People who suffer from opioid addiction have a number of treatment options. In particular, many individuals benefit from attending methadone clinics.
If you or a loved one is addicted to an opioid, it’s important to understand how methadone clinics work and why they’re so important for long-term recovery.
What Is A Methadone Clinic?
A methadone clinic is a treatment clinic that specializes in treating people who are addicted to opioids. It’s sometimes called an opioid treatment program.
Understanding Opioid Use Disorder
Opioids are prescription painkillers that change the way your body reacts to pain. Popular opioids include fentanyl, codeine, and oxycodone.
Because opioids can make you feel relaxed and euphoric, or “high,” some people abuse them. Drug abuse often leads to addiction. Long-term opioid use, even as prescribed by a health care provider, can also cause addiction.
Also called opioid use disorder, or OUD, opioid addiction causes symptoms such as:
- intense cravings for an opioid
- tolerance, which means you need increasingly higher doses of an opioid over time to feel the desired effects
- physical dependency, which means you experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety and sweating, when you try to stop using an opioid
In general, a person with OUD will need to attend a detoxification program, where doctors can help them slowly and safely detox from opioids, followed by a methadone clinic.
How Do Methadone Clinics Work?
Methadone clinics use a type of treatment called medication-assisted treatment, or MAT.
When a person enters MAT, a team of medical professionals will help them design a personalized, comprehensive treatment plan.
Along with medication, most treatment plans include other recovery services such as behavioral therapy, family therapy, and peer support groups.
As the name suggests, a methadone clinic uses a drug called methadone to treat OUD. This form of treatment is often called methadone maintenance treatment.
Methadone is a synthetic opioid agonist. Like other opioids, it activates opioid receptors throughout the body. However, it activates them in a slower and more controlled manner. This means it won’t produce euphoria or worsen addiction in someone who already has OUD.
Instead, methadone can ease opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for opioids, making the recovery process easier.
Some methadone clinics also prescribe other medications to treat OUD, including:
- buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist that, like methadone, can decrease withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings
- naltrexone, an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids, including the euphoria that causes many people to relapse
- Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and an opioid antagonist called naloxone
The use of these medications to treat OUD is sometimes called opioid replacement therapy. That’s because the medications replace the opioids that caused addiction.
In behavioral therapy, people who suffer from OUD (or other substance use disorders) work with mental health professionals to change unhealthy behaviors and develop coping skills.
Many people consider behavioral therapy an essential part of relapse prevention.
In family therapy, mental health professionals help addicted individuals and their families better understand addiction. They also teach family members how to best support the addicted person’s recovery.
This form of therapy can be extremely important, as everyone needs a strong support system once they leave a treatment facility.
Peer Support Groups
Peer support groups allow people who struggle with OUD or other forms of drug use to share their experiences and feel less alone.
If you or someone you love is struggling with opioids, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist to learn more about our inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment programs.
National Institute on Drug Abuse - How Do Medications to Treat Opioid Use Disorder Work?
U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Opiate and opioid withdrawal
World Health Organization (WHO) - Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings: Methadone Maintenance Treatment
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