It’s a little confusing when doctors prescribe methadone to help people get over addictions. But then, in the next breath, they warn that methadone can be addictive. How can methadone be addictive and be and addiction treatment?
Methadone is a narcotic that belongs to the same family of opioids as heroin. Methadone is manufactured for use as a painkiller and as a substitute for heroin in the treatment of heroin addiction. This drug has similar effects to heroin but doesn’t deliver the same degree of buzz or high as heroin. So, methadone is a step down from the highly addictive opioids.
Methadone was created by German doctors during World War II. Doctors used it to treat people with extreme pain when it arrived in the United States. Currently, doctors use it as part of treatment for an addiction to heroin or narcotic painkillers. It is commonly used due to its ability to decrease withdrawal symptoms for 24 to 36 hours.
How Does Methadone Work?
Methadone alters the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain so that an individual feels relief. The analgesic properties of methadone work to alleviate pain, while the opiate properties work to relieve urges. People experiencing addiction to heroin and other narcotics can find some relief from typical withdrawal symptoms—even though methadone can be addictive on its own.
What are the Effects of Methadone?
Methadone has the ability to reduce withdrawal symptoms. After detox, patients can continue to curtail their cravings and decrease the likelihood of relapse when used and administered correctly. There’s no set amount of time patients take Methadone to treat an addiction. Experts often prescribe it for a year or more. When it’s time to stop taking it, doctors help patients decrease their dose slowly over a few weeks to minimize withdrawal.
Methadone affects everyone in a different way, based on weight, size and health. Other factors include whether other drugs are taken around the same time, the dose and whether the person has built up some tolerance to it. The effects of this drug last much longer than the effects of heroin. A single dose of Methadone lasts for about 24 hours, while a dose of heroin may only last for a couple of hours.
Side Effects of Methadone
The most common side effects of methadone are:
- Painful muscles and joints
- Rashes and itching
- Abdominal cramps
- Irregular periods
- Loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty passing urine
Methadone can also slow your breathing like other opioid medicines. If a person overdoses, weak breathing may lead to death. Seek emergency medical attention for patients who experience slow breathing with long pauses, blue colored lips, or if the person using Methadone is hard to wake up.
Methadone Can Be Addictive, And Has Other Risks
Methadone is useful for some patients throughout the detox process. However, there is also a potential for abuse because methadone can be addictive and lead to serious health and psycho-social risks. Methadone can be habit-forming even when taken with a prescription and under the direction of a doctor. Misuse of this drug can cause addiction, overdose or even death. A person should not drink alcohol while taking methadone because dangerous side effects and death can occur.
Do not take Methadone if you have:
- An electrolyte imbalance
- Heart disease
- Breathing problems or lung disease
- Gallbladder, pancreas, or thyroid problems
- Liver or kidney disease
- Problems urinating
- A history of head injury, brain tumor, or seizures
Patients should tell their doctor if they experience any of these events. Not everyone reacts the same to methadone. The doctor calculates the dose that’s right for each patient. Patients who take too much or too little of this medication can experience dangerous side effects or an overdose.