How to help a methadone addict?

One way to help a methadone addict is to learn how to approach them and to try to convince them to enter treatment. Read more about what to do if your friend or loved one is facing a methadone addiction problem.

minute read

If you have a problem with methadone abuse, dependency or addiction, quitting this opioid painkiller can be a difficult and painful journey. Living with a methadone addict friend or loved one can also be very stressful.

But how can you help your methadone addict friend or loved one? Are there any ways in which you can assist during their methadone treatment? We explore the ways you can help a person who’s experiencing a methadone addiction and suggest adequate treatment options, here. Then, we invite your questions or comments at the end. In fact, we do our best to respond to all legitimate inquiries with a personal and prompt response.

Help a methadone addict quit

First, you need to understand what a methadone addict is going through. Methadone addicts are constantly riding an emotional roller coaster and going through psychological and physical changes. So, it’s important that you keep this in mind in order to avoid any kind of judgement.

You need to be honest and patient when you approach an addict. If you feel unable to talk with your loved one, you can seek the assistance of a professional. In case you decide to confront the addict about their methadone addiction, you might want to check up the following tips before you get started:

  • Always approach a methadone addict when s/he is sober.
  • Be calm and don’t loose your temper during the conversation.
  • Try not to be judgemental and avoid giving criticism.
  • Be compassionate and honest, show that you care and have understanding about their condition.
  • Consider staging an intervention.

Then, hopefully, your methadone addicted loved one will accept help and enter a treatment program. Once in the hands of medical professionals, s/he will receive a comprehensive and structured care throughout the rehabilitation period. However, your help in the form of support and motivation is always welcome.

Help methadone addict friend

It’s widely known that addiction does not exist in isolation. It always occurs a part of a wider context which can include family members, friends and other loved ones. This is why it’s absurd to address a person’s addiction without taking into consideration the context in which it operates. Most residential treatment programs for methadone addiction know the importance of emotional support and include family members whenever possible.

Psychological interventions are a central part of an individual psychotherapy in the rehabilitation counseling during methadone treatment. Some patients require a longer assistance in order to continue living normally and drug free. An individual psychotherapy focuses on:

  1. Discussing aspects of the person’s life which are not working properly (inability to keep a job, involvement in illegal activities, family neglecting)
  2. Focusing on the changes in the person’s behavior
  3. Helping the person in recovery to achieve and maintain abstinence
  4. Reduction or total cessation of methadone use

Brief interventions or one-on-one counseling sessions can also help people reduce or stop methadone abuse. These counselling sessions can be given in a few minutes and they require minimal followup. Brief interventions can help determine if people can stop or reduce their drug use on their own. They act as a method to change specific behaviors before or during treatment. According to a study from NCBI a brief intervention is consisted of five basic steps:

  1. Introducing the issue in the context of the client’s health
  2. Screening, evaluating, and assessing
  3. Providing feedback
  4. Talking about change and setting goals
  5. Summarizing and reaching closure

Self help for methadone addiction

Methadone is one of the hardest drugs to quit. Coming off methadone without the help of a detox clinic or a specialized treatment program might be very tricky. However, it is not impossible!

Yet, it is almost never recommended to go cold turkey off methadone. When you plan to quit you should follow an extremely slow and gradual tapering schedule. Otherwise the withdrawal symptoms can get very uncomfortable. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you decrease 10% of your daily dose every 1-2 weeks until you reach 1/3 of the original dose. When you reach this point, you can begin tapering methadone at half the previous rate. Also while tapering consider not to go faster than 5 mg per week. In case you experience significant withdrawal symptoms, then it’s best to report this to your doctor and perhaps stop tapering.

During methadone withdrawal, you can help yourself by:

  • avoiding sugar, processed foods and refined carbohydrates
  • eating plenty of high quality protein foods
  • drinking plenty of water
  • consuming lots of fresh fruits, veggies and healthy fats
  • exercising to improve mood, increase energy levels and boost confidence

NOTE: If you consume 20-30 grams of protein three times per day you will gradually increase your endorphins and other mood enhancing chemicals in the brain.

Get help for methadone addiction

If you feel that you can’t make it on your own, you can seek one or many of the following professionals for help with your methadone addiction:

  • a physician
  • addiction support groups
  • addiction treatment centers
  • detox clinics
  • clinical psychiatrists
  • clinical psychologists
  • licensed clinical social workers
  • trusted religious or spiritual leaders

Helping a methadone addict questions

Still wondering in what ways you can approach and help a methadone addict? Please, send us your questions. We will try to get back to you with a personal response as soon as possible.

Reference sources: NCBI: The relevance of the psychological evaluation in drug dependence
NCBI: Brief Interventions in Substance Abuse Treatment
NCBI: Evidence Based Psychosocial Interventions in Substance Use
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I have read and agree to the conditions outlined in the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

  1. Janet, This is just my opinion as a professional addictions counselor and former heroin addict who used methadone for years to find my path in recovery.

    I hope I’m not too late…
    Your son is not switching one drug for another. You son is on the path to recovery. Methadone is giving him a chance to develop an individual way in recovery. Methadone is helping him develop coping skills and mechanisms to deal with dangerous situations. Helping hold down a job, learn self-respect and acceptance. The longer he stays sober and maintains his role as caregiver, husband, and son, the more he will understand the role methadone played in helping him achieve this greatness. Eventually, he will come to realize that he can live without the support of methadone because nothing is stopping him from using while on the program. He still has to make a choice each day to not pick up. The methadone just makes it easier for him to NOT HAVE TO pick up.

    Forcing him to talk about quitting is not constructive. Instead, he hears disapproval, hurt, and anger in your words. When in fact you should be complimenting and praising the strength he finds to go to bed each not sober.

    He has told you he is scared to quit, so this means he is not ready to stop.
    He may or may not ever get off methadone, but consider this: when he was taking pills what was he like? Did he work? Did he have time to have a conversation about his addiction with you? Did he care for his family, child, wife?

    Maybe he did, but eventually, he would have come to the crossroads where all that mattered was the next handful of pills or coping heroin cause his “pill connect” was gone.

    On methadone, you are able to sit down and talk to him. You know he is safe, doing the right thing by his family, and still battling his addiction. He has to deal with the stigma surrounding methadone every time he walks into the clinic. He shouldn’t have to feel the effects of this stigma at home.

    Methadone is, in fact, saving his life. I suggest learning more about methadone and harm reduction.

    One last thing, what’s the difference between a shot of insulin for diabetes or a sip of methadone? Both keep a person alive. The only difference, in my opinion, is STIGMA.

    I hope your son is okay and jas found the courage to keep living one day at a time.

  2. My son is going to a methadone clinic and has been for years and shows no signs of coming down on doses or off completely he was addicted to oxycodone. To me its like hes gone from one addiction to another. He holds a job and has a family. When i talk to him about quitting he tells me hes afraid he will go back to pills. I get really frustrated because all he has to do is say NO and not use any drug in my opinion. Do you know of any support groups i can join. I live in ga

    1. Hi Janet. Addiction is a complicated disease. I suggest that you call the helpline you see on the website to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant.

  3. My husband attends a methadone clinic. Unfortunately, I caught him abusing the methadone in the form of shooting it up in our home and was forced to kick him out. We came up with a recovery plan over the next two months while he was away and I told him my conditions for him moving back in. It’s been 3 months and I just found out he’s been lying about his methadone treatment again. Since my condition was that he had to be 100% honest during his recovery, he is now out of our home again. Is kicking the addict out the right response? I don’t want to enable him. If I cant trust him to tell the truth about his methadone treatment, then I can’t trust that he’s not abusing it again and bringing needles into our home and around our 1 year old. Is there any condition he should even be able to come back? Should I wash my hands of him? He’s made positive changes over the last five years of attending the methadone clinic (holds down a steady job, pays bills, has taken on more responsibilities.) he can’t just agree to go to treatment since he is already in treatment. He can’t agree to quit because it will take at least a year to taper down from the dose he is on. I really don’t know what the right steps to take here are.

    1. Hi Bree. This is a tough situation… First, I suggest that you look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help:
      Then, write to our contributor Amanda Andruzzi, who speaks from a personal experience as an ex-wife of an addict. Feel free to leave a comment on some of her articles, she will respond personally and promptly:

  4. I have a loved one that is using and has reached out for help but I am unsure what to do. At first they said they needed help in the form of rehab or something then they changed and said they were fine. How can I help without making this person mad to where they shut me out of their life??

    1. Hi Jared. I suggest that you call the helpline displayed on the website to speak with a trusted treatment consultant.

I am ready to call
i Who Answers?