Methadone is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug for treating opioid use addiction (OUD), such as heroin in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Methadone is also used for chronic pain management. It is part of a comprehensive treatment plan, including behavioral health therapy and counseling, and increases the chance of recovery by 60% to 90%.  Methadone works by curbing cravings and preventing withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone helps patients achieve and sustain recovery and a meaningful and improved quality of life. It is a long-acting synthetic opioid and should only be taken under prescription. Methadone is safe and effective but can become addictive because it is an opiate and has contributed to opioid addiction, which is becoming a public health concern around the globe. This is why methadone should only be taken as directed by your healthcare provider. 

You should never take methadone more or longer than prescribed or more often. Strictly stick to your doctor’s instructions. It is also crucial for elderly patients to take it as prescribed because they are very sensitive to pain medication effects. When methadone is taken for too long, it becomes habit-forming, resulting in physical or mental dependence.

How is Methadone Abused?

Methadone comes in tablets, liquid (for injection), or oral solution. When a doctor prescribes methadone, it is usually safe for use and should be taken for a short period or as directed by the doctor. However, even when prescribed by the doctor, methadone may sometimes cause life-threatening effects. Some people also abuse methadone for its euphoric effects when in high doses.

Methadone addiction can result from the misuse of prescription opioids, such as taking methadone with a different route of administration. Those seeking treatment for heroin addiction may be prescribed methadone and eventually become dependent on it if used for long periods.

Medical health practitioners specify addiction use depending on the number of symptoms identified. This includes:

Mild: For mild substance abuse, a patient can show two to three symptoms

Moderate: For moderate substance abuse, patients show four to five symptoms

Severe: For severe abuse, patients show six or more symptoms

Once doctors can understand the severity of methadone abuse, they are in a better position to administer the best treatment. With the best care, you can improve your recovery chance.

What Are the Symptoms of Methadone Overdose?

People are more easily addicted to methadone than other opioids. Overdose symptoms include:

  • Blue-tinted lips and finger fingertips
  • Constricted pupils
  • Hypertension
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slow, shallow breathing, known as respiratory depression
  • Clammy or bluish skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe fatigue to the point of being unable to stay awake
  • Problems with vision
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Mood changes
  • Stupor
  • Confusion and hallucinations
  • Coma
  • Death

Methadone abuse signs include:

  • Lack of concentration or focus
  • Inability to stop using the substance
  • Using multiple doctors or pharmacies
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Using more of the drug than intended
  • Cravings for the drug and excessive focus on drug-seeking activities
  • Sleepiness and restlessness
  • Problems in personal relationships related to substance use
  • Neglect of responsibilities
  • Engaging in dangerous activities while high
  • Continuing to use the drug even in light of health and personal consequences

When methadone is mixed with other drugs (prescription or illegal), it can result in severe heart problems such as heart attacks and arrhythmia. People who abuse methadone for recreational purposes are at a greater risk of developing methadone addiction and overdose risk.

Treatment for Methadone Addiction

Methadone treatments requires comprehensive therapy and medical detox. To withdraw from methadone, medical detox is required. This is because methadone is an opioid.

 Your doctor may gradually wean you off the drug or switch to a different medication, such as buprenorphine. Other medications that may be used to treat methadone addiction are L-alpha-acetylmethadol (LAAM)  and psychiatric medications.