Methadone clinics are specialized services offered to people who have an opioid addiction, including drugs such as heroin or prescription painkillers. At the clinic, they can receive treatment that is based on medication, most notably methadone, brand name Dolophine.
“This medication is used to treat severe ongoing pain (such as due to cancer). Methadone belongs to a class of drugs known as opioid (narcotic) analgesics. It works in the brain to change how your body feels and responds to pain.”
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has stated that methadone can be prescribed in wafers, liquids, or pills. It has been found to stop the effects of other opiates, thereby helping to break through the addiction. However, methadone must be prescribed by a physician as it is a Schedule II drug.
“Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.”
Methadone is a very effective treatment for opioid addiction if administered properly. Indeed, it has the potential to change lives for the better. However, it is not a cure for addiction, but rather a component of the overall rehabilitation process.
Types of Methadone Clinics
There are two main types of methadone clinics: public and private facilities. Both are strictly regulated by federal and state laws. The treatment they offer leads to a number of specific benefits, including the fact that methadone treatment can help avoid withdrawal symptoms and cravings for the drug and that it stops other opioids from being effective.
Who Needs Methadone Clinics?
Methadone clinics exist in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and, according to SAMHSA, they are being used quite significantly and increasingly so.
“In 2011, 9 percent of all substance treatment facilities had OTPs. This percentage has consistently been between 8 and 9 percent since 2001, when the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration began certifying OTPs. While the number of facilities with OTPs has remained constant at around 1,100 to 1,200 since 2003, the number of clients receiving methadone on the survey reference date increased from about 227,000 in 2003 to over 306,000 in 2011. Clients receiving treatment with methadone accounted for approximately 21 to 25 percent of all substance abuse treatment clients each year.”
If someone suffers from an opiate addiction, they can visit a methadone clinic, either through a physician’s referral or directly. Over 50% of those who do are males, although female admissions are also common. Around a third of those admitted have been found to remain in treatment for over two years.
One thing that the latest SAMHSA survey has demonstrated is that treatment programs are particularly popular with veterans. Indeed, they have reported that 1 in 15 veterans suffers from a substance use disorder (SUD).
“Overall, about 1 in 15 veterans had a past year substance use disorder, whereas the national average among persons aged 17 or older was about 1 in 11, or 8.6 percent. The rate of substance use disorders among veterans ranged from 3.7 percent among pre-Vietnam-era veterans to 12.7 percent among those who served in the military since September 2001.”
Additionally, there are significant differences in substance abuse choices depending on age categories. Those aged between 18 and 25 are most likely to turn to heroin. An increase in heroin abuse has been noted in those over 26 years of age, but around 2.9 million of these people abuse prescription medication. Perhaps the most worrying statistics, however, is that just 11% of those who abuse alcohol or drugs receive treatment.
Federal laws state that only SAMHSA-certified treatment programs may dispense methadone. Thankfully, there are several of these facilities available. Other services, including drug use prevention, are also offered here. Furthermore, they help reduce criminal activity and the chance of infectious diseases by improving patients’ overall quality of life.
Why People Visit Methadone Clinics
Methadone was first legalized in this country in 1947. It was popularized during WW2 for its painkilling actions, but it was quickly found to also suppress drug withdrawal symptoms, usually for around 24 to 36 hours. Unfortunately, because it is so popular for the treatment of opioid addiction, it has become quite readily available and is therefore open to abuse.
“More recently it has emerged as a drug of abuse. This trend may be driven in part by the ready availability of the drug as it increasingly is used in the treatment of narcotic addiction and to relieve chronic pain.”
The main reason why someone would visit a methadone clinic, therefore, is to get help with opioid addiction. People can sign up to a treatment program in which an individualized plan is created for them. Others attend clinics following a relapse, looking for help to manage their cravings. Generally speaking, when someone attends a clinic for the first time, they will have to go through a screening process with a nurse or counselor before they are prescribed medication.
During the screening process, patients have to discuss their history, may have to give blood and a urine sample, and will be told about the program itself, what it aims to achieve, and its rules. A clinical evaluation will be conducted to determine how drug abuse has impacted a patient’s life and whether there are any medical and/or psychological co-occurring disorders. A medical review will also be conducted to determine the patient’s overall condition and their physical readiness to use methadone.
Another reason why a patient may attend this type of clinic is to get counseling. Methadone is not a cure for addiction, but rather an element of overall treatment. Counseling is an even more essential element and one that will generally continue for far longer as well.
“Substance abuse counselors provide a necessary support system for individuals recovering from eating disorders, drug and alcohol issues, gambling addictions, and other behavioral issues. By forming a relationship built on trust with their patients, counselors provide the support, resources, and judgement-free guidance that patients can utilize on their road to addiction recovery.”
Last but not least, people may attend the clinic because it is a requirement of their drug treatment program. Sometimes, they must attend every day, whereas others may be provided with several dosages to take at home, attending the clinic several times per week. When patients attend a methadone clinic, for whatever reason, they may also be accompanied by friends or family members, if appropriate.