Methadone hydrochloride, or just methadone, is a controlled substance and a prescription opioid. Methadone has long been used for pain relief, but it’s also used during opioid addiction treatment. Methadone can be given to people addicted to opioids and dependent on them as a type of maintenance therapy as they try to stop using these drugs. Methadone acts on the same receptors as opioids like heroin and prescription pain drugs. It is a slower-acting opioid, however. Methadone at prescribed, therapeutic doses also isn’t going to have the effects of opioids that people may find desirable, such as euphoria. Methadone is given in very controlled situations, and medical professionals have to go through a certification process to prescribe the drug. Methadone helps eliminate cravings and withdrawal symptoms for other opioids and also block their effects.
While methadone hydrochloride does have value as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs, it’s not risk-free. Methadone at high doses is drug misuse. People can experience euphoria and other desirable opioid side effects when they take large doses of methadone. There is debate about how useful methadone is as a MAT option as well. Some opponents of methadone feel that it doesn’t help treat opioid addiction and instead serves as a way to replace one addiction with another. While methadone is supposed only to be prescribed in very particular situations and people should have medical supervision while on it, this isn’t always the case. Methadone is diverted from medical use and misused as well as being sold illegally.
If someone mixes alcohol and methadone hydrochloride, the results can be dangerous or deadly. First, both alcohol and methadone are central nervous system depressants. All opioids are central nervous system depressants. When opioids are used, they bind to opioid receptors in the brain and CNS. In doing so, they slow down essential functions. The functions that are controlled by the CNS and affected by opioid use include breathing and heart rate. While alcohol affects different neurotransmitters in the brain, it still has a similar slowdown effect on breathing and heart rate. When someone mixes alcohol and methadone hydrochloride, they may experience respiratory depression to the extent that they overdose. An overdose can be fatal. The risks of mixing alcohol and methadone hydrochloride are even more pronounced in older people, but anyone mixing alcohol and opioids has an increased risk of an overdose. Some side effects and risks of mixing alcohol and methadone can also include:
- Putting oneself in a dangerous situation
- Impaired judgment
- Slurred speech
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in vision
- Losing consciousness
When someone drinks alcohol, they may experience short-term memory loss. This is often referred to as blacking out. When someone blacks out from drinking alcohol, they may put themselves or others in danger. Opioids like methadone can also affect memory. Someone mixing the two is more likely to have blackouts during this time as well as the symptoms above. Long-term effects of mixing alcohol and methadone hydrochloride can include changes in thinking and cognition, psychological symptoms and damage to organs such as the liver. Cardiac damage can also occur.
Both alcohol and methadone hydrochloride can have dangerous or deadly side effects on their own. When they’re used together, the risks of these side effects are amplified. Side effects of mixing alcohol and methadone hydrochloride can range from mild, such as nausea or vomiting, to severe, such as experiencing fatal respiratory depression. Mixing alcohol with any opioid can lead to these effects. There’s also a risk of developing an addiction to both alcohol and methadone if they’re used together. Going through addiction treatment and withdrawal for alcohol and methadone simultaneously can be challenging and can require a specialized level of care.
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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.