Along with COVID came a whole host of associated social ills and issues. One of them was how to safely administer doses of methadone to those in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs for opioid addiction.
For many years, methadone has been delivered in single-day doses, meaning that a person in a MAT program had to arrive at the facility every day. In more recent years, those in treatment who showed reliability and stability have been allowed to take home multiple doses.
With COVID shutdowns across the country, many programs had to ease their restrictions. As noted by Pew Charitable Trusts, the federal government eased restrictions on delivery of methadone doses in 2020, since crowded waiting rooms were the opposite of COVID social distancing measures. The delivery of methadone and opioid treatment programs are strictly regulated by federal laws, so any change of procedure had to be authorized by the government. The eased restrictions permitted a supply for up to 28 days for “stable” patients and up to 14 days for “less stable” patients.
The guidelines for these programs are published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services.
A 2021 article on the Pew Charitable Trusts website also notes that when the pandemic is ended, it’s possible that the former restrictions might be re-implemented. They propose extending the current, more liberal administration of methadone. As we’re considering this point, should we also ask if it is possible to help those in MAT gradually withdraw from their methadone doses? Would “stable” patients be ready for a new phase in their recoveries?