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Methadone: Uses, Abuses, and Risks

Methadone is a long-acting full opioid agonist, meaning it stimulates opioid receptors in the brain, reducing cravings and blocking the effects of other opioids. This drug is a Schedule II controlled medication and is FDA-approved to treat the effects of opioid withdrawal and pain management. It is used as a medically-assisted treatment prescribed in detox for opioid withdrawal to ensure a safe recovery with limited temptations for relapse. When taken correctly, it promotes opioid recovery so that clients can continue their lives outside of addiction. 

How Methadone Is Prescribed

Methadone can only be distributed by accredited facilities for the treatment of opioid use disorder. It can be prescribed in powder, liquid, and diskette form and is taken daily under the supervision of a medical professional. Methadone treatment duration can vary depending on an individual’s specific pattern of opioid abuse and addiction. Under supervision, doses can be adjusted and readjusted to provide clients with the most effective amount. This medication is often dispensed during detox treatment programs to help counteract opioid withdrawal symptoms. 

Side Effects and Health Risks

Like most medications, methadone can cause undesirable side effects, which should be discussed with a physician prior to using it. Such side effects include:

  • Restlessness
  • Itchy skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slow breathing
  • Constipation
  • Sexual disfunction
  • Heavy sweating
  • Mood changes
  • Dry mouth

Serious side effects include:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hives, rash, or allergic reactions
  • Chest pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Increased heartbeat

When methadone is not taken as prescribed, the probability of more severe side effects significantly increases. If methadone is taken without a prescription, individuals risk significant bodily damage because it can cause harmful drug interactions and affect pre-existing conditions. 

Abuse and Addiction

Methadone has legitimate medical purposes for treating the effects of opioid withdrawal and managing pain. Since it acts similarly to opioids, people have been known to misuse and abuse it. This can be dangerous, as methadone overdose can be deadly, and continued use can cause the development of physical dependence. 

Some side effects of methadone that cause people to become addicted include:

  • Sedation
  • Euphoria
  • Decreased reaction time and attention span
  • Muscle weakness
  • Drowsiness

Risks as Medication in Detox Treatment

Individuals prescribed methadone for heroin withdrawal can be more at risk for developing a dependence on methadone due to their history of addiction. That is why the dosage is only administered and supervised by medical professionals. Methadone treatment requires a tapering-off regime. 

Overdose and Withdrawal

Increasing the dosage can be detrimental to a person’s body, as methadone is a powerful drug that can cause a dangerous — and even deadly — overdose. It is critical to recognize the signs of methadone overdose for this reason. Because methadone can slow breathing patterns, lack of oxygen is the leading cause of concern in overdose. Consequently, a lack of oxygen to vital organs like the brain can result in permanent, irreparable damage and can even be fatal.

Symptoms of a methadone overdose include:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
  • High blood pressure
  • Respiratory depression
  • Discoloration in nails and fingertips
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting

Methadone abuse can lead to the development of increased tolerance. A tolerance is present in an individual when they require more of a drug to achieve the same effects that used to be obtained by a lower dose, which is the first sign of physical dependence. Once an individual has methadone dependence, they may exhibit physical and mental symptoms of withdrawal that make it difficult to stop using. 

Symptoms of methadone withdrawal include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Watery discharge from eyes and nose
  • Muscle cramps
  • Perspiration
  • Diarrhea

These symptoms can occur within 12 and 24 hours of the last dose and can continue for 10 to 20 days. Receiving professional detox treatment for methadone withdrawal in an accredited medical facility will help clients detox safely and work toward healing their lives.

Methadone Treatment at Laguna Shores Recovery

Laguna Shores Recovery is an addiction treatment center located in Mission Viejo, California. We are dedicated to helping those in need of addiction treatment and healing from its harmful effects and any co-occurring disorders through evidence-based treatment and activities. 

In our full medical facility, our clients receive trusted, patient-centered care around the clock. Our staff addresses every complication and symptom through the early stages of recovery to ensure our clients remain adamant and confident throughout treatment. 

Laguna Shores Recovery understands the importance of the education and treatment of opioid use disorder. While in our care, our clients learn about how their methadone use affects their lives and how to heal from it. They will also learn how to repair relationships with their loved ones that may have been hindered by addiction. 

Throughout every stage in our program, our staff remains supportive and provides the encouragement our clients need. 

Those seeking treatment for methadone dependence can benefit from many of our services, such as:

Methadone has been proven to effectively treat chronic pain and manage the symptoms of opioid withdrawal; however, methadone has also been known for illicit use due to its euphoric effects. Laguna Shores Recovery recognizes the importance of medically-assisted treatment but also treats dependence on medications like methadone or benzodiazepines that are used in this form of treatment. Call us today to learn more about our facilities at (866) 229-9923.