Methadone is a prescription opioid medication taken daily to help people with opioid use disorder (OUD). Your family doctor may diagnose your OUD, but that physician probably isn’t a methadone doctor and can’t prescribe or deliver the medication.
Specially trained and licensed methadone doctors provide the medication in tightly regulated clinics. If you need methadone, you must enroll in one of these clinics.
Where Can You Find Methadone Doctors?
If you have an OUD, you must work with a specially trained physician operating within a federally licensed treatment program. Finding methadone doctors isn’t easy, but following a few basic steps can help.
You can find methadone doctors via these methods:
- Insurance providers: If you have insurance, call customer service. Tell the operator that you’re interested in methadone treatment and you need a connection to a qualified provider.
- SAMHSA: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers an online treatment locator. Use it to find a provider near you.
- Online: Many providers offering methadone treatment maintain websites filled with contact information. Use searches to find one near you.
Can Regular Doctors Provide Methadone?
The current methadone-delivery process was developed in the 1970s, and it hasn’t changed much since. People with an OUD go to a clinic that’s usually set apart from a hospital or healthcare setting. There, they get methadone doses and engage in other forms of treatment such as counseling. Methadone doctors work in these clinics.
Most primary care doctors don’t work in methadone clinics and can’t legally prescribe or dispense the medication. If you’re hoping to take methadone for OUD, you must find a trained and licensed provider to help you.
Are There Online Methadone Doctors & Clinics?
Some methadone doctors use telemedicine techniques to assess and monitor their patients. Instead of asking their clients to come into the clinic, they hold appointments via computers or phones. And their patients go to specialized pharmacies to pick up or take methadone.
Rules about telemedicine for MAT widened dramatically during the COVID-19 public health emergency. States could place restrictions on methadone prescribing, and some have strict rules that make telemedicine difficult. But increasing access to telemedicine could make using methadone easier.
Online methadone doctors are subject to the same rules and requirements as in-person doctors. That means not all online doctors can prescribe methadone. But doctors working in methadone clinics may be able to do so.
Methadone Treatment Process
At the beginning of MAT, you’ll visit the clinic every day. You will do the following there:
- 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 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 with a counselor on a one-on-one basis or attend a group session.
Once you are recovering, many methadone clinics offer take-home doses where you can get several days to a week’s supply of your methadone at a time and don’t have to physically come to the clinic daily. You and your doctor may decide that logistically.
Benefits of Working With Methadone Clinics
Methadone clinics first and foremost dispense methadone to patients daily. Only patients who have been in sobriety and engaged in treatment for a long time can get “take-home” doses. When they do, they come less often, usually once or twice a week. Your risk of methadone misuse is low when you’re working with a clinic.
But a good methadone clinic does more than dispense medication. Your program might involve the following elements delivered through the clinic:
- Support group meetings
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
MAT doctors are specialists, and they work with people like you every day. Your time at the clinic is structured, and you’ll be working with a team focused exclusively on OUD. Care like this could be ideal, especially if you’re worried about stigma, because everyone in the clinic is undergoing the same process.
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 for Addiction Treatment (MAT) is the best way to combat 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 trained to combine medications and therapy to help you rebuild your life.
Alternatives to Methadone Treatment
Several medications for overcoming opioid addiction exist. If methadone isn’t right for you, a different one might be better for you.
Your options include the following:
- Suboxone: When comparing Suboxone to methadone, convenience is key. Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) contains built-in misuse protections and is approved for at-home use.
- Sublocade: This long-acting buprenorphine-only injection is an effective OUD therapy that requires only one monthly appointment, not a regular visit to a specialized clinic.
- Vivitrol: This naloxone injection won’t help with cravings or withdrawal symptoms, but it can render opioids inactive. If you slip and use drugs, they won’t work.
Methadone Clinic FAQs
Specially trained and licensed doctors can prescribe methadone for OUD.
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.
If you’ve been diagnosed with an OUD, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP to find a methadone clinic near you.
By Peter Manza, PhD
Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More
- How Restrictions on Methadone Can Result in Patient Harm. The Clinical Advisor. https://www.clinicaladvisor.com/home/the-waiting-room/how-restrictions-on-methadone-can-result-in-patient-harm/. October 2019. Accessed June 2023.
- Methadone in Primary Care—One Small Step for Congress, One Giant Leap for Addiction Treatment. The New England Journal of Medicine. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1803982. July 2018. Accessed June 2023.
- Methadone Take-Home Flexibilities Extension Guidelines. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.samhsa.gov/medications-substance-use-disorders/statutes-regulations-guidelines/methadone-guidance. May 2023. Accessed June 2023.
- Primary Care Docs Weigh In on Opioid Use Disorder. MedPage Today. https://www.medpagetoday.com/psychiatry/addictions/86056. April 2020. Accessed June 2023.