Methadone Uses, Abuses and Risks

At Laguna Shores Recovery our staff knows the importance of educating yourself about opioids and opiates. Especially in regards to prescription medications and the risks involved in taking them. At our Mission Viejo treatment center, we provide a methadone rehab program for our patients. While in our care, they will learn about methadone and how it can affect them both positively and negatively.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a man-made opioid narcotic drug. It is used to help people withdraw from other opioids or opiates. People with substance use disorders to heroin or other narcotics are good candidates for methadone treatment.

This type of drug is a powerful painkilling medication, but it’s considered safe to take for long periods of time. However, it can produce side effects.

It  takes away opiate cravings when a person is given regular, controlled doses. These doses are provided by medical professionals. Methadone clinics are known to provide these services.

By the Numbers

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), from 2002 to 2006:1

From 2006 to 2013

From 2006 to 2009

From 2009 to 2013

In 2009, methadone made up just 2% of opioid prescriptions in our nation, but it was involved in 30% of overdose deaths.

A Brief History

In the early 1960s, Dr. Vincent P. Dole began researching the effects of addiction.2 Dole read Dr. Marie E. Nyswander’s book, which stated that people with opioid addiction needed some type of opioids to function during recovery. Nyswander backed up this claim by citing the high relapse rates in opioid addiction. High numbers of people could not stay sober even after detoxification, rehab, and therapy.

The researchers studied drugs that could help people with opioid addiction. They wanted a drug that could reduce anxiety, relieve withdrawal symptoms, and boost social functioning.

Through trial and error, methadone was found to be the best choice. It was chosen because it did not cause euphoria and also did not have tranquilizing effects. These effects meant people taking the drug could work and socialize normally.

What Other Names Does It Go By?

Methadone is a brand name. Its chemical name is methadone hydrochloride. Other brand names include:

  • Dolophine
  • Westadone
  • Methadose
  • Diskets

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), street names include:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Amidone
  • Fizzies
  • Pastora
  • Maria
  • Street Methadone
  • Salvia
  • Water

How Is It Used and Abused?


This drug is a powerful painkiller, so it is used to treat people with severe pain. It’s limited use for those who need constant drugs for long periods of time who can’t take other painkillers.

It is also used to treat opioid and opiate addiction. It helps stop withdrawal symptoms from occurring and also helps prevent relapse. It works by producing similar effects that opiate drugs do.

Methadone is also used during detox to prevent withdrawal symptoms. The drug is used to safely and slowly wean the person off other opioids or opiates.

Research shows that:

  • Helps decrease the intake of illicit drugs
  • Helps reduce crime
  • Decreases the number of people who become HIV-positive
  • Improves social functioning


The drug can be fatal when not taken as prescribed. Some of these deaths are due to illegal methadone that is diverted from clinics, hospitals or doctors. Other deaths are from misusing prescriptions. It can be especially deadly when it is mixed with other legal or prescribed drugs as well as alcohol.

Health Risks

This type of opiate can have short- and long-term effects on health. Short-term health effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Contracted pupils
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Slowed breathing
  • Severe sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Itchy skin
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Pregnancy complications when the dosage is reduced during pregnancy
  • Lung and respiratory problems
  • Addiction
  • Tolerance
  • Dependence
  • Withdrawal

Withdrawal and Overdose


The purpose of the drug is to prevent addiction and dependence along with their related withdrawal symptoms. However, it is still possible to become addicted.

The potential for addiction is high. But under the supervision of a doctor, the potential for addiction decreases. Since it is taken frequently, there is also a risk of tolerance. Tolerance may not be an issue if the drug is prescribed correctly.

Withdrawal symptoms can also happen from methadone use. Psychological and physical dependence can develop from use over time.

The benefits that offset these possibilities is that although the person still has an opioid dependency, they do not have the uncontrollable compulsions and disruptive behaviors that go along with illicit opiate addiction.


Overdose signs include:

  • Decreased breathing
  • Sleepiness that then progresses to stupor or coma
  • Highly constricted pupils
  • Limp body

Other overdose signs can sometimes include:

  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure

Severe overdose signs can include:

  • Breathing stops
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death

Misconceptions About Methadone

Myth: Methadone Damages Your Body

Fact: If it isn’t abuse, long-term use of the drug causes no adverse effects to any part of the body.

Myth: A Lower Dose of Methadone is Better

Fact: Lower doses are not better if the dose doesn’t reduce cravings for other opioids.

Research Study

One research study from Xi’an China followed patients from five clinics. The study looked at a number of things, one of which was common misconceptions and found that:5
More than 92% thought it was drug rehabilitation therapy. In fact, methadone programs are medication-assisted treatment that is just one part of drug rehab. 92%
More than 64% thought addiction could be totally cured after only several months of use. In fact, methadone is usually needed on a long-term basis of possibly years or a lifetime. 64%
Almost 78% believed lifelong use was not needed. In fact, some people need lifelong methadone to stay sober. 78%
Almost 84% believed that the methadone dosage had to be gradually reduced to lessen its harmful effects, but that is not the case. 84%

Methadone Rehab: Finding the Right Help

If you or a loved one is dealing with opiate or opioid abuse issues, it’s important to seek help right away. Talk with your doctor or contact a reputable treatment center.

Medication-assisted treatment is only one part of a comprehensive treatment plan that can help you get and stay sober. Individual and group counseling, alternative therapies, 12-step programs, and relapse prevention treatment can also help.

Take the first step today on the recovery journey. You or a loved one deserve a life free from the suffering addiction causes.

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