Can You Shoot Methadone? The Dangers of Recreational Methadone Use

Methadone has been used for decades both as a pain relief medication and in replacement therapy for people who are seeking to quit using other opioids. While the drug effectively addresses both of these issues, it is important to remember that methadone is also an opioid. Using the drug in any way other than as prescribed by a licensed physician can lead to dependence, addiction, and even overdose.

Can You Shoot Methadone? The Dangers of Recreational Methadone Use
Methadone is an opioid drug, and therefore, there is an inherent risk of addiction for people who use it. When used in replacement therapy, methadone is effective as an opioid blocker due to its long duration in the body’s system. Methadone stays active for 24 to 36 hours, allowing for controlled, daily doses that allow the person taking the drug to function without feeling cravings or withdrawal symptoms.

While the drug remains active in the system for an extended time, the pain relief effects do not last for nearly as long. This can lead to a situation in which people who use methadone as a pain reliever become dependent on the drug and then take more than the prescribed dose.

Abuse of prescription painkillers has become more and more prevalent in recent years, and methadone is no exception to this trend. As prescriptions for methadone as a pain reliever have risen, the drug has been distributed to patients in higher quantities. As a result, methadone has become available to more and more people as a recreational drug.

People using methadone recreationally often acquire methadone by stealing it from people in their household who have a prescription or by illegally purchasing the drug from street dealers. Since methadone stays in the system significantly longer than the effects, people using methadone recreationally tend to take higher doses that exceed amounts recommended for pain treatment. This puts people who take methadone recreationally at an extremely high risk of becoming addicted and having an overdose.

Methadone was designed to be taken orally. The long-lasting effects of methadone are caused by different additives that manufacturers include to give the drug time-release properties. People taking methadone recreationally often resort to injecting, smoking, or snorting methadone so that they can experience the effects of the entire drug all at once. These delivery methods are dangerous and have led to countless overdoses.

The dangers of injecting methadone are many, and delivering a high dose of the drug all at once is just one. All of the fillers and additives in methadone are hard to remove, even by the most experienced. Tiny particles of these substances enter the bloodstream and are not absorbed. They can cause damage to the veins, arteries, the heart, and the lungs in people who inject methadone.

Smoking and snorting methadone are nearly as risky as injecting it into the veins. Additives can enter the lungs or sinuses just as they would enter the bloodstream. Prolonged lung damage, due to smoking the drug, is a common side effect. People who regularly snort methadone may develop damage to the sinuses, holes in the septum, chronic nosebleeds, and sinus infections.

Methadone overdoses have been increasing at an alarming rate in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 30 percent of deaths associated with prescription painkillers in 2009 were caused by methadone -a six-fold increase from 1999. The CDC also estimates that nearly 5,000 people die each year from methadone overdoses. Signs of overdose include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blue, sweaty skin
  • Blue fingernails and lips
  • Sluggishness, fatigue, and lethargy
  • Disorientation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Coma and death

Methadone can be very effective at treating opioid addiction, but misusing it can lead those who struggling with substance abuse disorder to become addicted to methadone itself. There is a high risk of overdose for those who use methadone recreationally, and using a non-oral delivery method increases that risk even further. Despite the risks that come with abusing methadone, it is still an effective option for people seeking to treat their opioid addictions.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.

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