The decision to stop using opioids can be terrifying. There is usually a fear of withdrawal symptoms. (Withdrawals from opioids can be compared to the flu times 100!) It’s miserable, and most people are unsuccessful in quitting on their own for this reason.
There’s also a lot of shame that comes with addiction. People are afraid of being judged or talked down to because of their drug use.
No one likes to admit they have lost control over their lives, but if you are in the grips of addiction, that’s exactly what has happened. You have lost control.
How to Get Into a Methadone Clinic
Starting Methadone can be frightening, but I guarantee you it’s easier to start Methadone treatment than to continue what you’re currently doing.
Before being admitted for Methadone treatment, you’ll need to be assessed.
In a clinic, you’ll first see a counselor that will gather information about your history of drug use, family history, and any traumatic events you have experienced. Typically, family members are not included in this interview because the client may be reluctant to share some things in front of them.
Typical requirements for admission in Methadone treatment include consistent opioid use for at least the last 12 months, previous failed attempts at other levels of treatment, possible overdoses, and legal issues due to drug use.
There will also be a urine drug screen before someone is admitted for Methadone treatment.
A lot of people are worried that they’ll test positive for opioids and not be admitted to treatment.
That’s not true. We understand that you’re entering treatment because you cannot stop on your own.
Unlike many other levels of care, we expect you to have recent opioid use. In fact, you need to be in active withdrawal in order to start Methadone treatment. That means no use for 8-10 hours before your intake for admission. A nurse will read the results of your drug screen with you.
Starting Methadone Treatment
Once the counselor determines you are appropriate for Methadone treatment and a nurse has reviewed your drug test results, the same nurse will give you a physical exam. The examination includes a TB test and blood work to help determine any medical conditions that need to be addressed.
When the nurse has completed her examination, you’ll see a physician who specializes in addiction and Medication Assisted Treatment. If deemed appropriate for Methadone treatment, you’ll be prescribed a low dose of Methadone.
Results of Methadone treatment are not immediate. Patients usually start at 20mg and are observed for 20 minutes after dosing to watch for any reactions to the medication. Your dose will be slowly titrated up until a therapeutic level is reached for each specific patient.
It is quite normal for a patient to feel like their dose is insufficient for the first week or two of treatment. Again, increases must be done in increments. When you enter Methadone treatment, the program will be explained to you thoroughly. This is important because the medication is not the “cure” for addiction.
How Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioids Works
Methadone is an aid in your recovery. While in early phases of treatment, you’ll be expected to see your counselor on a regular basis. Typically, group counseling and support groups are also recommended in your treatment plan.
It’s important to cut ties with people who are still using and develop a healthy support system for yourself. Support groups help introduce you to other people in recovery who are working to improve their lives as well.
You’ll start to feel better after your first dose even though it’s a low dosage. Because it is such a low dose, it won’t last 24 hours, so you may experience mild withdrawal symptoms at night. This will improve as your dose is increased.
Benefits to Methadone Treatment
Most opioid users have significant weight loss while in the grips of addiction. It’s quite normal to start seeing some weight gain after a week or two of Methadone treatment. This isn’t because the medication is making you gain weight, but because you haven’t been eating enough to maintain a healthy weight. You are getting your appetite back, and that’s a good thing.
We also start seeing improvements in hygiene rather quickly. Self-care improves and they begin to take an interest in getting their personal needs met. They start to care for themselves in ways that were neglected before, and they become hopeful for the future.
Support for Family of Opioid Users
Recovery isn’t just for addicts. We encourage family and friends to participate as well. These people have slowly adapted to the presence of an addiction and may not realize that they themselves need help. It is helpful when the newly recovering person’s loved ones have an understanding of addiction, recovery, and Methadone.
Loved ones also have some healing to do themselves. We want the family to heal from the resentment and lack of trust that addiction has caused, not just the addicted person himself. Most Methadone clinics offer family groups for these reasons.
Community support groups are also helpful. Other support group members have had an addicted loved one and can share their past experiences with you.