Methadone Effects On The Body

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 28, 2021

Methadone is a medication for opioid use disorder that can affect the body in a number of ways. Methadone alters activity in the brain and nervous system. As a result, this may lead to effects on the skin, digestive system, hormones, and other bodily functions.

Physical Side Effects Of Methadone

Methadone is an opioid medication used for the treatment of opioid use disorder. It works in the body as a depressant, altering activity in the body’s nervous system and the brain.

Physical side effects of methadone can occur. Here, you’ll find information on the physical effects of methadone use and treatment for effects on the body while taking methadone for addiction.

Learn more about the side effects of methadone

Physical Side Effects Of Methadone

Many prescription drugs, including methadone, can have effects on various systems throughout the body with short-term or chronic drug use.

Methadone belongs to a class of medications known as opioids. Once ingested, methadone binds to opioid receptors in the brain and depresses activity in the central nervous system.

Effects of this can include:

  • drowsiness
  • relaxation
  • slowed breathing
  • pain relief
  • warm flushing

When taken for opioid addiction, methadone can also ease opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings for other opioids, including heroin.

Can Methadone Cause Skin Problems?

Dermatological effects with methadone use can occur, but this is generally uncommon. This may be a sign of an adverse reaction or allergy.

Adverse side effects of methadone on the skin can include:

  • skin rashes
  • urticaria (hives)
  • itchiness

If you or someone you know develops a rash, hives, or other skin problems while taking methadone, contact your doctor right away for further guidance.

Read more about itchiness caused by methadone

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Can Methadone Cause Intestinal Problems?

Opioid medications like methadone can have effects on the gastrointestinal system, due to the high density of opioid receptors in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Gastrointestinal side effects of methadone might include:

  • constipation
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • gastroesophageal reflux

Constipation is one of the most common side effects of opioids. This and other intestinal issues can be treated with both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments.

Can Methadone Cause Leg Swelling?

Swelling of the legs, also known as peripheral edema, can occur in the first few months of treatment or after years of methadone maintenance therapy.

Opioids like methadone cause the body to retain water, which can lead to swelling. Swelling of the face, eyes, throat, tongue, or mouth, however, may be a sign of an allergic reaction.

Does Methadone Affect Blood Pressure?

As a depressant, methadone can lower blood pressure. This may lead to dizziness, weakness, or blurred vision upon standing too quickly.

Very low blood pressure can be a sign of methadone overdose, when accompanied by other overdose symptoms, including very slow breathing, clammy skin, and unresponsiveness.

Read more about how methadone affects blood pressure

Does Methadone Cause Heart Problems?

Cardiac effects, or heart problems, have been documented in some people who take methadone.

Taking very high doses of methadone or taking multiple doses a day for pain may increase the risk of experiencing heart problems while taking methadone.

Read more about how methadone can affect the heart

Other Physical Effects Of Methadone Use

Methadone affects various bodily systems. With chronic use or high doses of methadone, a number of effects on the body can occur.

Other physical side effects might include:

  • physical dependence
  • irregular menstrual cycle
  • disrupted sleep
  • weight gain

For many people, the benefits of methadone for opioid addiction generally outweigh the discomfort of mild to moderate side effects.

If serious side effects do occur, switching to an alternative treatment, such as buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex) or naltrexone (Vivitrol) for opioid use disorder may be possible.

Treatment For Methadone Side Effects

Side effects of methadone are one of the most common reasons why some people choose to switch from methadone to buprenorphine or naltrexone for medication-assisted treatment.

Although this is an option, side effects of methadone may also be effectively treated in other ways, through the use of both pharmacological (medicine) or non-pharmacological treatments:

  • Skin problems: Skin issues, such as rashes or hives, can be a sign of an allergic reaction. If this occurs, switching to another medication may be advised.
  • Gastrointestinal issues: Laxatives, stool softeners, and mineral oil may be used to help treat or prevent constipation while taking methadone.
  • Leg swelling: Lifestyle or home remedies may be recommended for slight swelling. If swelling becomes severe, talk to a doctor right away for further guidance.

Side effects of methadone treatment vary from person to person.

While some side effects of methadone can be uncomfortable, methadone is generally considered safe and effective for long-term use when taken as directed.

Call Today To Learn More About Methadone For Opioid Addiction

Methadone is commonly taken as a long-term treatment for opioid dependence and addiction, due to its ability to prevent opioid cravings and withdrawal.

For more information about the effects of methadone or to find methadone treatment options near you, call our helpline to speak to one of our trained staff members today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 28, 2021
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