What is Methadone? - Rehab Guide
Opioid epidemic and drug abuse concept with closeup on a heroin syringe or other narcotics surrounded by scattered prescription opioids. Oxycodone is the generic name for a range of opioid painkillers

What is Methadone?

What Is Methadone?

In 2019, the UK began going through a crisis as five people died each day from opioid overdoses. Because of this, UK regulators decided to strengthen opioid addiction and dependence warnings on information labels. Even with the added caution, people continue to get addicted to opioids and overdose.

Methadone can get used to help those struggling with opiate addiction.

What is methadone and where did it come from? Methadone is an opioid drug created during the Second World War by German doctors. It came to the United States shortly after to help those experiencing a lot of pain.

What Is Methadone Used for?

Doctors may prescribe someone methadone if they are addicted to heroin or narcotic painkillers. You may also get prescribed methadone for opiate withdrawal.

Compared to other narcotics, methadone is safer to use. However, doctors like to keep an eye on those taking it because of the risk of abuse or addiction.

Methadone may also get used as a pain killer if you had surgery, sustained an injury, or have a long-term illness. A doctor prescribes if you need it for pain. If you are using it for an addiction, you will most likely get it from a treatment program.

The prescription providers will give you a dose that works best for your condition. This drug comes in liquid, tablet, and powder forms. Without a prescription, you cannot legally obtain methadone.

A medical provider may change the dose during your treatment. You should continue taking your medication until your doctor says not to anymore.

It is essential to follow the dosage amount exactly to avoid addiction issues. Those using it to treat an addiction problem they already have may have to take methadone for a year to help with recovery. Once you are ready to stop taking it, a medical professional will help you quit slowly to prevent withdrawal.

Those who take methadone without a prescription are doing so illegally. This is generally done by injection. Not only can this cause addiction and abuse problems, but it can also expose someone to diseases like hepatitis C and HIV.

How Does Methadone Affect the Body?

It is important to know how this drug can affect the body. This type of opioid can change the way your nervous system and brain respond to pain. This is what causes you to feel relief.

Doctors who prescribe methadone for addiction do so knowing it isn’t a cure. It is used as a step in the treatment plan to relieve withdrawal symptoms.

Does methadone block opiates? Using the medication to block highs from other drugs is known as replacement therapy. It can block opiates like codeine, hydrocodone, heroin, morphine, and oxycodone.

How long does methadone block opiates? Depending on the individual, methadone can relieve opiate highs for four to eight hours, but how long does methadone stay in your system? This drug can last in the system for almost three days.

Short-Term Side Effects

There are short-term and long-term side effects of taking methadone. Short-term use of the drug can cause the following symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slowed breathing
  • Sweating
  • Itchy body
  • Constipation
  • Sexual issues
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Changes to sleep
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the stomach
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in mood
  • Problems with vision

Even short-term use can cause more serious side effects. Having these side effects should be responded to with medical attention. These side effects include:

  • Breathing trouble
  • Lightheadedness/fainting
  • Rash or hives
  • Swollen face, lips, throat, or tongue
  • Rapid heartbeat or pain in the chest
  • Confusion or hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Swallowing troubles
  • Severe fatigue
  • Odd menstrual periods

What Are the Long-Term Side Effects of Methadone?

Along with experiencing the short-term effects, you are more likely to have an addiction problem with long-term use. This is a big issue as an addiction problem could easily lead to an overdose or long-term diseases.

Methadone Overdose

Because methadone can remain in the system even after the effects wear off, it is easy for people to overdose. Those taking the drug for pain relief or to feel a high may take a second dose before the first one is out of their body. An overdose can lead to a coma or death.

The most common symptoms of overdose include:

  • Breathing problems/slowed breathing
  • Sleepiness
  • Weakening muscles
  • Clammy and cold skin
  • Pupil size changes
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Inability to wake up or respond coherently

If your body gets used to taking methadone, you may need to take more to feel the same wanted effects. This tolerance level can happen with any type of opioid.

Depending on the tolerance level of someone, the lethal dose of methadone varies. It is essential to take the dosage that was prescribed by a medical professional to avoid overdosing. Even those who are prescribed the drug can have an accidental overdose.

Someone who has overdosed needs emergency help right away. A drug called Narcan can reverse a methadone overdose if caught early enough.

Methadone High

Methadone has limited euphoric effects and instead reduces attention span and reaction time. Those who get high from methadone do so with abnormally high amounts. This means to get high, you would do so by taking more than the prescribed amount.

Those who try to get high will inject or snort it. This causes a quicker feeling, but it is dangerous since the drug is released into the body over time. The toxicity of methadone can last because it builds up in the tissues.

Other Methadone Risks

Combining methadone with other drugs can cause major risks including overdose and death. Someone taking methadone should not combine the drug with alcohol, antidepressants, or other narcotic pain relievers. It is also essential to tell your doctor if you are on medications for mental illness, muscle relaxants, or any kind of sleeping pills.

Your medical provider should also be aware of any medications you are taking or any problems you have. Those with heart disease, heart rhythm disorder, and lung disease should not take methadone. Others who should not take this drug because it increases negative risks include those with:

  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Head injury, seizures, or brain tumour history
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Urination problems
  • Thyroid, gallbladder, or pancreas issues

Because of the changes this drug makes to your brain, you can become dependant on methadone. Your brain and body will begin to rely on the pain relief the drug brings.

Storing and Disposing of Methadone

Methadone should be kept in the same container it came in from a medical provider. Keep the container tightly sealed at room temperature. Keep it away from moisture, heat, and out of reach from children.

Expired medication should not get taken by anyone. Programs may offer a safe place to take back the medication that has expired. .

Can Pregnant Women Take Methadone?

Pregnant women who have a pain killer or heroin addiction should get help right away to keep themselves and the baby safe. Pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding can take methadone. However, it can cross the placenta or go into breast milk.

This is a consideration a doctor will keep in mind when deciding what treatment program is right for you.

Women who take methadone to avoid other addiction issues during pregnancy may have babies that go into withdrawal. These babies tend to have fewer health problems than those who were born from mothers that used other opioids like heroin.

If you are breastfeeding and notice unusual sleepiness, breathing problems, or weakness in your infant, call the doctor immediately. A medical professional can also help you avoid withdrawal by your infant when you want to wean the baby off of breast milk.

The Pros and Cons Explained

One benefit of methadone is that it can help those with opiate addiction. However, this treatment is only effective if the correct dosage prescribed by a doctor is taken. The biggest con is that it can cause addiction problems for those who abuse the drug.

It is illegal to take methadone without a prescription. Those taking methadone for addiction problems should be monitored by their doctor to safely wean off the drug.

If you or someone you know has an addiction problem and believe methadone can help the recovery process, contact Rehab Guide today.

Author 'John


Trained in addictionology in the Johnson Model, and specializing in substance abuse for individual and couple counselling. John's personal experience has given him a wealth of insights, which he integrates into practice. His extensive training has allowed him to gain expertise in individual and group counselling, concurrent disorders, case management, executing treatment plans and relapse prevention. He started this free helpline as a result of a life change and to help others get sober and live a life free from drugs and alcohol. John covers a variety of topics relating to addiction and recovery in his articles.


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