Methadone is an opioid historically used to treat patients in severe pain. Today, it is accepted as medication used for treating chronic pain or as part of a treatment program for addiction to heroin or narcotic pain medication. During recovery for substance use disorder, methadone is sometimes prescribed to manage withdrawal symptoms following discontinuation of other opioid drugs. It is also used for maintenance through the recovery process. When taken in this manner, the prescriptions are monitored closely by medical professionals.
Unfortunately, due to the low cost and long-acting benefits, this drug has been prescribed chronically, resulting in more exposure and a rise in methadone addictions. Furthermore, methadone has become easily accessible as a recreational drug. Although it is considered an alternative to other prescription pain killers, methadone is not without serious side effects and a high risk for addiction.
Recreational Use and Addiction
When used as a form of treatment, methadone has been successful. However, many people who are treated with this synthetic opioid have developed dependence. Even outside of a treatment program, misuse of the drug can lead to an addiction. This fast-acting drug alters the nervous system and the brain’s response to pain by lessening symptoms and blocking pleasurable effects from other opioids. Methadone builds up in the body’s system fairly quickly; therefore, if this medication is not taken in adherence to a medical professional’s guidelines, it can lead to dangerous consequences, including overdose.
Methadone is typically administered in pill or tablet form and is taken orally. Illicit uses include crushing the pills and administering them intravenously. Using the drug via injection has serious implications, including damage to the veins or transmission of diseases.
With its widespread availability, methadone has become easy to find. Often, the drug is obtained through family and friends or purchased illegally. Misuse of the drug for recreational purposes increases the risk of developing an addiction. Unfortunately, the method of selling the drug illegally has become part of the opioid epidemic in the United States.
What Are the Effects of Methadone on the Body?
Methadone lingers in the system longer than other opioid drugs and produces similar effects on the brain as you see with many other opioids. With its calming effects and sedative sensation, there is a risk of dependence. It is important to know that while it is used as part of a treatment plan for other prescription painkillers, it is not a cure for addiction, and it can be abused. Like any other opioid, the body builds up a tolerance for the drug with excessive use, requiring increased consumption to feel those same effects.
Since its purpose is to curb addiction cravings, methadone’s sedative effects are not as intense as those found in other opioid drugs. When taken in large doses, however, a high can be achieved. Addiction to methadone might be overlooked as it is viewed as an aid to helping with an addiction rather than an addictive drug itself.
When Is the Use of Methadone Safe?
Methadone is only safe when it is prescribed by a medical professional and taken at his or her discretion. This medication is specifically prescribed based on the needs of the patient and can often be modified. For individuals not required to take the drug under direct medical supervision, it is important not to share or provide access to this medication to others.
When combined with other medications, methadone can cause adverse medical conditions, including cardiac issues. While it may seem that the drug has worn off, the substance remains in the body long after it has been taken. If this medication is prescribed by a medical professional, it is important to disclose existing medical conditions and medications currently being taken.
What Is Methadone Abuse?
Methadone is used as a treatment for withdrawal symptoms associated with other drugs. However, symptoms of abuse often mimic symptoms related to other opiates. When used to curb the urge for other prescription drugs, this drug is highly regulated. Those who are taking the drug to treat an addiction to opioids are at a higher risk of developing an addiction based on their histories of dependency. Methadone is being abused if it is used at a larger dose than what was prescribed by a physician or if it is taken without a prescription.
While the effects of methadone are less intense in comparison to other drugs such as heroin, the drug does produce sedative feelings that can be euphoric. In many cases, methadone is consumed in large doses to reach that high. When taken in high doses as a result of built-up tolerance, physical changes can be serious enough to affect an individual’s ability to achieve day-to-day tasks without difficulty. As with any addiction, methadone abuse can also affect one’s social life, occupation, and financial responsibilities. It is not uncommon for an individual with a methadone addiction to lose interest in these aspects of life as the drug dominates his or her focus.
Side Effects of Methadone Abuse
The use of methadone outside of medical supervision or direction typically results in substance abuse. There are many negative effects that come with methadone addiction. The most obvious is the lack of grooming as users subject themselves to poor hygiene, poor diet, and bad habits. Even more serious, blood-borne diseases can be contracted if the drug is being injected with shared needles.
Especially true with chronic use and drugs used in combination, methadone abuse can lead to detrimental health issues. The impact can have a direct effect on internal organs, including the cardiovascular, integumentary, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems.
Short-term effects include:
- Feelings of sedation or euphoria
- Pain relief
- Physical changes and psychological distress
- Overdose and fatality
Long-term effects include:
- Chronic health issues
- Changes to the brain as it pertains to the reward system, cognitive ability, and memory
- Risky behaviors and bad habits
- Physical dependency
Common side effects and symptoms of methadone abuse include the following:
- Vision problems
- Profuse sweating
- Sexual dysfunction
- Dry mouth
- Appetite changes
Serious side effects and symptoms of methadone are:
- Feelings of lightheadedness
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Confusion or hallucinations
- Swelling of the face, throat, lips, or tongue
- Rash, itching or hives
- Trouble swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
Serious side effects can warrant a medical emergency. A medical professional or emergency services should be contacted immediately if any of these side effects occur.
Can Methadone Abuse Cause an Overdose?
Unfortunately, overdose from methadone is not uncommon. The rise in overdose cases has been linked to use for pain management rather than for treating other opioid abuse. Methadone lingers in the system long after the drug has been consumed. People may assume that the drug has exited their systems when symptoms are no longer present, but this is not true. Here are a few examples on how use of methadone can lead to an overdose:
- Methadone does not provide the same euphoric intensity that people may find in other drugs. However, it is inexpensive, and those addicted to other drugs may unintentionally overdose by aiming to achieve the same high with larger quantities.
- When used with other pain medications such as hydrocodone or Oxycontin, methadone can result in an overdose.
- As with any substance addiction, a developed tolerance can lead to greater quantities or increased frequency, which can be fatal.
How to Recognize a Methadone Addiction
With the right treatment program, recovery from methadone addiction is possible. It is important to be able to recognize the warning signs. On the surface, an addiction to methadone can make an individual appear depressed or distressed. Changes in behavior are among the first telltale signs. Here are a few other signs you may notice:
- An addiction may be present if the individual chooses to get high over responsibilities and relationships.
- A chronic methadone user may develop undesired withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing the drug, including anxiety, fatigue, irritability, sweating, insomnia, and depression.
- When the user develops an increased tolerance to the drug and he or she requires higher doses to achieve an effect, this is typically an indicator that he or she may be addicted to methadone.
Can You Recover from a Methadone Addiction?
As with any other opioid, methadone addiction can be challenging to overcome. Although it is not as intense as other opioids, seeking professional treatment is still necessary because withdrawal symptoms from methadone can occur. Thankfully, there are treatment centers like Granite Recovery Center that are dedicated to providing you with the best treatment plan to overcome your addiction.
Treatment for Methadone
It is important to be aware of methadone addiction treatment options. While this drug is often used as a replacement during an opioid treatment plan, methadone is classified as an opioid itself and has the potential to be highly addictive. With a treatment program such as ours, a comprehensive, personalized treatment plan is composed to meet the individual needs of our clients and to protect their health and well-being.
The first step typically involves a medically monitored detoxification process. Cessation can result in serious withdrawal symptoms. There are certain criteria used to determine a client’s eligibility to undergo a medical detox, including the substance type, the amount used, the time since the last use, any co-occurring disorders, and the use of other medications.
Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehabilitation
Determining inpatient versus outpatient treatment is a crucial decision in the process. With inpatient drug rehabilitation, 24-hour care is provided to the clients, and they are able to participate in programs such as the 12-step approach, group and individual therapy, clinical psychotherapy, and holistic therapy. The inpatient program provides a supervised and structured environment that is incorporated with a plan conducive to the recovery for each individual.
With our outpatient drug rehabilitation program, the clients live at home or at an outside care facility. This typically works best when they are living in environments that support their recoveries, such as with sober families. There are several factors that are involved in determining whether outpatient care is a reasonable option. The same features listed above are available on an outpatient basis.
An important part of recovery is ensuring the well-being of the individual’s mental and physical status. The individualized approach helps to address these areas appropriately. Each goal is set to meet the needs of each client and to allow him or her to become a productive member of society. Each treatment plan will address specific challenges, such as helping individuals recognize their triggers and develop healthy coping strategies.
Granite Recovery Center
At Granite Recover Center, we have a long-standing history of transforming the lives of adults with substance dependence, including methadone addiction. Our treatment program aims to provide a unique combination of clinical psychotherapies and an extensive 12-step program. We are dedicated to transforming the lives of our clients by setting high standards.
We understand that treating an addiction requires compassion and patience. Our specialists truly care about the challenges that each of our clients faces with his or her substance abuse disorder. We take pride in providing quality addiction treatment services. If your or someone you love requires assistance with a methadone addiction or another substance use disorder, please give us a call today to start the journey to recovery.