Methadone is among the oldest medications that has been applied in the management of opioid abuse and addiction. It is quite effective in dealing with opioid use disorders especially when used in combination with therapy and counseling.
However, you also need to understand that this drug can also lead to the development of a substance use disorder that will require inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment. Read on to find out more:
Methadone is classified as a synthetic opioid medication. Doctors often prescribe it for the management of moderate to severe pain symptoms. However, addiction treatment professionals also use it to treat opioid addictions - particularly those involving heroin addiction.
As a long acting pain relief medication, it is quite effective in helping people overcome their opioid use disorders involving heroin and other prescription opioid pain relief medications.
If you take this drug exactly as your doctor prescribed, it can be useful in helping you manage pain as well as treatment your opioid addiction. However, since it is also an opioid drug, it can also lead to addiction.
Since it is used in the context of addiction treatment, medical professionals will often prescribe Methadone carefully as well as closely supervise its use. This is because it can cause you to replace your current addiction with a new one involving this drug.
That said, Methadone is relatively more affordable than most other prescription pain relief medications. It is for this reason that doctors have been prescribing it as a long acting pain relief drug for the management of chronic pain. Unfortunately, this also means that many people are being exposed to the drug.
The medication works by binding on the same opioid receptors in the brain that other opioids like OxyContin and heroin bind to. However, it will remain in your body for a relatively longer time period - between 1 and 3 days. As a result, it can block the euphoric effects that you may experiencing as a result of abusing other opiates. It can also lessen the painful withdrawal symptoms that arise when you stop taking these drugs.
Methadone is also long acting. This means that it can ease any other symptoms that you may be experiencing. However, it also builds up in the body relatively quickly and can remain lodged in your bloodstream for long.
For this reason, you need to use it exactly as your doctor prescribed. You should also not adjust your own dose unless you have a doctor's express instructions and oversights to reduce your risk of overdose.
The DEA - the Drug Enforcement Administration - classified Methadone as a schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act passed by the federal government. This means that it comes with legal uses but also a high risk of abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
Other Names for Methadone
Methadone is sold under various brand names, including:
- Methadone HCI Intensol
- Methadose Sugar-Free
However, those who sell, buy, and abuse the drug refer to it by various street names to avoid detection by law enforcement officials and other authorities. Examples of these street names include:
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Jungle Juice
Signs and Symptoms of Methadone Addiction
Methadone is like any other addictive prescription medication in the sense that it can lead to the development of a substance use disorder. When you start abusing this drug, you may start displaying the following signs and symptoms of drug addiction:
- Breathing problems
- Changes in behavior
- Constricted pupils
- Decrease in cognitive function
- Difficulty learning new things
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
- Feelings of euphoria
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Increasing the amount of the drug that you have been taking on your own
- Intense mood swings
- Loss of appetite
- Memory loss
- Missed menstrual periods
- Pain relief
- Problems falling asleep or staying asleep
- Problems urinating
- Severe lung issues
- Sexual problems
- Slowed breathing
- Slower reflexes
- Sore tongue
- Trouble concentrating
- Vision problems
- Weak muscles
- Weight gain
The drug can also cause a wide variety of long term effects on your body and brain. For this reason, you should check into an addiction treatment and rehabilitation program as soon as you realize that you have been abusing methadone.
Short and Long-Term Effects of Methadone Abuse
Although methadone comes with positive effects when you take it exactly as your doctor recommended, there is still a risk that you could suffer some negative side effects, especially if you abuse it. Examples of these short and long term side effects of methadone use and abuse include:
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry mouth
- Feeling very drowsy
- Impaired balance
- Impaired cognition
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of energy
- Poor coordination
- Rapid heartbeat
- Swelling of the eyes and face
- Swelling of the mouth, particularly the throat and tongue
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight gain
It is also possible to overdose on methadone. This will happen if you take the drug in a high dose or in combination with other drugs, including the pain relief medications that you are addicted to.
Often, a drug overdose will occur because you have built up tolerance to the medication. As a result, you would need to take it in higher doses than you usually do before you can experience its desired effects.
You also need to realize that it is easier to suffer a methadone overdose than a drug overdose involving other opioids. When this happens, you could display some, most, or all of the following symptoms:
- Being unable to go to sleep or to stay awake
- Blue-tinted fingertips and lips
- Bluish skin
- Clammy skin
- Extreme fatigue
- Heart attack
- Respiratory depression
- Serious heart problems
- Slow and shallow breathing
A methadone overdose is considered to be a medical emergency. If you display any of the above symptoms, it is recommended that you call 911 or your local poisons control center as soon as possible.
Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms
If you take this drug exactly as your doctor recommended, it can be quite effective. However, ongoing methadone abuse could lead to tolerance, dependence (both physical and psychological), and addiction.
After you have become addicted to this medication and you suddenly stop taking it or significantly reduce the dose you were accustomed to, it could cause you to suffer some withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
The first signs of withdrawal are similar to what you would feel if you had the flu. However, some of these symptoms might peak 3 days after your dose of the drug. They can include depression, cravings for methadone, diarrhea, cramps, vomiting, severe nausea, and muscle pain and aches.
The Best Options for Methadone Addiction Treatment
Methadone is like other opioids in the sense that it might be difficult for you to stop abusing it. Although it might not always be as addictive as heroin, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms when you stop abusing this drug. This means that it would typically be difficult for you to quit methadone unless you receive medical assistance.
This assistance comes in the form of a medically supervised detox program. Checking into such a program is a requirement because it will manage your withdrawal symptoms, reduce your drug cravings, and help you overcome your physical dependence on this medication.
After the detox program has been deemed successful, you will be asked to go for further treatment either on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Inpatient drug rehab would be ideal if you are severely addicted to methadone, have another co-occurring medical or mental health disorder, and have been abusing other drugs.
Outpatient drug rehab, on the other hand, is recommended if you have already gone for inpatient treatment. However, you can also take it as a standalone treatment if you have a mild or relatively new addiction that you can manage without checking into an inpatient recovery center to help you overcome your methadone abuse and addiction.
The important thing is to ensure that you get the medical assistance that you need to ensure that you are no longer physically, psychologically, emotionally, or behaviorally dependent on methadone and its varied effects.