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Opioid misuse is a growing public health concern. Nearly 2.4 million people in the United States have a substance use disorder (SUD) related to prescription opioids. Approximately a half million people have an SUD related to heroin. There has been a significant increase in hospitalizations for opioid misuse. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three different medications to treat opioid addiction: methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. Access Health Treatment Center chose to use methadone for treating our patients.



Methadone is a long-acting, synthetic drug that was first used in the maintenance treatment of drug addiction in the United States in the 1960s. It is an opioid “agonist,” which means that it acts in a way that is similar to morphine and other narcotic medications.


When used in proper doses in maintenance treatment, methadone does not create euphoria, sedation, or an analgesic effect. Doses are individually determined by the physician. The proper maintenance dose is the one at which the cravings stop, without creating the effects of euphoria or sedation.



Methadone maintenance is intended to do three things for patients who participate:


  1. Keep the patient from going into withdrawal. The standard initial dose, as currently recommended, is 30 to 40 milligrams a day. After several days, providers adjust a patient’s dose as needed.

  2. Keep the patient comfortable and free from craving street opioids. Having a craving means more than just having a desire to get high. It means feeling such a strong need for opioids that people may have regular dreams about using drugs, think about doing drugs to the exclusion of anything else, and/or do things that they wouldn’t normally do to get drugs   Methadone won’t control a person’s emotional desire to get high, but an adequate dose of methadone should prevent the overwhelming physical need to use street opioids.

  3. Block” the effects of street opioids. If the dose is high enough, methadone keeps the patient from getting much, if any, effect from the usual doses of street opioids. This result is often called the “blockade” effect. 


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