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
- High blood pressure
- Teary eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Muscle pain
- Runny rose
Psychological Addiction to Methadone
Psychological symptoms of addiction or dependence may include:
- 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:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Methadone does have the potential for addiction and abuse, which is why it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance.
Brand names of methadone include:
- Methadone HCI Intensol
- Methadose Sugar-Free
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