Methadone hydrochloride, also known simply as methadone, is a medication often used to treat opioid use disorder. However, because methadone is also an opioid drug, it carries similar risks of addiction, abuse and dependence. The following provides an overview of how methadone works, why it’s addictive and the health concerns it can create.
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What Is Methadone Hydrochloride?
Methadone hydrochloride is a synthetic opioid that acts similarly to morphine. Methadone is available in several forms, including tablets, dissolving tablets and a liquid formulation. Because it is a controlled substance, methadone is available only by prescription.
Methadone is often used as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for people addicted to opioid pain relievers or heroin. It can also treat severe pain because it changes how the brain and central nervous system respond to pain, providing a sense of relief.
Although methadone itself is an opioid, it can effectively treat opioid dependence and addiction. This is possible because methadone has slower effects and blocks the high of other opioids, such as codeine, heroin and oxycodone.
Methadone can help prevent withdrawal symptoms in people undergoing opioid addiction treatment. Experts recommend that methadone should be prescribed for at least a year when treating opioid addiction. When someone is prescribed methadone for opioid addiction treatment, they will usually take a daily dose. The dose amount can vary widely based on a person’s opioid tolerance and history of use. Methadone should only be used under medical supervision and direction.
What Does Methadone Hydrochloride Look Like?
Methadone hydrochloride is available in different formulations that vary in appearance:
- Tablet and dispersible (disintegrating) tablet: Depending on the manufacturer, the methadone oral tablet can have several different appearances. In general, it is white and round/oblong with an imprint on one or both sides. Although some methadone tablets are scored with a line, not all of them are.
- Oral liquid: The methadone oral liquid can be clear or red in color. The red formulation, which is cherry flavored, can also smell like its cherry flavoring.
Is Methadone Hydrochloride Addictive?
Whether it’s prescribed to treat pain or opioid addiction, methadone can be misused. For this reason, it comes with a warning about its addictive nature. It’s also a Schedule II drug in the U.S., meaning it is classified as a controlled substance that has a high potential for severe psychological and physical addiction.
Methadone is addictive because it acts on the brain and central nervous system like other opioids. Effects like euphoria are milder because of methadone’s slow onset, but they are still present. Methadone still binds to opioid receptors in the brain and can cause euphoria, changes in mood, relaxation and drowsiness. These are all effects patients might find desirable.
The long-term goal of methadone use is to help people stop using opioids, but sometimes, they end up simply replacing one opioid with another. Despite this, experts agree that the benefits of methadone addiction treatment generally outweigh the risks.
If you or someone you love is struggling with methadone addiction, or if you believe methadone may help treat your opioid use disorder, The Recovery Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn about individualized treatment programs that can help you make real, long-term changes in your life.
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American Society of Addiction Medicine. “National Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder.” December 18, 2019. Accessed September 12, 2021.
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