Methadone is a medication that is a known as an opiate or an opioid. It is chemically similar to other opiate/opioid drugs such as codeine, morphine, opium, fentanyl, and heroin. It is sometimes prescribed to help relieve severe pain. It comes either in a tablet or liquid form that can be obtained through a doctor’s prescription.
This medication is commonly used to treat addiction to other opiates/opioids. It works by blocking and activating receptors in the body and thus relieving uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms for people who have stopped taking opiates/opioids. Despite its benefits, methadone is categorized as a schedule II drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This means methadone has medical uses but users can become dependent on it.
Even though methadone is used to curb symptoms of opiate addiction, using it may still lead to addiction. This is why doctors carefully prescribe and monitor it, especially if it is prescribed to people with a previous history of addiction to controlled drugs.
What Is Methadone?
Methadone is not a new drug. People have been using and misusing methadone for years. German scientists developed the drug in the 1930s and it arrived in the United States after World War II. This drug is a synthetic form of an opioid. It may be administered orally or intravenously (taken by the mouth or as an injection).
Some brand names for methadone include Methadose and Dolophine. Street nicknames for methadone include street methadone, amidone, water, fizzies, salvia, Maria, pastora, and chocolate chip cookies.
Doctors prescribe methadone to block receptors that produce euphoria (a feeling of being high). This blocking helps it curb addiction to similar opiates/opioids. It is also why it is sometimes used as an analgesic (painreliever).
It may take hours for users to fully feel methadone’s effects. The drug may remain in the body for some time, so taking multiple doses of it in a short amount of time may be particularly dangerous. As with other opiates/opioids, people may become dependent on methadone in order to function. They may use more and more methadone because they have become tolerant to its effects.
What Does Methadone Do?
Doctors prescribe methadone to curb the symptoms of withdrawal and addiction to other opiates. They also prescribe it to relieve pain.
People also prescribe methadone to individuals with chronic and moderate to severe pain. Methadone works by blocking pain signals and altering how the brain reacts to pain. It may be very helpful to those with debilitating and painful diseases, as it may relieve their pain and help them rest, allowing them to be productive. Users may also be dependent on methadone’s effects if they do not take it properly.
Methadone is commonly used by people undergoing detoxification (detox) and experiencing withdrawal. Doctors prescribe the drug to help relieve withdrawal symptoms. With the help of this medication, the treatment process may be faster and more tolerable for recovering individuals.
Although methadone has positive effects and may lessen the symptoms of withdrawal, it is still important for users to take it as prescribed. Like other opiates, methadone misuse may also lead to addiction if not properly monitored.
The drug helps prevent the feeling of being high and setbacks that users experience with other drugs. Methadone is used for withdrawal from addictive drugs such as:
Side Effects of Methadone Use
Side effects of methadone misuse may be detrimental to a person’s health and well-being.
Signs of methadone use and addiction may be easy to spot. Individuals misusing methadone may have increased tolerance for taking the drug. They may take increasingly large doses in order to feel its effects.
Taking methadone and other medications may create potential side effects. Some of these are mild and manageable, while others may be life-threatening if not managed. Some possible side effects include:
Effects of Methadone Abuse
- Loss of appetite
- Anxiety, nervousness, restlessness
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decreased libido, impotence, problems achieving orgasm
- Sleep problems
Some serious side effects are:
- Shallow breathing, breathing difficulties
- Dizziness, light headedness, fainting
- Fast heartbeat and palpitations
- Chest pain
The effects of methadone may depend on the weight, age, and overall mental and physical health of a person. Its effects are not the same for everybody. Methadone may also cause drug interactions with sedatives and other opiates. This is why it is important to inform your doctor of any drugs or substances you are using before you begin using methadone.
According to some reports, the long-term use of methadone could create harmful effects. This is even true if users follow a physician-monitored treatment plan.
At first, people taking this medication as prescribed may still function normally. But they might develop tolerance. This tolerance might prompt users to increase their doses without doctors’ prescriptions. This is dangerous and may drive them to abuse the drug. Some signs that people are abusing methadone may include:
- Interest in obtaining more of the drug, even without prescriptions
- Increased dosage without doctors’ recommendations and prescriptions
- Diminished interest in hobbies and relationships
- Difficulties at work or school
- Financial problems
Abuse of this drug is preventable. Health care providers may educate people about the effects of methadone and assess patients for risk of addiction. If people have histories of drug addiction, health care providers may replace methadone with alternative medications. If medical providers do prescribe methadone, they should provide monitoring to avoid abuse and addiction.
Since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has designated methadone as a schedule II medication, it has a potential for abuse and addiction. Although it may provide beneficial effects to people undergoing rehab and manage their withdrawal symptoms, medical professionals should prescribe and monitor methadone properly. This may help prevent addiction, as individuals using methadone might have a greater risk of abuse because of their addiction histories.
If people use methadone as a means of treating other forms of addiction, they may not notice the effects of methadone immediately. Some symptoms that may indicate whether users are abusing the drug include:
- Slowed breathing
- Excessive sweating
- Slowed breathing
- Constricted pupils