What Is a Methadone Clinic?
A methadone clinic is a facility that is authorized to administer methadone for the purpose of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder.
These clinics are staffed with medical professionals generally who are knowledgeable in addiction treatment. Many clinics also offer a variety of other health services in addition to administering methadone.
What Is the Purpose of These Clinics?
While this system is not without controversy, namely regarding how tightly controlled methadone is despite drugs of similar abuse potential often not being as tightly controlled, the purpose of methadone clinics is largely to balance the risks associated with methadone with its potential to combat opioid use disorder.
MAT is treatment for substance use disorders that is in part supported by medication. Methadone is an evidence-supported MAT choice for opioid use disorder treatment, approved for this purpose by the FDA and many addiction treatment experts.
However, methadone is also an opioid itself, meaning it’s important that patients use it correctly for treatments to be effective. The idea is that having the drug administered at a clinic greatly reduces the chance that a patient can misuse the drug.
How Do Methadone Clinics Work?
While the specifics of the process can vary, and it is best to call a clinic directly to ask about their procedure, methadone clinics usually work by first giving the patient a thorough evaluation to check if they have met the criteria for an opioid use disorder and that methadone-based treatment is likely to help them.
Assuming you are approved for treatment, you will then visit the facility on a set schedule, taking your methadone at the facility.
Risks of Methadone Treatments
Methadone can cause a number of side effects, which warrant talking to a doctor if they’re severe or long-lasting. These are some of the potential side effects:
- Difficulty urinating
- Dry mouth
- Mood changes
- Sore tongue
- Trouble sleeping and staying asleep
- Vision problems
- Weight gain
It’s also possible to have an allergic or otherwise unusually severe reaction to methadone in rare cases. This can be life-threatening and should be considered a medical emergency.
Common signs of a serious reaction include the following:
- Agitation, hallucinations, and confusion
- Extreme drowsiness
- Hoarseness or difficulty speaking
- Irregular menstruation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat
- Severe muscle stiffness
- Seizure or twitching
- Swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, tongue, or throat
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
While methadone is an opioid and has abuse and addiction potential if misused, its tightly controlled nature for the purpose of MAT makes this less of an issue than might be assumed.
If a person suddenly stops their methadone treatments rather than tapering their doses as is recommended, they will likely go through withdrawal. Opioid withdrawal isn’t usually life-threatening, but it can be uncomfortable, causing flu-like symptoms and strong opioid cravings.
Is Methadone Treatment Right for Everyone?
No single addiction treatment is right for everyone. Methadone can tax the liver and also shouldn’t be taken if a person can’t stop misusing certain drugs, especially those with a sedative effect like alcohol.
Because of the current system used in the United States, methadone treatments can also be difficult to keep up with if a person is limited in their ability to regularly visit a clinic.
Alternative Treatments for OUD
One common alternative to methadone for use in treating opioid use disorders is the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, often sold under the brand name Suboxone. There are additional brand names available for this combination, such as Zubsolv and Bunavail.
This combination is often the medication of choice for opioid use disorder because it has a lower abuse potential than methadone. Naloxone serves as an abuse deterrent that remains inactive unless the medication is abused. Buprenorphine also has a “ceiling effect” that discourages abuse, whereas methadone does not.
It’s also possible to combat opioid addiction without medication, although MAT is the primary recommended treatment for OUD. At the same time, MAT is not for everyone. Going through rehab and receiving regular addiction counseling can still be effective on its own. Studies show that relapse is less likely among those who participate in MAT compared to those who don’t.
Finding Methadone Clinics Near You
SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, offers a tool to help people search for opioid treatment providers near them. You can narrow the search down by state and further organize entries by city or zip code.
Methadone.US is a site that lists many methadone clinics on their site, although they do charge a fee for providers to get listed. If you’re having trouble finding methadone clinics near you using either of these sites, you can often find one simply by searching “methadone clinic near me” online.
You can also talk to your primary care physician about places to find the MAT you need. Most addiction treatment centers can connect you with an MAT provider for methadone or buprenorphine if they don’t provide MAT in house themselves.
- Information about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). (February 2019). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- Locate Methadone Treatment Centers By State. Methadone.US.
- Methadone. (February 2021). National Library of Medicine.
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Methadone. (June 2022). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Opioid Treatment Program Directory. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.