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The Fundamentals of Methadone Maintenance Treatment

From: Chapter 3: The Fundamentals of Methadone Maintenance Treatment, in Methadone Maintenance: A Counsellor's Guide to Treatment (© 2003).

An important element of counselling clients in MMT is providing information and answering questions about the treatment. Because there is widespread misunderstanding of the nature and consequences of MMT, knowledge of the treatment, including its potential benefits and disadvantages, its adverse affects and common myths, will enable the counsellor to educate the client. 

What Is Methadone Maintenance Treatment? 

MMT is a comprehensive treatment program that involves the long-term prescribing of methadone as an alternative to the opioid on which the client was dependent. 

Integral to MMT is the provision of counselling, case management and other medical and psychosocial services. 

The Effectiveness of MMT 

The use of methadone in treating opioid dependence began with research in Canada and the United States during the early 1960s. It was shown that people dependent on opioids could be successfully engaged in treatment when prescribed methadone to relieve opioid withdrawal and reduce opioid craving. 

The effectiveness of using methadone in treating opioid dependence has been demonstrated in over 30 years of research. MMT has been shown to yield the following results: 

  • reduction in the use of illicit drugs 
  • reduction in criminal activity 
  • improvements in social health and productivity 
  • improvements in general health 
  • retention in substance dependence treatment 
  • reduction in needle sharing and HIV infection (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1995). 

It should be noted that methadone is pharmacologically effective only in opioid dependence. 

Methadone has no pharmacological effect in dependence on other substances such as nicotine, alcohol, benzodiazepines or cocaine. Nevertheless, use of other substances, as well as dependence on other substances, may be identified in people with opioid dependence during the course of MMT and can be addressed through the medical, counselling and case management services offered in the course of MMT. Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of comprehensive MMT in reducing the harmful use of other substances (Preston et al., 1996).  

The Fundamentals of Methadone Maintenance Treatment Table of Contents