How Well Does Methadone Maintenance Work?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid drug which was first used in World War II for treatment of pain. Today, it is prescribed for treatment of chronic pain. During the past three decades, methadone became a popular choice for treatment of addiction to other drugs like heroin, oxycodone, morphine and hydrocodone. Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) is a reliable way for those with addiction to stop and not restart use of opioids. Find out more about it and how well it works.

Treatment of Dependence

Methadone binds to the brain’s receptors for opioid drugs, known as opioid receptors. At proper doses, methadone fills receptors and relieves the need for another opioid drug. When a patient is taking the drug at proper doses, it does not have other effects. It does not change how a person feels or who the individual is. The properties allow methadone to free the individual from dependence and provides an opportunity to focus on recovery from addiction.

Getting Started

MMT is offered by clinics that specialize in opioid treatment therapy, commonly known as methadone clinics. Well over 1,000 of the clinics throughout the United States and Canada exist. A participant will be prescribed a dose of methadone to take each day. After taking methadone each day for some time, it chemically treats the physical and mental symptoms of opioid withdrawal. MMT usually allows the person to get access to help for other issues that arise. Preventative care, medical attention, education and counseling are all part of a comprehensive treatment program.

First step

Usually an interview kicks things off followed by a physical examination and blood test. An individual will likely need to produce a urine sample testing positive for opioid drugs. Most clinics do not require stopping use of drugs to begin MMT. Often, the nurse or clinician performing the interview and exam will explain all side effects, benefits and precautions.

Visit a doctor

Once the enrollment is complete, a doctor’s visit is in order to begin treatment. Most commonly, methadone is dispensed at clinics as a liquid mixed with some juice. The clinic or pharmacy will need to be attended daily under observation of a pharmacist or nurse. No take-home doses will be allowed until the participant demonstrates ability to attend clinic regularly and provide clean urine samples upon request. It can be dangerous to take methadone outside of proper supervision. Enrollment is something to take seriously and reliability and responsibility can be challenging early on in recovery.

Once a stable dose of methadone is found, that dose will remain the same for an extended period of time. The length of time in this phase varies from person to person but usually no less than 1-2 years. This provides an opportunity for the brain to heal and gives a chance to stabilize the person’s lifestyle and regain health. The tapering process is done slowly, over a period of several months. During this time, rest is a good idea. It is important to follow doctor’s orders and seek follow up treatment as necessary.


Addiction is very serious but the repercussions don’t have to last forever. An individual can seek help from The Villa and find a pathway to a better life. Call us to find out how we can help support your journey if you are struggling under the weight of addiction.