Methadone is one of several medications approved for use by the FDA as a medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.
The recommended length of methadone treatment is at least 12 months.
Methadone may be safely taken for opioid addiction for months or years, for as long as it offers benefit for the person taking it.
What Can Affect How Long You Take Methadone?
People progress in their treatment at rates that vary from person to person. And this can affect how long a person may choose to continue taking methadone in addiction recovery.
According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the minimum length recommended for a methadone maintenance treatment program is 12 months, or one year.
How long someone continues to take methadone after this can depend on a number of factors, including personal choice and clinical recommendations of the prescribing treatment provider.
Length Of Treatment Program
Methadone is offered in some inpatient, residential, and outpatient treatment programs. It may also be offered through detox centers. However, this isn’t offered at all rehab centers.
How long a person can continue to receive methadone at a given rehab facility may depend on the rehab program and the availability of methadone at other rehab clinics nearby.
Moreover, rehab programs that offer methadone for addiction treatment may help coordinate continued methadone treatment following discharge from a more structured program.
Methadone can be legally dispensed by any opioid treatment program (OTP) that is certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Alternative Treatment Options
Methadone is one of several medications that is used to treat opioid addiction.
If the methadone is ineffective, produces adverse effects, or is otherwise inaccessible, an individual may choose to switch to a different medication.
Alternative medications for opioid use disorder include:
- Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone)
- Subutex (buprenorphine)
- Vivitrol (naltrexone)
Learn more about switching from methadone to Suboxone.
The length of time someone continues taking methadone for opioid addiction is ultimately a personal choice, provided its use isn’t mandated by the court or criminal justice system.
For many, methadone can offer a number of benefits that don’t go away with time. It can help restore normalcy, improve quality of life, and increase one’s ability to maintain employment.
Taking methadone, or another MAT medication, also reduces the risk of opioid relapse and can promote continued participation in a treatment program.
What Are The Risks Of Stopping Methadone Too Soon?
Dropping out of methadone maintenance treatment early is one of the most common—and one of the riskiest—problems seen in treatment programs.
Risks of stopping methadone too soon include:
- Relapse: Methadone can help prevent opioid withdrawal and reduce opioid cravings. If it’s stopped, this could lead to a return of strong cravings to use and result in relapse.
- Withdrawal: Stopping methadone too quickly or all at once could trigger uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which may increase the risk of relapse to other addictive opioids.
- Overdose: Going off a medication can decrease a person’s tolerance, the longer they go without it. In the event of a relapse, this could lead to accidental drug overdose, if someone tries to take as much of an opioid drug as they did prior to treatment.
Knowing When To Stop Taking Methadone
Cycling through relapse and treatment can worsen health outcomes in the long run. Before making any adjustments to your treatment, it’s important to first discuss this with a doctor.
Methadone treatment may be discontinued eventually. But the timeframe for when this can safely occur will need to be carefully evaluated.
This decision may be considered in the context of a person’s existing support system, their progress in treatment, and the perceived risk of relapse to harmful substance use practices.
Find A Treatment Center That Offers Methadone Near You
Methadone maintenance treatment is one of the most effective treatments that exists for opioid use disorder. It can be taken for as long as it benefits individuals in recovery.
If you’d like more information about methadone treatment or how to find methadone treatment options near you, call us today.
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.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Methadone
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — How long does drug addiction treatment usually last?
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: NCBI Bookshelf — Methadone maintenance treatment - Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings