What Is Methadone?

Methadone is an opioid agonist comes in a variety of forms such as liquid, tablet or sublingual. Unlike other opioids, methadone treats pain while blocking a portion of psychoactive symptoms present in other opioids like pleasure or euphoria. Methadone is also long lasting. Once taken, the effects of methadone can last for two days, making it a useful tool in opioid detox treatment.

Methadone and Drug Abuse
Methadone as an opioid, carries a lower risk of abuse and can decrease a person’s risk of abusing other drugs. Once in a person’s system, methadone blocks the pleasurable effects of other opioids discouraging use their use.

Prescriptions are usually filled on-site or at a local methadone clinic. This way dosages are strictly controlled by medical professionals and those in recovery are less temped to abuse it.

Despite its widespread use in addiction treatment, methadone abuse and dependency can still occur especially in situations where methadone is less controlled. This can happen when individuals granted take home prescriptions misuse them. In other cases, these prescriptions– also called methadone “carries” make up the majority of methadone sold on the street.

“Emergency department and mortality data provided by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) and reporting from law enforcement agencies indicate that methadone abuse is increasing.”

Symptoms of methadone use include:

  • Mild euphoria
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Exhaustion of fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Stomach aches
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Disruption of sleep
  • Appetite loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

Long term and severe side effects include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Vein collapse (due to injecting methadone)
  • Seizures
  • Increased heartrate
  • Chest pressure

Methadone Facts and Statistics

  • A study found that methadone was involved in a third of all prescription opioid deaths in 2009.
  • Methadone has the longest history of use in medication assisted treatment (MATS) than any other opioid.
  • Methadone is a long-lasting medicine and cans stay in the body up 56 hours.
  • In 2012, nearly 2.5 million individuals reported abusing methadone at some point.

Methadone and Other Substances

Using methadone alongside certain substances can be dangerous. Common substances to avoid include:

  • Alcohol
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Muscle relaxers
  • SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)

Understanding Methadone Dependence

Methadone is an important substance for those experiencing severe opioid withdrawals, but it also carries its own risk of dependency. A person that is dependent on methadone needs the drug to function normally. Otherwise, they can feel sick and extremely uncomfortable.

Methadone has a similar chemical structure to other opioids and thus affects the brain and body in similar ways. A person may find themselves dependent on methadone either from abusing it or as a consequence of medication-assisted treatment (also called MAT therapy).

What is Methadone Addiction?

When a person who abuses methadone becomes addicted, they begin to crave more and more of the drug. Eventually self-control becomes severely limited, and the individual becomes unable to stop using the substance–even when the consequences of doing so far outweigh the benefits.

Recently, there has been breakthrough research in how addiction alters the brain. When people with substance use disorder (SUD) have their brains scanned, for example, changes in areas that are linked to motivation, reward and self-control can be observed.

“Numerous MRI studies have documented that addictive drugs cause volume and tissue composition changes in this region and that these changes are likely associated with abusers’ cognitive and decision making problems.”


Methadone Withdrawal

When a person stops taking methadone, withdrawal symptoms can emerge within 24-36 hours while the analgesic properties of methadone fade within 8 hours.

Methadone withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Increased Heartbeat
  • Stomach Cramping
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle Pain
  • Strong Cravings

Getting Help for Methadone Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with methadone abuse, you do not have to struggle alone. There are a variety of addiction resources: from medical detox for methadone users to inpatient and outpatient rehab programs. So don’t wait, get the help you need today.

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