A methadone clinic is a place where you can get methadone at a low cost, with the goal of controlling your opiate addiction (usually to keep you off of heroin, OxyContin, or hydrocodone).
The truth about methadone clinics is that they’re far worse than they seem to be.
What Is Methadone?
Methadone is an opioid; however, it works a bit differently than heroin and narcotic pain pills. It actually changes the way your brain and nervous system respond to opioids. It will prevent the high and help with cravings.
This combination makes it a VERY powerful drug. Its also considered to be more of a maintenance program rather than a recovery drug. Methadone, unlike other opioids, can last an entire day with one dosage due to its slower release rate.
It stops any withdrawal symptoms without the patient going into precipitated withdrawal (if taken too early like Suboxone would). When used correctly it will also help with cravings.
Methadone isn’t commonly used to treat pain or for pain management. It is basically just a stepping stone to help you get off whatever opioid you might be on without the harsh withdrawal.
It is still an opioid and not a magic drug to mess around with to control short-term withdrawal symptoms until you’re able to get more heroin.
In my experience, I was at a point of my heroin addiction there was no way in hell I ever wanted to experience withdrawal again, especially with the amount I was on.
This meant Suboxone was out of the question (you need to be in full withdrawal for it to work or you’ll go into instant withdrawals that are more horrible than most withdrawals).
It was probably my third hard relapse towards my mid-to-late 20s. I was doing hundreds of dollars of heroin a day just to avoid any withdrawal effects and drastically draining my bank.
I somehow was a high-functioning addict, had my own office, and a great job. Without it, there would have been no way I could have afforded my $300–$600 a day addiction.
But even then, the money was being drained as I constantly pushed it to try to obtain the same high again.
So I decided to try a methadone clinic.
What a Methadone Clinic Is and How It Works
Now a methadone clinic, if I had the money, would have been one of the last choices I would have made. But at that point, I only had enough money to start the clinic, and definitely not enough to maintain my lifestyle.
This was my last resort.
Now not all methadone clinics might be the same but from what I have heard and experienced, they all do seem similar. It isn’t one of those outpatient rehabs where you get your own dedicated psychiatrist.
There are very strict rules and regulations at the clinic, and it’s usually not in such a fancy place.
The one I had gone to was in a pretty shitty area of town. I had gone the day before to pay my fees (was about $260 to start the program then $60 a week to be on it), took a drug test, and then they told me to come back between the hours of 6 am–11 am for my first dosage.
You often will not get your first dosage on the day you pay and “enter” the clinic. The only good thing was that I did not have to be in withdrawal. I was able to do my last bit before going in.
At 6 am, there was a line out of the clinic onto the street full of addicts waiting on their daily methadone dosage. I think that’s why it usually isn’t in the great part of town.
It’ll be a bit of a turn off for tourists or anyone to see this as they’re driving through. I mean, you got a line of heroin addicts waiting to get their dosage of another possible stronger opioid to help them get off heroin or oxy or hydrocodone.
Soon as you reach the “receptionist,” You tell them your name, and they find your name then give you a number. Random drug tests do happen when you sign up—you also sign a waiver to agree to the random drug tests.
Then you wait in line in a hallway and get called to a window. The nurse takes your number, which signifies who you are (yes, you have been reduced down to a simple number) and what dosage you need.
Then depending on where you go, you get a disposable cup with some colored fluid that contains water and your dosage. Drink, throw away, and leave.
In the beginning, you’ll need to go every day except for Sundays and holidays. They give you a take-home bottle the day before, and you need to return the bottle when you go back.
To get more take-homes, you need to complete a few tasks.
First, you need to remain completely drug-free, and I think it was every 2 months that you got one take home, leading up to a full week’s worth.
You also needed to see your assigned therapist. In the beginning, it was every week, then every 2 weeks, etc. If you failed a drug test, they can either reduce a take-home or add on 2 more months for your next one.
You also need to obviously show up everyday and bring back any take home bottles.
What a Methadone Therapist Is Like
During my experience with the assigned therapist, at first I had a great one, and she truly cared about my recovery.
It wasn’t a long appointment—the longest was probably 20 minutes or so—but you had to show up. However, she left to work at a private rehab clinic a few months after I started.
The next therapist I was assigned to was a piece of shit. She kept forgetting who I was, and her appointments were about 2 minutes long—1 minute to search for my paperwork and the next to repeat the same thing about how well I was doing—even if I had failed the drug test.
You Can Lie to Get Your Dose
Methadone is also a very addictive opioid, although it’s used to stop prevent withdrawals from heroin or pills and might be a tool to help you recover.
Like Suboxone, this drug will also create the same withdrawal symptoms when suddenly stopped, and just like Suboxone, people can and do get high off it.
The clinics are set up to prevent people from abusing it, hence all the regulations. However, your dosage is based on how you feel.
When all the regulations are met, there really isn’t anyone stopping you from lying and saying you need a higher dosage.
Therefore, a lot of it is based on trusting your own feelings, but trusting yourself is not something addicts do well.
Methadone Clinics Dosages — Stepping Down and Withdrawal
At the highest dosage, I was on 70mg. I didn’t feel high, but it did prevent me from seeking other drugs. It sorta filled that hole inside of me.
It does become very inconvenient at times since you have to return every take-home bottle, arrive at the clinic at certain times to get dosed, hold your pee in every morning in case you get picked for a random drug test, the awkward therapy sorta sessions, and just overall a huge change to your schedule and time.
I decided that I wanted to start cutting down when I went to 70mg. To be honest with you, I’m not too sure if it was because I felt better or that I simply was annoyed at the whole process.
I did do it the long way, and it did take a while. I did a blind reduction of 1–5mg every two weeks until I had reached 40mg, then a 1–5mg reduction every week until reaching about 20mg, then 1mg per week until 5mg, then 1mg a day.
Blind reduction meant that they would reduce it between 1–5mg without telling me and then followed my plan without ever notifying me how much I was on.
Being deadly afraid of withdrawal effects, I felt more comfortable this way. At first, I thought I had felt some withdrawal, but it was mainly psychological. It did take a while, but I was able to fully stop with barely any issues.
Methadone Isn’t a Cure
This did not mean that I was cured of my addiction or that I was confident enough to stay sober. It mainly took the methadone equation out of my life.
I think, used in the right way along with the correct guidance and therapy, someone could recover using methadone.
The clinic has certain laws/regulations they need to follow, and as long as they are met, they could care less about your recovery.
When you think, about it there are hundreds of different people getting dosed every day, and they have 4–5 therapists total to handle all of them.
It is impossible to focus on each individual and truly help them.
There were a lot of people there that also had been on methadone for years, or even decades. In the end, it does become another drug you’re replacing in your body and mind.
Yes it is monitored and safer (in terms of how you obtain it and use it), but this doesn’t address the core of the issue.
With the take-homes, as long as you have clean pee you’re able to bring them home, shoot it up, sell it, or use it however you want to use it.
Because of this, it’s a VERY dangerous drug.
There are rehab places and doctors that prescribe methadone the way a Suboxone doctor would. They are a bit harder to find, more expensive, and a lot of times when you’re out of options and money, the clinic is the easiest and fastest.
You’re in Charge of Your Recovery — Not the People at the Methadone Clinic
I think no matter which rehab or clinic you go to for addiction, you need to keep in mind that you’re the only one that cares if you’re sober or not.
As much as the workers seem to care, you’re just another face that they see on a daily basis.
You’re the one in control of your recovery—not them. So don’t expect anyone to nag or remind you why you’re there.
I often use the following metaphor to describe what my personal methadone experience was like.
Let’s say you’re at a beautiful beach and you want to go swimming and avoid tan lines. First, you’re wearing a heroin T-shirt, but to resolve it, as soon as you take that shirt off, you put on a methadone shirt.
Maybe the shirt is shorter and another color, but it doesn’t change the fact that you still have a shirt on.
You’re going to get tan lines. It eventually brings you to where you began.
Sure, the methadone kept me off heroin, but not long after, I stopped I went right back on.
The core of the issue is you have a shirt on—not the color or type. To fully avoid any tan lines, you need to take the shirt completely out of the equation.
This program did not do that for me or most of the people I’ve spoken with. You’re either going to keep changing the color and size, or it’ll just leave permanent tan lines.
I hope this has given you some sort of insight into the true reality of methadone clinics. A methadone clinic is not a cure—it’s just harm reduction.
Do you have experience with methadone clinics? Maybe your experience was different than mine.
Let me know in the comments.