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Methadone Abuse, Addiction, and Treatment

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Methadone is a long-acting synthetic opioid that is used in the treatment of opioid addiction. Because methadone is still an opioid, it can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Despite the risk of addiction, this substance can be extremely effective when combined with counseling and used as a short-term treatment for opioid use disorder.

What is Methadone?

Methadone was created by German doctors during World War III. This substance was used to treat severe cases of pain.[1] Today, methadone is an opioid medication that can aid in the recovery from opioid addiction.[2]

Methadone binds to the same receptors in the brain as other opioid drugs like heroin or oxycodone. This binding mechanism reduces symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Because this drug is long-acting, it remains in an individual’s system for 1-3 days, lessening the symptoms of withdrawal and blocking the euphoric effects of other opioids for long periods of time. Using methadone in this manner is often referred to as “methadone maintenance,” “opioid replacement therapy,” or “tapering.”[3]

It is important to note that because methadone is long-acting, it can build up in a person’s system quickly. If someone takes more of the medication than they are prescribed, this build-up of the substance can lead to an overdose. This is why patients must follow the directions from their doctor when taking methadone.

Side Effects

The side effects of methadone are similar to that of any other opioid. The common side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Impaired cognition
  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Impaired balance or coordination
  • Itchiness
  • Weight gain
  • Sleep changes
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushing
  • Mood changes
  • Vision problems
  • Excessive sweating

There are serious side effects associated with methadone such as trouble breathing, rashes, or seizures. These are rare and only occur when the user is intolerant to the medication. To prevent the severe side effects of methadone, doctors typically observe their patients during the first dosage.

Can You Get Addicted to Methadone?

While methadone is effective in curbing symptoms of withdrawal and cravings for opioids, it is heavily regulated due to its propensity for abuse. This medication is so regulated that patients cannot take this medication without attending a clinic to have their dose administered by a medical professional.

Methadone is a powerful opioid with addictive qualities. While it is beneficial in some cases of opioid addiction, individuals who are using this medication to beat opioid use disorder are at a higher risk of becoming dependent on the drug because of their history. Some people prefer abusing methadone as their substance of choice.

Methadone is powerful, but it is significantly less potent than other addictive opioid drugs. High doses of methadone can create a high similar to other opioids like heroin or oxycodone. However, because individuals must abuse large amounts of this drug, many people suffer from overdoses.

Symptoms of a Methadone Overdose

Overdoses occur when taking too much of a certain drug at one time. Methadone is extremely easy to overdose on because of how it compounds in someone’s system due to the substance being a long-acting opioid.

The symptoms of a methadone overdose include:

  • Small, pinpointed pupils
  • Bluish-colored fingernails and lips
  • Dizziness
  • Hypertension
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Respiratory depression

If someone is experiencing the symptoms of a methadone overdose, emergency services must be contacted immediately. A methadone overdose can lead to a potentially fatal syndrome known as respiratory depression.

How is Methadone Addiction Treated?

Methadone addiction is very similar to any other form of opioid addiction. However, individuals who become addicted to methadone after using it as a treatment for opioid addiction must be cautious with other forms of medication-assisted treatment. Because of this, methadone addiction treatment programs in South Carolina suggest using non-narcotic medications to soothe symptoms of withdrawal and limit cravings.

Medical Detox

Methadone is known to cause withdrawal symptoms that can become extremely uncomfortable. Individuals may experience symptoms of withdrawal only 30 hours after taking their last dose.

The symptoms of methadone withdrawal include:[4]

  • Tiredness
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Cravings for methadone

Doctors in a South Carolina medical detox program for methadone may prescribe medications to ease the above-mentioned symptoms of withdrawal. Buprenorphine, naloxone, and clonidine are commonly used for this purpose.

Behavioral Therapy

Once a client is medically stabilized and finished with detox, they will begin treatment. The best type of therapy for addiction treatment of any kind is evidence-based behavioral therapy. These forms of therapy help patients learn how to identify negative thoughts and patterns of behavior and use healthy coping mechanisms to create positive behavioral changes within themselves.

Examples of behavioral therapy used in methadone rehab in South Carolina include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Contingency management (CM)
  • The matrix model
  • 12-step facilitation therapy
  • Family behavior therapy
  • Group counseling

Relapse Prevention Planning

Lastly, relapse prevention planning is used to help an individual learn how to maintain long-term sobriety and avoid relapsing on methadone. Methadone addiction treatment in South Carolina emphasizes the importance of this facet of treatment, as many individuals addicted to methadone become dependent on the substance during a relapse.

Examples of important aspects of relapse prevention plans include:

  • List of triggers and coping mechanisms to use
  • Sober support to call in times of need
  • Continued attendance at therapy
  • Continued attendance of 12-step groups or other forms of addiction self-help groups
  • Alumni support groups
  • References to sober living programs and halfway homes

Attending a Methadone Rehab in South Carolina

If you or a loved one suffer from methadone addiction, professional help is necessary. Methadone addiction can quickly lead to fatal overdoses, highlighting the importance of receiving support from a methadone rehab in South Carolina.

Contact South Carolina Addiction Treatment Center today for more information on our opioid addiction treatment programs.