Methadone Addiction
clock_iconSeptember 27, 2020 clock_icon6 min read

Many people receive methadone to treat pain, this synthetic opioid is also utilized to help treat addictions to heroin and other opiates. However, it may sound weird, but while methadone is used as an addiction combatant in many cases, there is also a big chance to develop methadone addiction as well. 

What Is Methadone?

Methadone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) as a medication-assisted treatment (MAT), as well as for pain management. In case it is taken as a doctors’ prescription, methadone is safe and effective. Methadone helps individuals achieve and sustain recovery and to reclaim active and meaningful lives.
Methadone is one component of a comprehensive treatment plan, which includes counseling and other behavioral health therapies to provide patients with a whole-person approach.
Methadone, a long-acting opioid agonist, reduces opioid craving and withdrawal and blunts or blocks the effects of opioids.
Methadone, taken daily, is available in liquid, powder, and diskettes forms.
Methadone acts on the same opioid receptors as morphine and heroin to stabilize patients and minimize withdrawal symptoms in the case of an addiction.

Methadone is a federally designated Schedule II drug, meaning it has a legitimate legal use but also a high likelihood of its users developing a dependence. This also means that it is illegal to use methadone to get high, and abuse can lead to severe mental impairment and physical dependence.

How does Methadone Work on the Brain?

Methadone works on the brain by binding to the same receptors as other opioid drugs like heroin or OxyContin. Since methadone remains in the body for a long period of time – typically 1-3 days – it helps to block the euphoric effects of other opiate drug abuse and lessen painful symptoms of withdrawal from these drugs.

Because methadone is such a long-acting drug, designed to ease symptoms in people addicted to heroin for 1-2 days, it can build up quickly in the body and remain in the bloodstream for a long time. It is important for individuals with methadone prescriptions to use this medication exactly as prescribed, and do not adjust their own dose without a doctor’s advice and oversight. It is easy to overdose on methadone due to the strength of one dose.


What is Methadone Used For?

Since the 1970s in the US, methadone clinics and methadone maintenance have been promoted as ways for people who struggle with heroin addiction to avoid the worst withdrawal symptoms while preventing relapse. Today, methadone is still used under close medical supervision to help people suffering from opioid addiction to ease through the withdrawal process.

what is methadone used for

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2009, methadone contributed to one in three prescription painkiller deaths. As stated above, doctors sometimes prescribe this long-acting drug to treat chronic pain from multiple sclerosis, cancer, or injuries. Legitimate use via a prescription can turn into abuse as tolerance develops. Once abuse starts, addiction can quickly take hold.

Methadone’s Side Effects

Methadone’s side effects are similar to those associated with other opioid drugs. These include:

  • Constipation
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Impaired cognition or confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Impaired balance or coordination

It is much easier to overdose on methadone than other opioid drugs. Symptoms of overdose include:

  • Slow, shallow breathing, known as respiratory depression
  • Clammy or bluish skin
  • Blue-tinted lips and fingertips
  • Extreme fatigue to the point of being unable to stay awake
  • Stupor
  • Convulsions
  • Vomiting
  • Coma
  • Death

Mixing methadone with other drugs, whether prescription or illegal drugs, can lead to serious heart problems as well. These heart problems range from arrhythmia to heart attack.

Methadone Addiction Treatment

Whether the person started abusing methadone recreationally or began using the medication as part of an opioid addiction treatment regime, treatment for methadone addiction requires both medical detox and comprehensive therapy.

Since methadone is an opioid, medical detox is always required to withdraw from the drug. In some instances, individuals will be gradually tapered off methadone, whereas individuals may be switched to another medication, such as buprenorphine, in other instances. Medications that may be used during treatment include:


A semisynthetic narcotics, buprenorphine was the first medication approved by the FDA to treat opioid addictions with more flexibility. Whereas methadone is highly regulated and patients must visit clinics for their daily doses, buprenorphine can be prescribed for take-home dosages. This prescription drug does have some similarities to methadone and other opioid drugs, meaning there is some potential for abuse or addiction, but it is viewed to have less abuse potential than methadone.

L-alpha-acetylmethadol (LAAM)

This medication is a Schedule II substance that is often used in opioid addiction treatment. Like buprenorphine, LAAM is an alternative to methadone therapy. It can therefore be helpful for individuals who are struggling with methadone addiction. There are a number of side effects associated with this medication, especially when used on a long-term basis, including rash, nausea, increased blood pressure, and abnormal liver function.

Psychiatric medications

There are many psychological and emotional effects associated with withdrawal and recovery. Medications to treat depression or anxiety can be used with careful oversight to treat these effects. These are typically administered with a psychiatrist’s prescription in addition to individual and/or group therapy treatment.

Side effects of Methadone

Withdrawal of Methadone

Since methadone was originally designed for use in treating heroin addiction, and it is used in treating all kinds of opioid addictions, its symptoms of withdrawal are less severe and do not set in as quickly as with other opiates. This is because methadone stays in the body in some form for 1-3 three days. Though less severe, withdrawal symptoms from methadone are similar to withdrawal symptoms from other opioid drugs. They include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Fever or chills
  • Sweating
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Tachycardia

Overcoming Your Methadone Addiction

Methadone, like any other opioid, can be very challenging to quit. Even though it’s not known for being as powerfully addictive as heroin, quitting methadone can lead to withdrawal symptoms that can be hard to overcome on your own. Fortunately, West Valley Detox is ready to help you, here at our luxury clinic, you can get help with withdrawal and overcome addiction once and for all. If you or someone you know has an addiction to methadone or any other substance, contact us or call 818-873-4596 for more information.

West Valley Detox Treatment, Rehabilitation, Tarzana, CA
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