What is a Methadone Clinic?: Everything You Need to Know

A methadone clinic provides methadone maintenance treatment that can help you achieve and sustain recovery from an opioid use disorder or opioid addiction.1

In this article:

What is Methadone Treatment?

Methadone treatment, also called methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) or medication-assisted treatment (MAT), is the use of methadone to treat opioid use disorder.2

It is also used to treat severe pain. When methadone is used to treat opioid addiction, it comes in the form of a liquid that is taken via an oral solution. When used to treat severe pain, it can be taken orally or in tablet form.3

Methadone is one component of a comprehensive treatment plan, which includes counseling and other behavioral health therapies, thereby providing you with a whole-person approach to treatment.4

When taken as prescribed, research shows that methadone is safe and effective in helping people quit using opioids.5

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What is a Methadone Clinic?

A methadone clinic dispenses methadone to treat an addiction to opioids like heroin, fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. Often places that are referred to as methadone clinics dispense other opioid addiction medications, such as naltrexone, buprenorphine, and Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone).

People who are taking methadone as a part of medication-assisted treatment receive a daily dose of methadone at a methadone clinic. In the beginning of MMT, patients must go to the clinic every day to receive their medication, but after an extended period of time, such as six months or one year, if the patient has been compliant with their medication use, then they may be allowed to take a few days’ worth of doses home at a time. Some states require that patients bring a lockbox with a key so that they can store their take-home doses safely away. This would minimize anyone else gaining access to their medication.4,5

If a patient earns “take-home” privileges, they won’t need to go to the methadone clinic on a daily basis. Methadone clinics will review the steps needed to earn the privileges. This would vary from state to state and according to the requirements of the clinic’s certifying or credentialing body.3,4,5

Since methadone is a Schedule II medication, you would still need to go in regularly for the medication, even with take-home privileges.3,4,5

Methadone Clinic Credentialing

Methadone clinics are state and federally regulated. This is because you can receive methadone, which is a controlled substance, directly from the methadone clinic, as opposed to taking your prescription to a pharmacy to have it filled. Rather, you receive your dose and take the medication at the methadone clinic.1,2,3,4,5 This is oftentimes referred to as “dosing.”2

Methadone clinics are certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Other accrediting bodies include CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) and The Joint Commission (formally JCAHO, or the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations).3,4,5

The process to receive proper credentials is stringent and ensures that the methadone clinic and its staff are providing the services they say they offer and are placing your treatment as a top priority.3,4,5

Credentialed methadone clinics meet internationally accepted standards of care, have their funding and referral sources reviewed, and make sure that you remain safe while receiving treatment.3,4,5

Methadone Clinic Staff

The staff that administers methadone needs to be appropriately credentialed. Since methadone is a Schedule II controlled medication, it needs to be administered by a properly credentialed medical professional, often a physician.3,4,5

Some methadone clinics employ nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians assistants to participate in the medication portion of the treatment.3,4,5

They will also employ counselors and behavioral health professionals so that you may receive other supportive treatment, such as psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).3,4,5

When a methadone clinic is accredited by either CARF or The Joint Commission and/or certified through SAMSHA, the credentials of the treatment team are also reviewed. This ensures they have the proper training, education, and experience to be treating you in the methadone clinic with methadone.3,4,5

Methadone clinics employ interdisciplinary teams of personnel. These staff members are trained and credentialed in their field of study and also specifically in opioid use disorder treatment. They include credentialed:3,5

  • Medical directors
  • Physicians
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Nurses
  • Addictions counselors
  • Mental health therapists
  • Social workers

Methadone Maintenance Treatment Settings

MRT and methadone administration (dosing) can be provided in any level of care so long as it is properly certified and/or credentialed.4,5

However, most methadone clinics will operate as a Level 1 outpatient classification.4,5 Dispensing of methadone is conducted in:4,5

  • Credentialed permanent, freestanding clinics
  • Community mental health centers
  • Community health centers
  • Hospital medication units or satellite clinics
  • Mobile units attached to permanent clinic sites

This is because facilities that provide methadone treatment are categorized as Opioid Treatment Programs (OTP) or office-based opioid treatment (OBOT) models. OTPs are also known as MMT clinics or opioid maintenance therapy clinics (OMTC) and directly administer methadone daily. This means that, if you are receiving treatment at a methadone clinic, you would typically start by going on a daily basis to receive the methadone to take your dose.4,5

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Will I Need Other Types of Treatment?

Methadone clinics provide other forms of treatment in addition to MMT. The treatment goal of the clinic is to provide you with the tools you will need to eliminate the use of illicit drugs and to lower your barriers to recovery so that you can enjoy an improved level of functioning and recovery.1,2

At a methadone clinic, you work with a credentialed professional at the clinic to develop a treatment plan that focuses on your individualized recovery and life goals.4,5

Treatment plans address the length of treatment at the clinic, improvements you want in your lifestyle, occupation, social life, support outside of the clinic (such as 12-step meetings or other community-based recovery meetings), and whether you want total abstinence or maintenance.4,5

In addition to receiving methadone to curb opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms, you’ll also receive addiction counseling, case management, health education, mental health therapy, and referrals to other levels of care as needed. If you have a co-occurring disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder, some methadone clinics can address those, should they have the staff to do so.1,2,3,4,5

Federal regulations require regular methadone clinics to provide psychosocial treatment sessions, random urine drug screens, scheduled medication visits, and supervised tapers as appropriate. These measures are not shame-based. They are not meant to embarrass you. They are meant to provide a measure of accountability and structure. They will also help to keep you medically safe as there are risks to taking methadone while still using other substances, including alcohol.3,5

Who is Treated at Methadone Clinics?

Methadone clinics are appropriate for individuals who are assessed as meeting the diagnostic criteria for a severe opioid use disorder. If you have had a long history of opioid addiction, a history of using intravenous (IV) drugs, and thrive within a structured setting, you could be appropriate for this level of care.4,5

Are Methadone Clinics Appropriate for Everyone?

When you first visit a methadone clinic, you are screened and evaluated by the clinic staff. Methadone can become addictive if you misuse it, and, based on your history of drug use, the clinic may decide to closely monitor your intake. Methadone maintenance can be dangerous if you have certain health conditions, so physicians will need to learn about your medical background before beginning this type of treatment.3,4

Some conditions that make MMT risky include:1,2,3

  • Asthma and other medical conditions affecting the respiratory system
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hormonal
  • Some prostate conditions

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How Do I Get into a Methadone Clinic?

You may wonder how to get into a methadone clinic. If you require methadone treatment, you could contact your insurance provider or PCP for a referral. You can also lookup methadone clinics in our online directory to see the ones closest to you and request an intake.

To be admitted into a methadone clinic’s MMT program, you need to meet certain eligibility requirements based on your addiction, willingness/motivation to take recovery-related actions, and desire to recover.5,6

Medical professionals look closely at your past use of drugs and how many previous recovery attempts you have had in the past. They will utilize this as a gauge for your potential success in treatment.1,2,3

Admission to methadone clinics is also contingent on your addiction severity level. For example, for safety reasons, if it is determined that you need inpatient detox or inpatient services, or that level 1 outpatient services may not be appropriate for you, they may refer you to inpatient treatment.1,2,3

To determine if you qualify for methadone treatment, you will most likely be asked to:1,2,3

  • Take a blood and urine sample for drug testing
  • Provide information on your history of drug/alcohol misuse
  • Relay information about your previous or existing mental health issues
  • Undergo a physical exam
  • Provide proof of your age

Addiction severity is gauged on factors including:1,2,3,4

  • Opioid withdrawal symptoms
  • Increasing tolerance level
  • Inability to control the amount of opioids used (overdose risk)
  • Failed attempts to stop using
  • Loss of interest in work, social activities, and recreation
  • Investing time and money in getting the drug regardless of negative consequences
  • Family members and social supports feedback about your substance use

How Long Does It Take to Get into a Methadone Clinic?

The length of time it takes to get into a methadone clinic varies based on the severity of addiction and the programs in a geographical region.2,3,6 It is also based on the methadone clinic’s capacity and availability. You may be admitted immediately to a program, or you may wait days or weeks for admittance. If this is the case, it would be helpful to show willingness and your desire to be in the methadone clinic’s MMT program.

If you or a loved one feels that treatment is the right fit or you’re unsure of where to start, contact a treatment specialist at 800-530-0431Who Answers?. We can help you find a methadone clinic to help you quit using opioids.

Resources

  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.) Methadone.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). Methadone.
  3. Provider’s Clinical Support System (2017). MAT Training for Medication Assisted Treatment.
  4. Medicaid.gov. (2017). Overview of Substance Use Disorder Care Clinical Guidelines.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Medications to Treat Opioid Use Disorder Research Report.
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Additional calls will also be forwarded and returned by a quality treatment center within the USA.

Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit will be answered by a licensed drug and alcohol rehab facility, a paid advertiser on MethadoneCenters.com.

All calls are private and confidential.