To safely take methadone, users have to follow direct doctor’s instructions. In some cases, doctors will use methadone to treat opioid addiction. It’s a common medication used in intensive outpatient programs and as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) approach.
Methadone medication is specifically prepared for each patient, and you should never share or give it to others. A medication guide is included with this medication to prevent misuse and abuse and it is only administered via Methadone clinics.
What Is Methadone?
Methadone is a popular medication used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). Common brands include Diskets, Methadone Intensol, Dolophine, and Methadose. It’s a long-acting opioid agonist considered a schedule II controlled medication. Methadone is FDA-approved to work as medication-assisted treatment, as well as for pain management.
When used with therapy and comprehensive treatment, methadone helps individuals achieve and sustain recovery and reclaim active lives. Methadone is one component of a comprehensive treatment plan, including counseling and other behavioral therapies to focus on a whole-person approach.
How Does Methadone Work?
Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist. This type of drug blocks the effects of opioids, reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The length of time methadone stays in your system is influenced by weight, age, liver function, metabolism, and other illnesses.
When methadone acts on opioid receptors in the brain, it activates such receptors at a slower rate than other opioids. For someone addicted to opioids, methadone won’t produce euphoria or any of the effects associated with opioid misuse.
Since methadone can still cause dependence, patients must be weaned off the drug before completing treatment. At least 25% of people will over time become abstinent from methadone with medical supervision. Another 25% will continue to use methadone as a prevention method and as ongoing addiction treatment.
Methadone Safety Tips
Methadone can be very safe when used as prescribed. The drug is customized for each patient and often readjusted as they progress in treatment. It’s essential to ask your doctor about the safety precautions because other medications may interact with methadone and cause side effects.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when taking methadone:
- Never use more than the amount prescribed, and take the medication on a schedule. If you miss a dose, do not take an extra dose of methadone.
- Do not consume alcohol or other drugs while taking methadone.
- Be careful driving or operating machinery after taking methadone.
- Store methadone at room temperature and away from light.
Keep in mind methadone is addictive like other opioids. However, being on methadone is not the same as being addicted to illegal opioids such as heroin. It is safer for patients to take methadone under medical supervision than to take opioids or heroin from the streets. So, even though there is a high potential for misuse, the benefits of methadone treatment often far outweigh the downsides.
Can Methadone Be Addictive?
Because methadone is a long-acting drug, it can quickly build up in the body. Unless carefully monitored by a professional, methadone can cause abuse and addiction. Depending on the dose, methadone’s half-life is anywhere between 8 to 59 hours. It works this way to help ease withdrawal symptoms and control cravings.
However, when people use methadone recreationally, it can lead to addiction. When used recreationally, people are more likely to develop a habit and cause severe withdrawal symptoms whenever they quit or stop taking the drug.
Furthermore, it is very easy to overdose on methadone compared to other opioid drugs. Because methadone is a long-acting drug, it builds up in the body over time, leading to an overdose if a user takes more than prescribed. Symptoms of a methadone overdose include:
- Shallow breathing
- Bluish skin
- Blue-tinted lips
- Extreme fatigue
In addition, mixing methadone with other drugs like alcohol can lead to serious heart problems, including heart attacks.
Finding Help for Addiction
If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction or methadone misuse, please know there’s help available. Medication-assisted treatment via a methadone clinic can be a safe way to take methadone as it provides patients with the right guidance and supervision. Methadone is relatively safe and effective at treating opioid addiction, so do not hesitate to ask about this option when seeking substance abuse treatment.