Methadone is a synthetic opiate analgesic. It suppresses the perception of pain and the emotional responses to pain sent to the body from both the brain and the central nervous system.

What is Methadone?



Methadone is a synthetic opiate analgesic. Methadone can be used in opiate addiction treatment by altering the brain’s response to opiates. It does this by tricking the brain into thinking it is using opiates while preventing debilitating withdrawal symptoms.

Uses for Methadone

Methadone has been used to treat opiate addiction for over 50 years. In the 1960s, it was considered a breakthrough medication for morphine and heroin addiction treatment. However, one of the problems with using methadone is that it is habit-forming. Often, people who go on methadone maintenance never stop using the drug. Because methadone is habit-forming, a tolerance for the drug can develop. For some using methadone maintenance, active drug behaviors continue. Furthermore, for those on high dosages of methadone, overdosing is a great risk. One cannot cease taking methadone without going into opiate withdrawal. It is necessary that methadone users detox slowly. Those seeking to enter drug rehab must know that the higher their daily dose of methadone, the more unstable the drug detox will be. It is advisable to enter treatment after having reduced daily dosage to 25 mg or less.

Today, most methadone clinics operate with federal assistance. There are also constant debates about substituting one drug for another. The advent of alternative drugs such as Suboxone or Subutex is causing states to both think about phasing out methadone maintenance or indeed phase it out. Methadone maintenance does not address the issues underlying the original problem of morphine or heroin addiction. Nor is it a substitute for a drug rehab program.

Methadone is also used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It does not cause as much euphoria as most other opiates. Some people suffer from irregular QT or heart dysrhythmia (irregular pulse, missed heartbeats, or palpitations) while using methadone. Other physiological and cognitive functions are impacted by the use of certain opiates.

It is known that morphine and heroin reduce learning, memory and the ability to pay attention. However, few studies have been conducted to evaluate the impact of methadone on brain function. One study used animals to evaluate the impact upon cognitive functions while they were being treated daily with methadone. The report indicated that the animals suffered from a decrease in cognitive function, both during the administration of the drug as well as after the drug had ceased to be administered.

Side Effects of Methadone

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Swelling of the limbs and extremities
  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach spasms

Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms from methadone can be twice as severe as withdrawal symptoms from opiates. Methadone withdrawal symptoms can last from several weeks to months and include:

  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Aches and pains
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

There are practical reasons for people to choose alternatives to methadone. Firstly, if you are on methadone maintenance, you must visit a clinic to get your dosage on a daily basis. If you should wish to travel, you must register with a guest clinic to get your dosage. It restricts the type and length of traveling available to you.

A person on methadone maintenance must be a participant in a methadone maintenance program for at least one year before the individual may receive a three-day supply of the drug. Despite the fact that methadone can stop the use of heroin or morphine, many who take methadone are still engaged in drug-related behaviors such as dealing, theft and violence. Methadone does not alter violent behaviors.

There is also a misconception that methadone maintenance programs will stop an addict from using drugs such as cocaine and crack. Methadone will not deter other drug use or crime.

Looking For Treatment?

Perhaps you began taking methadone years ago to help you get off of heroin. Now you are dependent upon this drug. Treatment approaches have changed and it is no longer necessary to trade one drug for another. Break the addiction to opiates completely. Call Recovery Connection's coordinators now at 866.812.8231, and learn about quality treatment programs for opiate addicts.

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