Benefits & Risks of methadone to combat opiate addiction

Can You Become Addicted to Methadone?

Are you or a loved one thinking of trying methadone to combat a drug addiction?

If so, you may be worried about potential problems that can come with taking the medication.

Methadone, when used to combat drug use like heroin, has a 60% to 90% success rate for keeping former addicts clean in the long run. However, methadone is still an opioid and a Schedule II substance. Because of this, many people wonder, “Is methadone addictive?”

In this article, we’ll go over some of your concerns about possible methadone addiction.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid that has been used since the 1960s for controlling the addiction to heroin and other opiates.

It has been found that most addicts fare better in the long run if they take a medication that can help mitigate their desire for drugs. If you’re addicted to drugs, after a while, the craving is not only mental but also physical.

This is why methadone plays an important role in recovery.

Taking methadone can literally save people’s lives. If a heroin user relapses after going off of drugs “cold turkey,” he or she may not remember what it was like before he or she developed a tolerance. As a result, he or she might take a dose of heroin that their body no longer can tolerate.

Methadone curbs this problem, by keeping opiates in the body. Some people accidentally overdose by relapsing. But if you’re on methadone, the large dose of heroin won’t kill you.

People may also be prescribed methadone for physical ailments, most commonly as a painkiller.

How Long Does a Former Addict Take Methadone?

A former addict may take methadone for a few months, a few years or the rest of his or her life. If his or her heroin use was severe, it may become a lifetime commitment.

Although there is a severe stigma around using drugs to help drug addiction, many people find it very helpful in their recovery.

Who Can Take Methadone?

You must be prescribed methadone by your doctor in order to take it. Although people sell methadone on “the street,” it isn’t legal to do so. Taking it from your doctor is safer, as he or she knows your history and can help you find the correct dosage.

How Do You Take Methadone?

Methadone is typically distributed at a methadone clinic. You’ll take the methadone at the clinic in front of a staff member. This is because some people may abuse methadone and sell it for money.

Once you’ve proven trustworthy, you may take the methadone home and monitor your prescription yourself.

You will still have to check in with your doctor in order to monitor your progress. He or she may make regular visits a condition of fulfilling the medication.

You take methadone orally, as most of the time it comes in pill form.

Is Methadone Addictive?

As methadone is an opiate, unfortunately, it is addictive.

It was originally created as an alternative to heroin, and is meant to be less addictive and have fewer side effects than heroin. While most people report that their side effects are fewer than street drugs, they can still become addicted to the “high” methadone offers.

Those who take methadone for reasons other than managing heroin addiction may find that they become addicted to methadone, as well.

Can You Overdose on Methadone?

Yes, you can overdose on methadone, just as you can any medication.

If you take methadone as prescribed by your doctor, you will not overdose on the medication. This is especially the case if you’re still visiting a methadone clinic to take your daily dose.

However, if you’re taking methadone at home, or using methadone that you have procured illegally, there is a risk of overdose.

Symptoms of a methadone overdose may include:

  • low blood pressure
  • difficulty breathing or shallow breathing
  • small pupils
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • stomach spasms
  • clammy skin
  • blue lips or fingernails
  • weakness
  • muscle spasms
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • confusion
  • disorientation

If you suspect someone you know has overdosed on methadone, call 911 right away. The individual will need immediate medical attention.

Getting Treatment for a Methadone Addiction

Treatment for a methadone addiction is similar to treatment for other opiate addictions. It may involve a period of withdrawal, that may be managed medically. Some people report that coming down and withdrawing from methadone can be almost as bad, if not worse, than withdrawing from heroin.

Many rehab facilities and clinics will work with you to help you get to the root of your problem when it comes to your methadone addiction. They can help you assess your issues, as well as help you on the path to recovery. They will not turn you away “just” because your addiction is to methadone and not a “harder” drug in comparison.

Addiction and Methadone

Methadone itself has a stigma around it due to people feeling that using methadone as a way to manage heroin addiction is somehow “cheating.” This is not the case, and the medication is safe is taken as directed by a doctor.

But, is methadone addictive? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

If you or someone you love is worried they are addicted to methadone, speak to your doctor or therapist. There is help available. Although it isn’t easy to overcome an opioid addiction, it can be done.

For more information on methadone, detox, and its uses in recovery, click here.

About the author

Dr. Michael Carlton, MD.

Leading addictionologist, Michael Carlton, M.D. has over 25 years of experience as a medical practitioner. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and returned for his MD from the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1990. He completed his dual residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and his Fellowship in Toxicology at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

He has published articles in the fields of toxicology and biomedicine, crafted articles for WebMD, and lectured to his peers on medication-assisted treatment. Dr. Carlton was a medical director of Community Bridges and medically supervised the medical detoxification of over 30,000 chemically dependent patients annually.

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