 must have 2 documented unsuccessful attempts of drug detox or maintenance treatment within the past year and that “the minimum age of 18 is required unless a parent, legal guardian, or responsible adult designated by the relevant State authority consents in writing to such treatment.”

There are increased aims at making treatment more attainable for those who need it and improving the outcomes by addressing common issues associated within the various age groups.

Methadone Maintenance for Persons under the Age of 18

methadone guidelines

The minimum age for methadone treatment is 18, unless a parent provides special clearance.

Exposure to prescription opioid pain relievers to younger individuals continues to grow and regardless of ongoing attempts to stem the tide of diversions of these drugs, the initiations to these drugs in 2013 was second only to marijuana at 1.5 million people over the age of 12.

Adolescents are more likely than adults to be naïve about the medications they take, combine multiple substances, ingest substances out of curiosity, and to be influenced by peer pressure. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) “In 2013, 7.1 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 were current users of marijuana, 2.2 percent were current nonmedical users of psychotherapeutic drugs (including 1.7 percent who were current nonmedical users of pain relievers), … and 0.1 percent were current users of heroin.”

With the onset of substance abuse occurring at younger ages, more adolescents are entering treatment than ever before and treatment for these individuals has become more specialized. Effective methadone maintenance treatments have been adapted to their needs and focus on the issues that play significant roles in their life.

Methadone Maintenance for Persons Over the Age of 40

There is no significant difference in older persons seeking treatment for opioid dependency with the exception of possible health conditions and the necessity to use certain medications that may be prevalent in older age groups. A medical screening is performed on all patients prior to entering treatment and can rule out any foreseen complications. In regards to chronic pain issues, methadone maintenance can be very helpful because methadone is a powerful pain reliever.

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By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.