Although methadone is often used to help treat opioid use disorders, this medication can also cause dependence and addiction to develop.

Article at a Glance:

  • Methadone is a synthetic opioid used to treat opioid use disorder and certain types of severe pain.
  • Methadone addiction is similar to any opioid addiction, but overdose may be more likely due to how long the drug stays in the system.
  • Quitting methadone can be difficult; professional assistance helps ensure methadone use can be reduced or discontinued safely.

Why Is Methadone Abused?

Methadone can be prescribed for pain management or to treat opioid use disorder (See: Methadone for Opioid Addiction). The drug helps reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms for 24 to 36 hours, which is why it is dosed once daily for opioid addiction. Although it may be effective in reducing withdrawal symptoms, methadone has the potential to become addictive if it is taken in ways other than prescribed.

When used as directed, methadone does not typically create the same euphoric effects as other opioids. However, taking more than the prescribed dose can cause a high to occur, which is why some people abuse the drug.

Methadone Addiction Potential

Methadone is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and addiction when used in ways other than prescribed. Methadone use can also lead to dependence, even when taken as directed.

When someone becomes addicted to or dependent on methadone, the signs and symptoms may take a while to appear. These signs can be both physical and psychological.

Physical Addiction to Methadone

The symptoms of methadone addiction and dependence are similar to those of other opioid addictions. Physical symptoms of addiction or dependence may include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Fast breathing
  • Fast heart rate
  • Goosebumps
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Teary eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Runny rose
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Yawning

Psychological Addiction to Methadone

Psychological symptoms of addiction or dependence may include:

  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Mood disorders, including depression, persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) and increased anxiety

Men and women may also struggle with increased sexual dysfunction and related side effects. These can include erectile dysfunction, disturbances in menses and irregular reproduction.

In addition, methadone can have long-term effects on both the brain and the body. For example, it can cause intense mood swings and changes in behavior since methadone affects neurotransmitters in the brain.

Related Topic: Methadone Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, & Side Effects 

How Long Does It Take to Get Addicted to Methadone?

There is no standard length of time it takes to get addicted to methadone or other opioids. It depends on many factors, including:

  • Genetics
  • The drug of abuse
  • Length of abuse
  • Personal history of substance use

Other risk factors can include:

  • A family history of substance abuse
  • Contact with high-risk people
  • History of criminal activity
  • Stressful circumstances

Addiction can develop slowly in some people and quickly in others.

Effects of Methadone Misuse

Compared to other opioids, methadone has a lower chance of causing euphoria and blocks opioid receptors for long periods. This helps to manage cravings when it is used for opioid addiction treatment. It’s important to note that with proper dosages, the person taking methadone shouldn’t feel high.

If a methadone high does occur, the person may experience feelings of euphoria. Additionally, methadone can relieve pain for four to six hours, but it stays active in the system for 24 to 36 hours.

Methadone Overdose

It is possible to overdose on methadone if the drug is taken with other opioid painkillers or taken in large doses.

Drug overdose can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone, contact Web Poison Control Services for online assistance.

Related Topic: Methadone Overdose Signs, Symptoms & Treatment 

How Addictive Is Methadone?

Methadone is often used to treat opioid addictions, but it is still an addictive Schedule II substance. It becomes addictive when misused in any way other than prescribed. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), only 0.1% of the population aged 12 and over reported misusing methadone in 2019. Misusing and becoming addicted to methadone is uncommon due to how highly regulated it is, as it can only be dispensed through methadone clinics and approved providers.

Misusing methadone carries a significant risk for addiction and overdose. In 2009, 30% of prescription painkiller overdose deaths were attributed to methadone, despite it making up only 2% of prescriptions.

Methadone Addiction Treatment

When working to recover from methadone addiction or dependence, it’s important to seek out professional help. At a rehab facility, addiction experts can help ease withdrawal symptoms with the assistance of medication and 24/7 care in a safe, supportive environment. From there, treatment programs can help you learn how to prevent future drug use and teach you healthier ways to cope with negative feelings.

Find the Help You or Your Loved One Needs

The Recovery Village offers a full continuum of care that can be individualized for each person’s unique needs. We provide inpatient, outpatient and ongoing aftercare programs that help clients begin the lifelong recovery journey.

If you or someone you love is struggling with methadone addiction, The Recovery Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment programs that can work well for your situation.

Jonathan Strum
Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
Conor Sheehy
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

FAQs


Is Methadone a Painkiller?

Methadone is a synthetic prescription opioid that acts as a painkiller, and its effects are similar to morphine. It tends to have a slower onset, and it’s effective in opioid withdrawal treatment because people don’t experience the same high they do with other opioids. It was initially developed to create a pain reliever with effects similar to morphine but without the addictive elements.

What Does Methadone Look Like?

Methadone is available in both liquid and pill form. The pill form is available at various dosages, and the pills may look different from one another based on the dosage and manufacturer. For example, Roxane Laboratories manufacturers pills in 5 mg, 10 mg, and 40 mg sized tablets. The 5 mg and 10 mg pills are small, white and round, with scoring on one side and numbers printed on the other.

As an oral solution, methadone brand names include Methadose Oral Concentrate (methadone hydrochloride oral concentrate USP) and Methadose Sugar-Free Oral Concentrate (methadone hydrochloride oral concentrate USP). These oral concentrates are available in a 10 mg/mL dosage.

What Is Methadone Used For?

Methadone is used primarily as part of the treatment process for opioid addiction. During treatment, methadone helps ease withdrawal symptoms and has a lower chance of creating euphoric effects. Methadone can also be used for pain, but it is not usually the first choice for pain treatment.

Is Methadone Addictive?

Methadone does have the potential for addiction and abuse, which is why it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance.

What Are Some Other Names for Methadone?

Brand names of methadone include:

  • Dolophine
  • Methadone HCI Intensol
  • Methadose
  • Methadose Sugar-Free
Sources

Drug Enforcement Administration. “Methadone Drug Fact Sheet.” April 2020. Accessed September 13, 2021.

Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. “Methadose™ Oral Concentrate (Methadone Hydrochloride Oral Concentrate USP) 10 mg/mL, CII.” August 2019. Accessed September 13, 2021.

Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. “Methadose™ Sugar-Free Oral Concentrate (Methadone Hydrochloride Oral Concentrate USP) 10 mg/mL, CII.” August 2019. Accessed September 13, 2021.

Webster, Lynn. “Risk Factors for Opioid-Use Disorder and Overdose.” Anesthesia & Analgesia, November 2017. Accessed September 24, 2021. “

Hendrikson, Hollie; et al. “Methadone and Prescription Drug Overdose.” National Conference of State Legislatures, December 2014. Accessed September 13, 2021.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How Do Medications to Treat Opioid Use Disorder Work?”  June 2018. Accessed September 13, 2021.

Roxane Labs. “DOLOPHINE® HYDROCHLORIDE.” 2006. Accessed September 13, 2021.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Medications for Opioid Use Disorder: For Healthcare and Addiction Professionals, Policymakers, Patients, and Families.” 2018. Accessed September 13, 2021.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” 2020. Accessed September 13, 2021.

Shah, Mansi; et al. “Opioid Withdrawal.” StatPearls, May 21, 2021. Accessed September 13, 2021.

VA Pharmacy Benefits Management Services. “Oral Methadone Dosing Recommendations for the Treatment of Chronic Pain.” July 2016. Accessed September 13, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.