The fundamental purpose of a methadone clinic is to dispense medication, but the facilities usually provide other services as well. Beyond distributing methadone to verified patients with opiate addictions, the clinics often provide other forms of treatment to aid in the healing process. A methadone clinic is highly regulated and under heavy scrutiny from authorities in most countries.
Methadone, a synthetic opioid, helps patients with addictions to natural opioids such as heroin or morphine. The drug has two general uses. Low dosages may assist in the management of withdrawal symptoms, as methadone has pain-relieving effects. High doses of methadone may also obstruct the intended effects of heroin and other opiates, allowing drug users to distance themselves from the feelings associated with their addictions.
Clinics that dispense methadone almost always will have a physician present. The doctors perform pre-treatment examinations to decide if a person is healthy enough to enter into the program and discover pre-existing conditions that could hinder the patient's success. Monitoring changes in a patient’s physical and mental condition is another important task allotted to the clinic’s physician.
Physicians or other trained professionals must supervise the administration of medicines. Requiring new patients to receive and use their methadone doses at the clinic is typical. One reason for the requirement is to deter methadone abuse, a situation in which patients hoard the doses for later use or sell the drug on the streets. If a person shows progress in treatment over an extended period of time, the individual may continue the methadone maintenance program off-site, receiving an allotment of the medication to use outside the clinic.
Many methadone clinics offer counseling in conjunction with the drug replacement therapy. Receiving individual or group therapy is frequently a legal requirement for anyone participating in a methadone treatment program. By combining treatment methods, a methadone clinic sometimes can obtain higher success rates.
Doctors commonly prescribe methadone for pain management as well as addiction, but methadone clinics generally do not dispense the drug for its pain-management characteristics. Similarly, those who suffer from methadone addiction and wish to undergo detoxification typically do not receive care at a methadone clinic. Methadone addicts usually enter inpatient rehabilitation at a hospital or a mental health center.
Methadone clinics exist all over the world, and each country may have their own specific laws and regulations regarding the access and distribution of methadone. In many countries, a methadone clinic generally is located in or runs in affiliation with a hospital, whereas pharmacies distribute the drug in other countries. Methadone programs throughout the world often receive subsidization from the governments of their respective nations. In the United States and other countries, methadone clinics may be publicly or privately owned.