Methadone Addiction: Long- and Short-Term Side Effects & Treatment

Methadone is one of the few medications approved for opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment in the United States. However, even though it can help people wean off other opioids, it is highly addictive. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for people battling opioid dependence to fall victim to methadone dependence, swapping one addiction for another.

If you want to understand the dangers of methadone addiction better, keep reading.

This article will explore the main things you should know about it, including the causes, risk factors, signs and symptoms, and treatment options for methadone addiction.

What Is Methadone?

Methadone is an opioid medication used to treat opioid addiction and moderate to severe pain. It is available in several forms, including:

  • Tablet
  • Oral liquid
  • Injectable solution
  • Powder

Besides its generic name, methadone is also sold under various brand names, such as Dolophine®, Methadose®, and Methadone Intensol™.

What Is Methadone? - Methadone Addiction

As a long-acting opioid, methadone is usually prescribed for patients who require around-the-clock pain relief. It alters the perception of pain by interacting with the opioid receptors located in the central nervous system (CNS), hindering the transmission of pain signals between the body and the brain.

For drug addiction, methadone is typically used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) alongside counseling and behavioral therapy. It helps suppress cravings and relieve other opioid withdrawal symptoms, which helps prevent relapse and overdose. When taken as intended, methadone blocks the effects of other opioids and doesn’t cause euphoria.

Side Effects of Using Methadone

Methadone users may experience various side effects, including but not limited to:

  • Blurry vision
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach ache
  • Trouble urinating
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Sweating
  • Appetite changes

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience the following side effects:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Fainting
  • Hallucinations
  • Hives
  • Itchy skin
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Skin rashes

The likelihood of experiencing severe and long-term side effects increases with methadone abuse. Specifically, abusing this drug can put you at a heightened risk of:

Inform your doctor about any side effects you experience while taking methadone, including those not mentioned above.

Is Methadone Addictive?

Contrary to popular belief, methadone is addictive. Even though it is one of the most common medications used to treat opioid addiction, it is still an opioid and thus has a high potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction.

For this reason, methadone is treated as a Schedule II controlled substance. This means you can only legally obtain it by prescription, and using it for non-medical purposes is illegal.

While taking methadone as intended isn’t likely to cause dependence, it’s not uncommon for patients to abuse this medication, often to experience its sedating effects that cannot be achieved in lower doses. Unfortunately, this significantly increases the risk of methadone dependence.

Most commonly, people abuse methadone by taking it:

  • Without a prescription
  • For recreational purposes
  • In combination with other drugs or alcohol
  • In different ways than prescribed (e.g., snorting)
  • In larger doses, more frequently or longer than prescribed

Methadone abuse can also lead to a potentially fatal overdose. Because of this, you should take your medication strictly as instructed by your doctor.

Methadone Abuse Statistics

Now, let’s take a look at some statistics that illustrate the extent of methadone abuse, addiction, and overdose in the United States:

Methadone Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Methadone Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Methadone addiction can manifest in various physical and behavioral signs and symptoms. Knowing these signs can help you realize if you or someone you love is addicted to this medication, which is the first step to methadone addiction recovery. 

With that in mind, let’s learn more about the signs and symptoms of methadone addiction.

Methadone Addiction Physical Symptoms

People addicted to methadone will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms after quitting their medication, especially if they do so suddenly. These symptoms start within the first 30 hours after taking the last dose and initially feel like the flu (runny nose, fever, etc.).

While suffering from opioid withdrawal symptoms is among the most easily recognizable signs of methadone addiction, it isn’t the only one.

Other physical symptoms that could indicate methadone abuse and addiction include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Breathing problems
  • Constipation

These physical signs will often be accompanied by mood swings, anxiety, depression, agitation, and other psychological symptoms.

Methadone Addiction Behavioral Symptoms

Methadone addiction will often alter people’s behavior. Some behaviors that may indicate you or your loved one may be addicted to this drug include:

  • Social isolation
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Preoccupation with obtaining and using methadone
  • Failure to fulfill professional and family obligations
  • Decreased performance at work or in school
  • Hiding, denying, or lying about methadone use
  • Inability to control opioid use
  • Forging prescriptions, doctor shopping, etc., to obtain methadone
  • Methadone abuse (e.g., taking methadone when it’s no longer needed)

If a person continues to take methadone even though it negatively affects their physical, mental, financial, and social well-being, there’s a good chance they may be addicted.

Methadone Addiction vs. Methadone Dependence

Methadone dependence differs from methadone addiction in that it is purely physical, i.e., being dependent on methadone essentially means that your body cannot function normally without it. This is characterized by two key signs—tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.

Those dependent on methadone need to take increasingly larger doses feel the drug’s effects. If they quit taking it or reduce their dose, they’ll experience body aches, nausea, and other uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, making it difficult to discontinue opioid use.

If left untreated, methadone dependence can develop into an addiction, which manifests in both physical and psychological symptoms.

Methadone Addiction Causes and Risk Factors

Methadone addiction is caused by a chemical imbalance that happens in the brain when you take this medication for a long time.

If left untreated, methadone dependence can eventually lead to addiction, which is not only physical but mainly psychological.

Although anyone who takes methadone—be it for pain relief or opioid dependence treatment—risks becoming addicted, some people are more susceptible to methadone dependence than others. 

Besides methadone abuse and prolonged use of it, the risk factors for developing an addiction to methadone include:

  • Personal or family history of substance abuse
  • Early exposure to opioids
  • Easy access to methadone or other opioids

Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

Even though methadone is supposed to help with opioid withdrawal symptoms, it can also cause them. Methadone withdrawal symptoms occur when people stop taking this medication after becoming dependent. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, and tapering off methadone can help reduce their intensity.

Given that these symptoms can be physically and psychologically distressing, many people continue taking methadone just to avoid them. Unfortunately, it’s also not uncommon for people to relapse shortly after quitting this medication, which can lead to a fatal overdose. For this reason, you should seek medical help as soon as you decide to discontinue methadone use.

Methadone withdrawal symptoms typically begin within the first 30 hours after the last dose and last for around ten days. Some people, however, continue to suffer from psychological symptoms, such as cravings, for much longer than that.

The most common methadone withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, etc.
  • Methadone cravings
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Yawning

Risks of Methadone Overdose

Methadone overdose happens when you take more medication than you can physically tolerate. Since it can lead to coma, brain injury, and even death, it is the greatest danger of methadone abuse and addiction.

Methadone overdose is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention. If you overdose on this medication, receiving medical care on time is the only way to prevent death.

As such, you should call 911 as soon as you recognize the following signs of methadone overdose in yourself or someone around you:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Discolored, bluish lips and fingernails
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

Sometimes, all it takes to cause an overdose is an extra dose of medication. For this reason, you should carefully track how much methadone you take to ensure you don’t accidentally take a double dose.

How to Prevent Methadone Addiction

Since methadone is no less addictive than other opioids, you can only prevent methadone addiction by not taking this drug. Whether you’re suffering from pain or opioid dependence, it’s in your best interest to explore alternative treatment options with your doctor before resorting to methadone.

However, in some cases, you may have no other option but to take methadone. Here’s what you can do to minimize the risk of methadone dependence in this case:

  • Carefully follow your doctor’s instructions when taking your medication.
  • Don’t alter the dosage or frequency of methadone use without consulting your doctor.
  • Tell your doctor about any side effects you experience while taking methadone.
  • Don’t mix methadone with any other substances, including herbal supplements, without your doctor’s approval.

ANR Treatment for Methadone Dependence

Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is an ultra-modern methadone dependence treatment that can help you conquer opioid dependence and forget about the fear of relapse within days.

Well-Equipped Modern Facilities - anr advantages

Unlike traditional treatments like methadone rapid detox, ANR is designed to address the underlying cause of opioid dependence rather than simply treat its symptoms.

By re-regulating the endorphin-receptor system, the ANR treatment repairs the damage opioids cause to the brain, restoring it to its pre-dependence state. As a result, patients no longer struggle with cravings and other withdrawal symptoms after receiving the treatment, eliminating the risk of relapse.

Moreover, the ANR treatment is very safe and doesn’t involve any potentially addictive opioid replacement drugs. Due to being tailored to each patient individually, it doesn’t lead to side effects and can be safely performed even for those with complex medical issues.

To ensure your safety, ANR is carried out in an ICU setting of an accredited hospital by highly experienced, board-certified medical professionals. The hospital stay for the ANR treatment lasts just 36 hours on average.

If you’re looking to make a lasting recovery from methadone dependence, contact us today to schedule a free consultation!

Key Takeaways

If there’s one thing you should understand about methadone before taking it, it’s that it isn’t a magical cure for opioid dependence. It simply replaces other opioids and, just like them, can be very addictive.

Here’s a summary of the key points we covered today:

  • Methadone is a long-acting opioid that can be used to treat moderate-to-severe pain or opioid use disorder.
  • Methadone abuse, such as taking it in larger doses to induce sedating effects, greatly increases the risk of dependence.
  • Some common signs of methadone addiction include withdrawal symptoms, breathing problems, social isolation, and trouble controlling methadone use.

Methadone Addiction FAQ

Methadone is used for drug addicts because it can suppress withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, without inducing euphoria. When taken as intended, it can prevent overdose and help people wean off other opioids, such as heroin

Methadone was invented in 1937 by the German scientists Gustav Ehrhart and Max Bockmühl. In 1947, it was approved for medical use in the United States and commercially produced under the brand name Dolophine®.

Methadone can stay in your system for up to 295 hours (over 12 days) or even longer, depending on the extent of your methadone use, your metabolism, and other factors. As a long-acting opioid, methadone has a long half-life that may range from 8 to 59 hours, and it usually takes around five half-lives for the body to fully eliminate the drug.

When used for medical purposes and obtained by prescription, methadone is not an illicit drug. However, it can be considered illicit if used without a prescription in a context that would be deemed illegitimate or illegal.

The correct dose of methadone is that which your doctor prescribes to you. If you’re unsure of the methadone dose you should be taking, speak to your medical care provider as soon as possible. They will determine whether or not you need the substance—and if so, how much you should be taking to achieve the desired health effect.

When taken correctly, methadone does not typically cause depression. However, opioid dependence and mental health disorders, including depression, can co-occur. Opioid use, in general, suppresses the natural production of endorphins, which are responsible for mood regulation, as a result causing issues like depression and anxiety.  

There are various opioid use disorder treatment options available in the US, including medication-assisted treatment, inpatient treatment, and intensive outpatient programs. However, not all of these treatments can help you safely and successfully recover from opioid addiction, as they fail to address the deep-rooted causes of dependence.

ANR, which stands for Accelerated Neuro-Regulation, is a revolutionary opioid dependence treatment that aims to bring your nervous system back to health and balance. It works by decreasing receptor production in the brain while allowing the body to resume proper levels of endorphin production. By tackling opioid dependence at its core, it eliminates the risk of relapse.

Reclaim your life with the revolutionary ANR treatment.

Dr. Andre Waismann

Dr. Waismann identified the biological roots of opioid dependency, Since then he has 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 to this day.

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