Methadone Treatment

What is the goal of the methadone program?

Methadone is an opioid medication and is used as part of detoxification/withdrawal management for opioids and maintenance programs. Methadone suppresses withdrawal symptoms and reduces or eliminates drug cravings. Methadone is not a “cure” and is part of treatment and recovery. Through treatment, people who have Addiction involving opioids receive the medical and supportive care they need to stabilize and improve their lives. They are encouraged to engage in recovery to optimize health and wellbeing, as abstinence alone is not enough. 

Methadone is a long-acting opioid drug used to replace the shorter-acting opioids such as heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl or hydromorphone. Long-acting means that the drug acts more slowly in the body, for a longer period of time. The effects of methadone last for 24 to 36 hours. In contrast, a person who uses short-acting opioids to avoid withdrawal must use three to four times a day.

When taken at the correct dose, methadone prevents withdrawal symptoms and reduces drug cravings without causing the person to feel high (euphoric) or sleepy.

Who is this program for?

Methadone is an opioid medication used to treat severe pain and Addiction involving opioids. When used to treat severe pain, methadone is available as a tablet or oral solution. When used to treat Addiction involving opioids, methadone is usually dispensed in the form of a fruit-flavoured drink, in which methadone powder is dissolved, to prevent injection use. It is usually taken orally once a day.

How is the program delivered?

A prescription is required to start taking methadone. At HUM, the physician will start with a dose that will work best for you, in context of what else you may be taking. They also might change your dose during treatment. It is important to tell your doctor how you feel when you use it. It usually takes several weeks to months to achieve stability on methadone. If you decide to taper or stop using methadone, it is important to do so in consultation with your prescribing physician.

When can someone start the methadone program, and are there any prerequisites?

Anyone wanting to start methadone treatment must first complete HUM’s comprehensive assessment in order to determine eligibility for methadone and appropriate dosage. Anyone can self-refer to HUM and there is no wait list. All it takes to get started is a phone call. One can start methadone even while taking other opioids.

What are the costs?

After the comprehensive assessment has been completed, the only cost is for the methadone prescription and the point of care testing (POCT) for urine drug screens. While taking methadone, POCT will be 1-2 times/month at a cost of $90/test. All appointments with the HUM physician are covered by Alberta Health Care.

Request an assessment.