Methadone is a synthetic analgesic drug that’s similar in effects to morphine but lasts for a longer period of time.
This is a commonly used medication in the treatment of opioid use disorders (OUD), such as heroin addictions.
Many medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs use methadone because it aids in pain management for those coming off heroin and blocks the euphoric effects of opiate drugs.
Learn more about medication-assisted treatment for heroin addiction
How Methadone Treats Heroin Addiction
Methadone works by altering the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It does this by acting as a synthetic opioid agonist, which means it acts on opioid receptors in the brain.
Opioid agonists act on the same receptors that other opioids, such as heroin, activate. Methadone activates these receptors much more slowly than heroin and blocks the effects of opioids.
These effects reduce opioid cravings and, for those who are opioid-dependent, the effects of methadone will not create a euphoric state.
Methadone Is Used In Combination With Other Heroin Treatment Methods
A person participating in a medication-assisted treatment program for heroin will participate in a variety of treatment practices.
U.S. law requires all MAT programs to incorporate behavioral therapies. This is because those in recovery stand a better chance at sobriety when proper psychosocial services are in place.
In addition to receiving regular doses of methadone, a comprehensive recovery plan might include:
- group, individual, or family therapy
- community educational interventions
- AA or NA meetings
- treatment for co-occurring disorders
- psychosocial services
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Average Dose Of Methadone For Heroin Addiction Treatment
Methadone is given once a day at an average dose of 60–120 milligrams (mg), and the effects generally last four to eight hours.
It’s a long-acting medication most commonly administered in pill and liquid forms.
The initial daily dose is usually 10 to 15 mg, which can be increased at increments of 5 to 10 mg. The daily dose given to a patient may be higher for those who have a higher tolerance to opioids.
The law states that methadone can only be given through an opioid treatment program (OTP) certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Those receiving methadone must do so under the care of a practitioner. Though, methadone still has a potential for abuse outside the parameters of medical guidance.
A person in recovery may also begin to take methadone at home after a proven period of stability and sobriety.
Is Methadone Effective In Heroin Addiction Treatment?
Methadone is an effective method of medication-assisted treatment for heroin addiction when given at higher doses.
It was previously thought that methadone should be administered at the lowest dose possible needed to curb the withdrawal symptoms.
But further research suggests that higher doses need to be administered in order to show positive results.
One study found that patients given methadone in doses of 80 to 100 mg a day had a much lower chance of relapse versus those who received 40 to 50 mg a day.
How Long Does Methadone Treatment Last For Heroin Addictions?
The recommended length of methadone treatment is a minimum of 12 months.
However, the length of treatment varies greatly from person to person. Some patients may require more of a long-term treatment plan, while others may need less time.
Can Taking Methadone To Treat Heroin Addiction Lead To Addiction?
Methadone can be addictive.
Because methadone relieves the pain of withdrawing from heroin, many in recovery may abuse the medication in order to avoid feelings of withdrawal.
It can also create a sense of euphoria if taken in large doses.
However, it is generally safe to use when prescribed and monitored by a medical professional or in a rehab program. If taken at the correct dose, methadone does not generate a high.
Methadone can be more susceptible to abuse if it’s taken at home and not within the safety of a program.
Finding Methadone Treatment For Heroin Addiction
For those dealing with a drug addiction to heroin, methadone treatment may be the right choice.
In a medication-assisted treatment program that uses methadone, those in recovery can withdraw safely and stay sober with the help of pain-relieving, stabilizing medication.
To find out more about methadone treatment and what resources and heroin addiction treatment centers are available for you or your loved one, call our helpline.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) —Annex 12 Prescribing guidelines
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Medications to Treat Opioid Use Disorder Research Report
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)
- Psychiatric Research Institute (PRI) — What Is Methadone?
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — MAT Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Methadone
- U.S. National Library of Medicine — Use of methadone