Methadone Addiction & Abuse

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Defining Methadone

Methadone is a synthetic opioid medication that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Commonly the drug is used to aid in the treatment of opioid use disorders, nevertheless, methadone is an addictive substance in its own right and holds a high risk of misuse and dependence. Methadone is a complicated drug with side effects and dangers. Rehab for methadone addiction is available.

What Is Methadone?

Methadone is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain; the drug works by altering how the brain and nervous system respond to pain to aid in its relief. When prescribed as part of an opioid use disorder treatment plan, methadone acts on the same opioid receptors as morphine and heroin to reduce the experience of withdrawal symptoms throughout recovery.

When used within a treatment plan, methadone prescriptions are heavily regulated, and medical professionals often supervise the use of the medication. The drug is effective and safe when taken as prescribed and has helped many individuals sustain a long-lasting recovery.

However, due to the increased costs of prescription painkillers and the relatively low cost of methadone, doctors often favor prescribing the drug as a long-acting painkiller for chronic pain. This increased exposure, particularly to those who have not used opioids before, has directly impacted the rise in methadone addictions and therefore contributes to the current opioid crisis.

Legal status

Federal statutes, guidelines, and regulations control medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorders, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) oversees the day-to-day oversight of the implementation of these drugs, which are to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Methadone, as a medication, is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to aid in pain management and treat opioid use disorder as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The drug is federally classified as a Schedule II substance which means that, despite its legitimate legal use, it poses a high risk of abuse and dependence. Other Schedule II drugs include morphine and hydrocodone.

The Naming Systems

There are different ways to refer to this medication, including in the pharmaceutical world and on the black market.

Here are some of the most widely used names for this medication:

Brand Names

  • Methadose
  • Methadone HCI Intensol
  • Diskettes Dispersible
  • Dolophine

Street Names

  • Tootsie Roll
  • Dolls
  • Mud
  • Red rock

Characteristics of Methadone Medicaments

Methadone can be prescribed as an oral tablet to help relieve moderate to severe pain, and this is on a short-term basis where other non-opioid pain drugs effectively work. It is also offered as an oral concentrate solution, oral solution, and oral dispersible tablet (this can be dissolved in liquid). Methadone can also be administered by a healthcare provider through an intravenous (IV) form.

Side effects

The drug has a multitude of side effects that range from moderate to severe. Mild side effects include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Slow breathing
  • Nausea
  • Itchy skin
  • Restlessness
  • Intense sweating
  • Sexual problems
  • Appetite changes
  • Disruption of sleeping patterns
  • Dry mouth
  • Mood changes
  • Constipation

The more severe side effects of methadone include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Light-headedness
  • Swollen tongue, lips, throat, or face
  • Hives or a rash
  • Chest Pain
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations

Dangers of Methadone Misuse

If methadone is misused, there is a high risk of developing a dependency and an addiction. There is a chance of an overdose if high doses of the substance are taken. This risk is increased in people who mix methadone with other medications. This may be done to enhance the effects of either substance.

Methadone stays in the body for a long period of time, typically one to three days, and this means that there is an increased chance of experiencing an accidental overdose if the drug is misused. Because it is a long-acting drug, it can build up in the body and remain in the bloodstream for a long period of time.

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How Is Methadone Addiction Treated?

Treatment for opioids requires both a detox, for methadone in this case, and comprehensive therapy. A medical detox is required to allow individuals a safe space to effectively withdraw from the drug. Depending on the individual and the level of care needed, there are a number of treatment options available:

  • Residential inpatient treatment
  • Outpatient treatment

Your chance of maintaining sobriety is increased with long-term care programs that involve medication, behavioral therapy, a holistic approach, and effective aftercare. Treatment programs might include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Contingency management
  • Family therapy
  • Support groups
  • Motivational interviewing
  • 12-step groups

Another important aspect of treatment is ensuring that the body can cope, heal quickly, and maintain health; this is achieved through a holistic approach that supports working with the whole person. Addiction treatment is the first step but aftercare is essential to provide ongoing support, so you are supported in times of stress or negative thinking after treatment.

The Methadone Program for Opiate Addiction

Methadone is prescribed as one part of a thorough treatment plan to aid in the recovery of an opiate use disorder. It works by reducing opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms while diminishing the effects of opioids. Other components of the treatment may include counseling or other behavioral health therapies to tackle addiction with a whole-person approach to ensure long-lasting sobriety.

Defining Methadone Addiction


Addiction is defined as a chronic mental disorder that is recognised by excessive and compulsive drug use and seeking, despite any negative consequences to an individual’s life. Methadone is a highly addictive substance which has been noted to be as powerful as heroin. The drug produces desirable sedative effects that can become intoxicating. Individuals who use methadone to experience the desirable effects are at risk of building up a tolerance, dependence, and therefore addiction. The risk of developing an addiction is increased for those who have a history of an opioid dependence.

Difference between Abuse and Addiction

Abuse involves misusing the drug in a manner other than its intended use, often to experience the side effects. Someone who is abusing methadone will be able to use the drug recreationally with the ability to stop when they want to. Alternatively, an addiction is categorized by an individual’s compulsive drug use and their inability to stop using a substance despite negative consequences. While the two are different, it is important to remember that abuse often leads to addiction.

Symptoms of Methadone Addiction and Dependence

Symptoms of methadone addiction include:

  • Inability to stop using methadone despite negative consequences
  • Increased tolerance of the drug
  • Cravings for methadone
  • Issues in relationships regarding methadone use
  • Participating in dangerous activities while high on methadone
  • Lack of focus and concentration
  • Using multiple doctors to obtain the drug
  • Theft of other’s prescriptions

How It Affects Us?

We often discuss how a drug addiction can affect the person who is using the substance; however, it is not only those living with addiction who feel the impact of a substance abuse disorder. The effects of addiction have a trickle-down effect of impacting the well-being of those closest to them. Addiction can cause financial difficulties, strained relationships, and an increased risk of abuse.

Family Matters

Addiction can cause strains on relationships with family members, whether this is a spouse, child, parent, or sibling. Living with someone who has an addiction is a challenge for all. Family members see their loved one live through the adverse side effects of the drug, whether it is through weight change, mood changes, or trust being broken. These sudden changes can cause a loved one to endure trauma and increase the chances of them developing an unhealthy coping mechanism, such as codependent behavior.


When you love someone, it can be difficult to separate your love and want to take care of them along with their own responsibility of taking care of themselves. Codependency is often used as a coping mechanism to deal with a loved one’s addiction.

Maybe you are keeping secrets for them, trying to hide their drug use, or excusing their behaviors. While it may all seem to come from a place of love, the dangers of codependency can prevent an individual from receiving help.

Helping Your Loved Ones

Knowing how to deal with a loved one’s addiction in the right way can be scary. You don’t want to escalate the situation or damage the relationship with them. Once you have noticed the signs of addiction, you need to be able to approach the situation in a helpful and positive way. Some dos and don’ts are:

  • Don’t shame or criticize
  • Do have compassion
  • Don’t expect immediate change
  • Do educate yourself
  • Don’t enable a loved one
  • Do take care of yourself
  • Is Intervention Necessary?

    Staging an intervention for a loved one while living with an addiction is often the most effective transition intro treatment. It helps the individual acknowledge that their drug use has become serious, identifies the addiction as a mental disorder, and presents an option for immediate treatment. If it is evident that your loved one is struggling with their addiction, is living with the extreme negative consequences, and is unable to stop taking the drug, then it is likely that it is time for an intervention.

    Methadone Overdose and How to Help

    The risk of a methadone overdose is increased when the substance is misused as the drug stays in the blood system for a few days. If an overdose is suspected, you should call 911 immediately for emergency medical attention.

    When calling emergency services, it is important to ensure that you provide them with crucial information such as age, weight, gender, amount of methadone consumed, how it was consumed, and the time that it was ingested.

    Administering Naloxone and Local Legislations

    Naloxone is a medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It is a temporary treatment with its effects being short-lasting. SAMHSA works closely with states, partners, first responders, and others to educate on the use of and increase access to naloxone. A toolkit was developed to act as a training and educating foundation. There are currently 24 states that allow for pharmacists and doctors to dispense naloxone to individuals who are not directly at risk of an overdose, including in California.

    Find Help for Methadone Addiction

    If you believe you or a loved one is living with a methadone addiction, then help is available. It does not matter what stage of the journey you are at, for we are here to support you every step of the way. We offer a multitude of treatment options to ensure that each individual is given the utmost care to support them in living a happy and healthy future. Contact us today to find out more, and remember, you are never alone.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    Can Methadone use lead to addiction?

    Methadone is an extremely addictive substance and misuse of the drug can result in an addiction.

    Is Methadone contributing to the opioid crisis?

    Yes, in more recent years research has found that an increase in overdose deaths is due to an increase in medical professionals prescribing synthetic opioids, such as methadone.

    Can you overdose on Methadone?

    It is possible to overdose on methadone as the drug can stay in the system for a long period of time. If an overdose is suspected, call 911 immediately.

    How long does it stay in my system?

    Individual factors, such as age and weight, influence how long methadone stays in your system. However, on average it can last from 2 days to up to 13.

    Do you treat Methadone addiction?

    Yes, we treat a range of opioid use disorders and other substance abuse disorders. Contact us today to find out more.

    Do You Need Help?

    You can get better with the right support. Don’t hesitate to contact us now so that we can discuss the next steps.