Methadone is an opioid drug that, ironically, can be used to treat an opioid addiction. While some treatment centers still use methadone, the addiction treatment community has found that there are safer, more effective treatment methods that can be used to treat opioid addiction.

The River Source typically does not use methadone because of its addictive properties. That said, since some treatment centers still practice the safe and effective use of methadone, we understand that there is some confusion about the drug and what it means for the brain and body. We would like to address some of the most common questions we hear from patients and their families on this page.

What is Methadone and What is it Used For?

Methadone is a long-acting synthetic narcotic analgesic. It may be used as a pain reliever in a hospital or hospice setting. When used by a doctor, methadone is usually safe and effective. It is given in carefully measured doses, and the patient is monitored around the clock.

Methadone can also be used to treat an opioid addiction. In the 1960s, two New York physicians found that if a person took methadone every day, it eliminated physical withdrawal symptoms and nixed the cravings for opioids. Also, if the person were to take an opioid, the methadone would block the euphoric effect.

When someone is abusing methadone, however, they don’t have the same protection as if they were receiving the drug in a medical setting. And while methadone is not expected to give the same type of rush of euphoria as with heroin or other drugs, it can still make a person feel high when they start abusing it.

Is Methadone Dangerous?

Like prescription drugs, methadone sometimes gets a better reputation because it can be prescribed by doctors. However, methadone is a very powerful drug that can be addictive when used inappropriately. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the number of drug-poisoning deaths involving methadone increased by seven times, from 800 deaths in 1999 to over 5,500 deaths in 2007.

Methadone stays in the bloodstream for a long time, unlike other opioid painkillers. The drug can remain in the body for up to 59 hours, compared to the 4-6 for heroin. This is what makes methadone so dangerous. Users may not recognize that the drug is in their body and take more until it accumulates to toxic levels.

Once the body reaches this point, the person can die if they don’t get help. Methadone can also be deadly if it’s combined with drugs like alcohol or other opiates. In the end, methadone is just as addictive as heroin – and just as dangerous.

What are the Signs of a Methadone Addiction?

Knowing that methadone has a potential for abuse and addiction, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of a problem.

  • Doctor Shopping. A person may try to obtain multiple prescriptions from several doctors.
  • Not Following Directions. Some people may try to use the drug more frequently or in higher doses than recommended.
  • Getting the Drug from Outside Sources. Though methadone is generally taken in a clinic, it’s possible for people to get a hold of the drug on their own.
  • Showing Other Signs of Addiction. Keep an eye out for other warning signs such as neglecting responsibilities and withdrawing from friends and family.

What are the Effects of Methadone Abuse?

Methadone affects everyone differently. Some of the effects are short-term and will appear shortly after taking the drug. Others are long-term and can occur if the individual does not stop taking the drug.

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Constricted pupils
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Impaired judgement
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Respiratory problems

Overdose from methadone is a cause for concern. Mixing methadone with other drugs, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, can slow down the body’s processes and suppress breathing. If the body can’t handle these effects, overdose can occur.

What Treatment is Available?

Treatment is available for methadone abuse, and it can be extremely promising. The typical process includes detox, residential treatment and continuing care. Some treatment centers may also use Suboxone or Subutex in place of methadone, as these medications can be effective in treating opioid addiction.

If you are ready to start your journey to sobriety, The River Source has an excellent treatment program that focuses on the mind, body and spirit. With our rigorous counseling and alternative therapies, our patients can usually recover from an opioid addiction without the use of methadone.