Methadone Maintenance Treatment

What it is methadone maintenance treatment (MMT)?

  • MMT is a comprehensive treatment program for opioid use disorder that involves the long-term prescribing of methadone in combination with psychosocial treatments (e.g., counseling, case management, social support groups, and medical services).

What is methadone?

  • Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist medication used in MMT to help people to reduce or quit their use of heroin or other opiates. When taken as prescribed, it is safe and effective.

What is an opioid agonist and how does it work in MMT?

  • An opiate agonist is a chemical that acts in ways similar to an opiate by activating opioid receptors in the brain. Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist. As a medication, it can be used to replace shorter-acting opiates (e.g., heroin, morphine, codeine) and semi-synthetic opioids (e.g., oxycodone, hydrocodone) to which a person may be addicted. By acting slowly, methadone prevents withdrawal for 24 to 36 hours without causing a person to get high and also helps to reduce or eliminate cravings for opioid drugs. MMT helps normalize your body’s functions that have been impaired by the use of heroin or misuse of other short-acting opioids.

How is methadone administered?

  • Patients taking methadone to treat opioid addiction must receive the medication under the supervision of a physician.
  • By federal law, methadone can only be dispensed through opioid treatment programs certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Click here for a list of certified programs.
  • Methadone should be taken daily.
  • Methadone is typically dispensed in liquid form. However, it is sometimes available in tablet form.
  • There are strict federal rules for take-home doses of methadone. New patients are required to dose daily at a certified opioid treatment program clinic. After 90 days, patients can be eligible for one take-home dose if they are actively demonstrating stable behaviors and are in compliance with treatment requirements. To be eligible for a take-home dose, patients must bring in a lock box. With demonstrated increased stability over time, eventually, patients might be eligible to take home a monthly supply.
  • Alcohol should not be consumed when taking methadone.

How long can a person expect to be in MMT?

Can methadone be misused?

  • Methadone, as a full opioid agonist that is metabolized slowly, poses a greater risk of overdose than buprenorphine.
  • However, methadone that is dispensed for use as a pain reliever, not as an addiction medication, is the main source of the methadone involved in overdose deaths.
  • SAMHSA has published a guide for methadone users, Follow Directions: How to Use Methadone Safely
  • Click here for additional information regarding misuse and diversion risk for buprenorphine.

Can methadone be taken during pregnancy?

  • Yes, women who are pregnant can safely take methadone.
  • Withdrawal from opiates during pregnancy can cause the uterus to contract. This may cause a miscarriage or premature birth. Use of methadone to prevent withdrawal symptoms can help pregnant women avoid health risks to both mother and baby as well as to better manage their addictions.
  • In the United States, methadone remains the current standard of care for the use of MAT with pregnant women who have opioid dependency.
  • Additional information regarding methadone maintenance treatment for pregnant women may be accessed at:

Where can I learn more about MMT?