What is methadone?
Methadone is a synthetic opioid agonist medication prescribed for moderate to severe pain management and Medication Assisted Treatment (M.A.T). Methadone is available as a tablet, solution, injection, or powder. Methadone can alter how the brain and nervous system respond to pain and is usually only prescribed if other pain management medicines are not effective.
Methadone can also be used for detoxification, to facilitate recovery from opioid use disorder, or to treat addiction or reduce cravings for heroin and other narcotic medications. Doctors may prescribe methadone to relieve dependency from hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and fentanyl.
Methadone is intended to help people improve their health and recover from acute/chronic pain or opioid addiction. Although the drug is used as a form of medication-assisted treatment, addiction, substance abuse, and opioid withdrawal can still occur.
Methadone for opioid use disorders (OUD) and opioid addiction therapy
Methadone treatment is prescribed for treating opioid use disorder (OUD) and is available in (but not limited to) the following medications:
- Methadone Intensol
While it is sometimes prescribed for acute or chronic pain relief, doctors and methadone clinics will most commonly use methadone to treat opioid use disorder or dependence in much the same fashion as buprenorphine treatment. The drug is an agonist opioid—meaning that it triggers the opioid receptors in the brain.
Why is medication-assisted treatment undertaken?
Methadone-assisted treatments using methadone and buprenorphine can prevent symptoms of withdrawal from stronger opiates. If prescribed in the correct circumstances, the drug can help to alleviate symptoms of withdrawal, however, there is still potential for the user to become addicted to methadone itself during this process.
Although there is a widely held belief that the drug is not as dangerous or addictive as illicit opioid drugs, it still has all the common effects associated with them. Patients receiving Methadone may experience euphoric effects and feelings of relaxation, though they are weaker than drugs such as fentanyl or heroin. Despite its weakness, there is strong evidence that the medicine can cause dependency, addiction, or exacerbate substance use disorders.
Patients who take methadone as prescribed can:
- Lessen the physical symptoms of opioid abuse (such as preventing opioid withdrawal symptoms).
- Be less likely to cause fatal drug overdoses.
- Be less likely to be abused or misused.
Methadone dependence & opiate addiction
Methadone addiction is a physical health condition and must be treated as such. During the process of addiction, the central nervous system becomes affected and the brain’s chemical system becomes unbalanced—it craves methadone in an attempt to regain normal function.
Unpleasant side effects of methadone addiction may also result in a blocking of the brain’s ‘pleasure sensors’ rather than causing euphoria. Opioid abuse means using opioids without a prescription or using a higher dosage than was prescribed. Drug abusers who take heroin or other opiates are more susceptible to methadone addiction due to their history of substance abuse.
Individuals that suffer from dependency have a health condition that results in cravings for methadone. If their prescription is denied, they may have no choice but to seek alternative means of procuring the drug or other opioids such as heroin or codeine. Suppose you or a loved one experience opioid cravings or withdrawal symptoms when trying to avoid methadone or illicit drugs, or feel as though you need to increase the dosage to feel the same effects. In this case, it is critical to seek methadone addiction treatment as soon as possible.
Don’t allow any barriers, stigma, or other concerns to prevent yourself or others from seeking treatment for opioid addiction. The longer an addict is exposed to the drug, the more methadone increases opioid withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal timeline will last longer and more serious long-term consequences may occur.
Symptoms and health effects of methadone use
If the patient’s body has developed opioid tolerance, it may take months for the patient to wean off the drug(s) completely. This is due to the practice of slowly decreasing the methadone dosage by two to five milligrams every one or two weeks. Although gradually tapering the dosage can result in a reduced intensity of withdrawal symptoms, the patient may suffer long-term adverse health effects due to the extended period of drug exposure.
Such long-term harmful health risks may include:
- Cardiovascular concerns
- Respiratory depression and breathing problems
- Nerve, liver, and brain damage
- Weight gain
- Mood changes
- Decreased attention span and inability to concentrate
- Sexual function and menstruation changes
- Increased risk of overdose, dependency, and addiction
Other signs and symptoms of opioid use include (but are not limited to):
- Dry mouth
- Chest pain
- Constricted pupils
- Slow or shallow breathing
- Blue clammy skin
- Loss of consciousness or coma
- Runny nose
- Muscle pain
- Brain damage
- Slowed heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low blood pressure
- Breakout of hives
If you notice any of these symptoms occurring, tell your doctor. They may change your treatment plan or request you stop taking the drug if they believe it may be causing you harm.
Signs of methadone addiction
A National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) study revealed that opioid analgesics were responsible for half of all cases treated in US emergency rooms in 2012. Drug addiction can be difficult to process at first, with many patients/users unaware that they have a problem until it’s too late. It’s common for many people to realize that they have an addiction or physical dependence only when they miss doses or try to stop using the drug, at which point they begin to experience effects of addiction like withdrawals, and feel that they must continue to use the drug to function. Without access to detox or addiction therapy, this can have disastrous effects on preexisting mental health conditions or cause mental disorders.
Known signs of drug addiction include:
- Consuming an extra dose(s) of methadone than you should be, for a longer period than is prescribed by your doctor.
- Experiencing difficulty or withdrawals when trying to come off the drug. This can range from muscle aches and bone pain to fever, vomiting, or even behavioral symptoms caused by depression.
- Devoting a large amount of time to procurement and use of the drug.
- Spending a large amount of time physically or psychologically recovering from drug use.
- Financial issues as a result of spending money on the substance.
- Craving the drug.
- Not feeling like yourself when you are not using the drug.
- Failing to meet relationship or work standards because of drug use.
- Prioritizing drug use over a plan for other commitments or family time.
- Continuing to use the drug despite a decline in health level.
- Developing a tolerance to the drug.
Methadone overdose & substance abuse
Methadone overdoses can occur if a person consumes a higher amount of methadone than their body can handle. The quantity and frequency of methadone that would result in an overdose are based on the same factors that determine the amount of time that methadone lasts in the body.
When someone takes a toxic dosage of opioid medication, there is a risk of overdose. This is often due to taking more than was prescribed more frequently than was specified, or perhaps more than may be appropriate for their system.
The risk for methadone toxicity and overdose can also increase for:
- Elderly adults.
- People with significant liver failure.
- People who have renal or pulmonary disease.
- People with an electrolyte imbalance.
- People on other prescription medications.
- People who may combine another toxic level of drugs and alcohol with a dangerous dosage of the substance.
For example, a person may be at risk for methadone addiction if they consume 100 milligrams of the substance four times a day when they were only prescribed 30 milligrams once a week. A single dosage may last in the body for one week, so taking more methadone than prescribed can lead to toxicity and overdose. If this happens, the user can experience a depressed or ceased respiratory system, seizure, coma, brain damage, or even death.
If you suspect someone has taken an overdose, call 911 immediately and request emergency services.
Contact ANR Clinic today to learn more about our revolutionary, evidence-based care methods that minimize unwanted health effects of opiates and opioid withdrawal symptoms.
ANR treatment was invented by Dr. Andre Waismann. Dr. Waismann identified the biological roots of dependency. Since then, Dr. Waismann and his medical professionals have successfully treated more than 24,000 patients worldwide that are struggling with opioid addiction. Throughout his career, he has lectured and educated health professionals in dozens of countries around the world.
Even though methadone may feel as though it neutralizes symptoms for only four to eight hours, the substance remains active in the system from 8 – 60 hours after consumption. The time frame depends on a person’s tolerance; people who have developed more tolerance to heroin or other opioids may observe that the substance lasts for a shorter time than someone who is not addicted. Additionally, a higher dosage results in the extended longevity of the substance within a person’s system.
If someone develops an addiction that concerns the use of drugs or alcohol, it is known as substance use disorder, but these are not the only types of addiction. The list of addictions is almost endless. Some of the most common include:
- Internet addiction
- Gambling addiction
- Alcohol addiction
- Cocaine addiction
- Sleeping pills addiction
- Heroin addiction
- Meth addiction
- Prescription drug addiction
- Synthetic opioid addiction
Because of the different levels of danger that addiction symptoms can cause, some forms of addiction may require different levels of care and addiction therapies. Thankfully, there are many addiction recovery and substance use disorder treatment providers and programs available. While treatment cost varies, some are available free of charge through charity or community resources, in other cases, you may need to pay for treatment.
Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is an addiction treatment program that aims to bring a patient’s nervous system back to health and balance by decreasing receptor production in the brain while allowing the body to resume proper levels of endorphin production. ANR also allows the metabolizing and elimination of unnecessary exogenous opioids from the patient’s body. This negates the need for receiving methadone treatment or therapy with opioid agonists as a whole, reducing the risk of addiction to MAT medicine. The ANR treatment is conducted at various ANR treatment centers for addiction across the country.