Methadone Uses, Abuses and Risks

Methadone Uses, Abuses and Risks

Methadone Uses, Abuses and Risks

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.

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

Methadone 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

%

The distribution of methadone in the United States rose by 25% each year

%

Methadone related deaths rose by 22% each year

%

Methadone diversion rose 24% each year

From 2006 to 2013

%

The distribution of methadone in the United States declined 3.2% each year

%

Methadone related deaths decreased by 6.5% each year

From 2006 to 2009

%

Methadone diversion rose 24% each year 

From 2009 to 2013

%
Methadone diversion then declined almost 13% each year

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), methadone street names include:3

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Amidone

Fizzies

Pastora

Maria

Street Methadone

Salvia

Water

How Is It Used and Abused?

Uses

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

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

Research shows that methadone:4

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

Abuses

Methadone 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

Risks

Methadone 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

Effects on women include:

Irregular menstruation

Pregnancy complications when the dosage is reduced during pregnancy

Long-term health effects:

Lung and respiratory problems

Addiction

Tolerance

Dependence

Withdrawal

Withdrawal and Overdose

Withdrawal

Methadone is meant to prevent addiction and dependence along with their related withdrawal symptoms. However, it is still possible to become addicted.

Methadone has a high potential for addiction. 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

Methadone 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 methadone 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 methadone clinics. The study looked at a number of things, and one of the things it looked at was common methadone 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%

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, like a methadone program, 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.