Methadone is a prescription pain reliever and medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. When taken as directed, it can curb opioid cravings and ease opioid withdrawal.
Depression is not a common side effect of methadone when taken as directed by a doctor. However, it’s possible to experience depression while taking methadone as a result of other factors.
What Can Cause Depression While Taking Methadone?
Depression is a mental health condition that is characterized by emotional and physical symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness, difficulty sleeping, and loss of interest.
Causes of depression in people taking methadone can vary. Common contributing factors might include:
Depression During Methadone Withdrawal
Depression is a common symptom of opioid withdrawal. If someone begins tapering off methadone or stops it too quickly, this may result in withdrawal symptoms like depression.
Feeling depressed or anxious can also be a sign of protracted withdrawal from other opioids of abuse. While methadone can help with this, some symptoms of depression may still linger.
Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders
Clinical depression and other psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety disorders and bipolar disorder, commonly co-occur with substance use disorders.
Depression can be caused by drug abuse, or occur as a result of other consequences of drug abuse, such as relationship issues, financial worry, or anhedonia (being unable to feel pleasure).
Chronic Opioid Addiction Can Cause Depression
Opioid drugs, including methadone, can affect the balance of certain chemicals in the brain.
Chronic opioid abuse can lead to effects on mental and emotional health, not only due to the effects of the drugs themselves, but also due to lifestyle changes, such as not eating enough.
What this might look like:
- lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- mood swings
- flat emotional affect
- lack of empathy
- not sleeping well
A history of polysubstance abuse, injection drug use, and taking very high doses of methadone (above clinically recommended dosing guidelines) may also increase the risk of depression.
Stress And Depression During Methadone Treatment
Depression is a complex issue that is rarely caused by just one thing. A variety of factors, including hereditary factors, a person’s lifestyle, and biological factors can influence this.
Stress, for instance, is a common contributor to depression. During the early recovery process, it’s common to feel stressed or overwhelmed by the treatment itself and other changes.
Common sources of stress include:
- treatment costs
- relationship problems
- sleep deprivation
- methadone side effects
- treatment burnout
- personal losses
- infectious disease management (e.g. HIV)
- chemical imbalances in the brain
Drugs of abuse are commonly used to cope with sources of stress. During rehab, treatment professionals may teach alternative coping strategies to help deal with stress in healthier ways.
Treatment For Depression While Taking Methadone
One of the most effective treatments for depression and substance abuse is dual diagnosis treatment. This offers help for both mental health and substance use issues, simultaneously.
What dual diagnosis treatment might involve:
- behavioral therapy
- medication-assisted treatment (e.g. methadone)
- individual and group counseling
- recovery support groups
- holistic therapies
Dual diagnosis rehab programs are offered by some addiction treatment centers and individual providers.
Can Methadone Help Depression?
Depression is a common experience among people who receive opioid addiction treatment. Some research suggests that medications like methadone and buprenorphine can help with this.
What methadone can do to help depression:
- prevent opioid cravings
- reduce the likelihood of protracted opioid withdrawal
- help restore a sense of normalcy to a person’s life
- help improve quality of life for formerly addicted individuals
Seeking treatment, rather than the methadone itself, can also help lift depression in people with a history of drug addiction.
Treatment can offer a “way out” of sorts for people stuck in the addiction cycle. With treatment, the idea of a life in recovery can begin to feel more attainable.
Find Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Depression And Addiction
Feeling depressed while taking methadone for opioid use disorder is not uncommon. With mental health treatment, or dual diagnosis, finding relief from this is possible.
If you or a loved one is struggling with depression while taking methadone, call our helpline today to learn more about available addiction treatment options.
Published on July 9, 2021
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- British Medical Journal — The effect of methadone on depression among addictions: a systematic review and meta-analysis
- Journal of Affective Disorders — Depression in methadone maintenance treatment patients: Rate and risk factors
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Part 1: The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: PubMed — Chronic Stress, Drug Use, And Vulnerability to Addiction