Methadone Addiction

It’s hard to imagine that a medication designed to treat withdrawal symptoms from a drug or alcohol addiction could become a problem itself. Methadone is a drug that is frequently used to ease the severity of drug withdrawal symptoms that occur during the detoxification process. Some people say that methadone is like replacing one drug with another. Whether or not methadone is be valuable to a person’s recovery all depends on the person’s resolve and how they choose to take their medication. While methadone can be utilized as a positive resource to fight addiction, the drug can easily be misused which can lead to an addiction itself. Individuals who develop an addiction to methadone gradually rely more and more on the drug to rid themselves of any kind of ache and pain, such as something as simple as a headache. By taking methadone in such a way, this builds up a tolerance and a dependency on the drug, ultimately leading to an addiction.
Methadone is an analgesic (pain reliever) opioid drug that is used to block the effects of other opioids. The effects of methadone are similar to those of morphine, but last longer. The drug typically remains in the system for 24 hours, but in some instances, it may stay for up to 36 hours. Methadone can be taken in liquid, pill, or wafer form.

In 1971, the United States Federal Government began regulating the use of methadone for the treatment of addiction to heroin, and in 2001, regulations were altered which then allowed health care providers to provide methadone more consistently to individuals managing addictions. Methadone is used in replacement therapy as an alternative to heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs.

Brand names of methadone include:

  • Dolophine
  • Methadone HCI Intensol
  • Methadose
  • Methadose Sugar-Free
While methadone is sometimes prescribed solely as a pain relief drug, it is primarily used in replacement therapy to treat people seeking to recover from opioid addiction. Individuals who are prescribed methadone often receive the drug at regulated centers called methadone clinics. Over time, the strength of doses are gradually reduced until the patient is ready to completely stop using the drug. Patients usually spend at least a year in methadone treatment before they are fully recovered.
Methadone works by blocking the euphoric effects of other opioids. It also provides relief from the painful physical withdrawal symptoms that patients encounter when they quit using other opioids. Once methadone is in the patient’s system, methadone will satisfy the physical dependence withdrawal symptoms but will cause little to no psychoactive effects. This allows the patient to go about their normal routine and function properly.
Methadone is effective at treating patients with opioid addictions; however, it is important to be aware of the risk factors involved with taking methadone. Patients can become addicted to methadone itself if they fail to follow the prescribed dosing protocol, effectively trading one addiction for another. Methadone may not be the best course of action, depending on a patient’s health history and personal background.

Common Methadone Side Effects

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

For over fifty years, methadone has been used to effectively treat patients who are in recovery from various opioid addictions. The rise in the prescription of methadone as a long-duration pain relief drug has led to wider availability of the drug. Greater access means more opportunities for recreational use. However, when used properly methadone can be a safe and effective means of overcoming powerful drug addictions.

  • Take prescription pain medication
  • Take prescription antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications
  • Are pregnant, nursing, or are planning on becoming pregnant
  • Have a respiratory condition or illness
  • Have heart, liver, kidney, or prostate problems
  • Have a history of low blood pressure or high blood pressure

It is important for patients to closely follow their doctor’s instructions when taking methadone. Drinking alcohol or taking other medications not as directed can lead to dangerous drug interactions and stronger side effects. While methadone overdoses are common, they can be easily avoided by sticking to the prescribed dose. Patients experiencing severe side effects should contact their nearest clinic or emergency medical center immediately.

Methadone is a synthetic, prescription opioid that acts as a painkiller, with effects similar to morphine. It is a narcotic that tends to have a slower onset, and the thought in its use as a withdrawal treatment option is that it is effective because users don’t experience the same high they do with other drugs. The objective in its initial development was to create a pain reliever with effects similar to morphine, without the addictive elements.

Although the medication is not intended to be addictive, people may become accustomed to the short time it takes for their pain to disappear. Therefore, the medication is consumed for ailments as little as a headache or a toothache, for instant pain relief. When pain isn’t present, the medication can create a feeling of euphoria that people can easily become addicted to, making methadone lose its intended purpose.

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 not only on the dosage but also the manufacturer. For example, Roxanne Laboratories manufacturers pills in 5mg, 10 mg, and 40 mg tablets. The 5mg and 10mg pills are small, white and round with scoring on one side and numbers printed on the other. The Dolophine brand is a round, white tablet, imprinted with different numbers based on dosage as well, and some brands, such as Methadose, have the brand name also printed on the tablet, along with scoring on the opposite side.

Methadone is also available as an oral concentrate, and brand names include Methadose Oral Concentrate (methadone hydrochloride oral concentrate USP), and Methadose Sugar-Free Oral Concentrate (methadone hydrochloride oral concentrate USP), which is dye-free and sugar-free. The oral concentrate is available in a 10 mg/mL dosage. Also available is an oral solution, with dosages of 5 and 10 mg directed per teaspoon.

The severity of addiction experienced depends not just on the dosage of the methadone, but on the form of consumption. Oral concentrates can be absorbed within less than five minutes, giving the methadone the opportunity to kick in almost immediately. Pills however, take up to 30 minutes just to break down before the body even has the opportunity to absorb its chemical makeup into the system and have any real effect. While pills may take a shorter amount of time, people tend to get frustrated with the length of time pills take to work, therefore they take more pills to try and maximize its effects.

Methadone, as with many other addictive prescription medications, is classified as a Schedule II opioid pain medication. This classification means that methadone addiction is a very real possibility when people use it to treat their withdrawal symptoms from a current addiction. Methadone is used in drug treatment for addictions to other substances, like heroin, and is often given under the guidance of medical professionals in treatment facilities and methadone clinics. Despite this many people who receive this drug develop methadone addiction.

When someone becomes addicted to methadone, signs of the addiction may not be immediate considering they’re using the drug to treat addiction to another drug. When someone first takes methadone, they may be a bit dizzy, but there are other symptoms to look out for that will present themselves over time. These symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Constricted pupils

An overdose from the drug is possible  as well. An overdose can occur if methadone is taken with other painkillers, such as the ones that the medication is meant to treat. An overdose can also occur when a tolerance to methadone is built up over time, so the individual then consumes larger doses of the drug in order to experience the same kind of relief that was originally felt.

Methadone can also have long-term effects on both the brain and the body. The drug can cause intense mood swings and changes in behavior, since the neurotransmitters in the brain are affected by the intake of the drug. Users also may experience depression, confusion, restlessness and agitation. There is also a possibility of a decrease in cognitive function, memory loss and difficulty learning new things. Men and women can also struggle with a reduction in sexual needs and cause sexual dysfunction due to the reduction of testosterone. Severe lung and breathing issues can generate if methadone addiction isn’t treated accordingly.

Methadone addiction is a very real danger to people. Studies have shown that people who start taking methadone often continue taking it for 20 years or more. The methadone high can create feelings of euphoria and while  taking the drug the individual will usually experience pain relief or anywhere from 4-8 hours. Taking methadone actually blocks the things that make people feel high from drugs like heroin and oxycodone. What’s important to note with methadone, however, is that with proper dosages, the person taking methadone shouldn’t feel a high.

However, when the drug is taken outside of a medical professional’s recommendation, the person using methadone can feel the euphoric high and begin to crave it more and more after each usage. As the person’s body accustomizes to the regularly prescribed dosage, they will end up increasing the amount of methadone that they take on their own. This creates a dependence on the methadone. As the dependence grows, so does the addiction.

While clinicians see some benefits to the use of methadone for the treatment of withdrawal symptoms, and also for some instances of pain management, there has also been an increasing number of deaths resulting from its use.

  • The most popular brand of methadone is Dolophine, but other brand names include Methadose, Methadone Diskets, and Methadose Sugar-Free.
  • Methadone stays in the system of the user for up to 60 hours, which is much longer than heroin, which only remains in the system for around 4-6 hours.
  • The number of fatal poisonings that involved methadone went up more than 700 percent between 2001 and 2014.
  • According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, nearly 2.5 million people over the age of 12 reported abusing methadone in 2012, compared to the two million people reporting misuse of the drug in 2011.
  • In 2011, more than 65,000 emergency room visits were attributed to the use of methadone.

It’s crucial to work through an addiction with medical professionals and clinical therapists, as they can determine the proper form of treatment to not just manage a methadone addiction, but the original drug addiction that the methadone was meant to alleviate. Doctors will configure an effective treatment with the proper medications to ease the withdrawal symptoms and find a way to refrain an addiction from occurring again. The Recovery Village offers an abundance of programs that can be individualized for a person’s unique needs. With treatment facilities located across the country, centers include inpatient, outpatient and aftercare programs to teach patients the necessary skills to begin a life of sobriety.

If you or a loved one struggle with methadone addiction, The Recovery Village can help you receive the necessary assistance needed for a successful recovery. Calls are free and confidential. Take the first step toward a drug-free life today.

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