Methadone is a prescription opioid medication taken daily to help people with opioid use disorders (OUDs). Your family doctor may diagnose your OUD, but that physician probably can't prescribe methadone, and you can't get the medication from your doctor's office.
Specially trained and licensed physicians provide methadone in tightly regulated clinics. If you need methadone, you must enroll in one of these clinics.
Who Provides Methadone?
Methadone is a Schedule II controlled substance. Doctors can prescribe it, and pharmacists can dispense it, but the rules are complex about where it can be distributed.
If you have an OUD, you must work with a specially trained physician working within a federally licensed treatment program.
You may know, trust, and sincerely like your doctor. Moving to a new provider can be scary, especially if you feel vulnerable due to your OUD. But making the move can be smart.
Addiction medicine is a rapidly changing field, and some doctors aren't abreast of current best practices. For example, some estimates sadly report that about a third of primary care doctors still don't believe that Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the best way to combat an addiction. Experts, including the FDA, don't agree. But these doctors may not be willing to use medications to help their patients.
Working with a methadone doctor can mean connecting with an expert who is well trained to combine medications and therapy to help you rebuild your life.
What Do Methadone Programs Do?
Methadone clinics first and foremost dispense methadone to patients on a daily basis (patients that have been stable for a long time can often get “take home” doses so that they come less often, usually once or twice a week). But a good methadone clinic does more than just dispense medication - they can do so much more to help you recover. They can provide support group, individual or group counseling, and many other resources to ensure ongoing recovery. 
MAT doctors are specialists, and they work with people like you every day. For some, a methadone program is the best way to tackle your OUD.
Where Can You Get Methadone?
The current methadone-delivery process was developed in the 1970s, and it hasn't changed much since. People with OUDs go to a clinic that's usually set apart from a hospital or health care setting. There, they get methadone doses and otherwise engage in treatment.
At the beginning of our MAT, you'll visit the clinic every day. You will:
- Get tested. Your doctor will check your urine or saliva for illicit drugs.
- Talk to your team. You'll describe how your last dose made you feel, how strong your cravings are right now, and how well you've been sleeping.
- Take your methadone. Your dose is typically mixed with orange juice or a similar fluid. Someone will watch you take your dose (to reduce the risk of theft).
- Participate in therapy. You'll work on a one-on-one basis with a counselor or attend a group session.
Your time at the clinic is structured, and you'll be working with a team focused exclusively on OUDs. Care like this could be ideal, especially if you're worried about stigma, because everyone in the clinic is going through the same process.
But getting care can be difficult if your clinic is far from mass transit lines or miles from your home. To solve this problem, once you are doing well in your recovery, many methadone clinics offer take home doses where you can get several days to a week supply of your methadone at a time and don’t have to physically come to clinic on a daily basis. You and your doctor may decide that logistically, you prefer a medication that can be prescribed and taken as an outpatient, such as Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone), if you can’t get to a methadone clinic every day.
How to Find Methadone Providers
Methadone clinics were once hard to find, but that's changing. Between 2014 and 2018, about 254 new clinics sprung up across the United States.
The best way to find a clinic near you is to use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Helpline. It's free, confidential, and always available. Call 800-662-HELP to get started.
Methadone Clinic FAQs
What kinds of doctors provide methadone?
Specially trained and licensed doctors can prescribe methadone for OUDs.
Where do methadone doctors work?
Methadone is dispensed in licensed clinics, which are typically standalone facilities that may or may not be affiliated with a local hospital or health center.
How can I get methadone?
If you've been diagnosed with an OUD, call SAMHSA's National Helpline at 800-662-HELP to find a methadone clinic near you.