Methadone Addiction—Abuse And Treatment Options

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on November 11, 2020

Methadone addiction may result from abuse of the medication during an opioid addiction treatment program. Recovery from methadone addiction may involve use of an alternative medication, behavioral therapy, counseling, and more.

Methadone Addiction And Treatment Options

While methadone is a medication used to treat opioid addiction, the drug can be highly addictive and often leads to addiction in those who use it.

Used as prescribed, methadone can help individuals stop the use of potent opioids and slowly taper off the use of the medication. Abuse of methadone only disrupts the healing process, halting an individual’s recovery progress.

Treatment for methadone abuse can aid individuals in quitting use of the drug, seeking alternative treatment methods for opioid addiction, and renewing recovery commitments.

What Is Methadone And How Is It Abused?

Methadone is an opioid prescription used in medication-assisted treatment programs (MAT) to treat opioid abuse and addiction.

Methadone is marketed under the following brands:

  • Dolophine
  • Methadose
  • Methadose Oral Concentrate

Methadone is an opioid antagonist, which means it works to block the euphoric effects of opioids while reducing painful withdrawal symptoms. It is offered in pill, liquid, and wafer forms to be taken once per day, usually in a clinical setting.

Unfortunately, methadone can be addictive even when taken as prescribed. Individuals who abuse methadone may have formed an addiction to it and seek the positive effects the medication gives.

Those who have been given methadone under medical supervision for a time may be approved for daily home use in between monthly injections. Individuals may crush their methadone pills and snort them or dissolve them in water to inject for faster effects.

Does Methadone Abuse Lead To Addiction?

Methadone abuse can lead to addiction to the medication, which can greatly affect a person’s recovery.

A person in treatment for opioid abuse who forms an addiction to methadone may no longer seek opioids, but may instead seek the positive effects from methadone.

While methadone works to block the effects of other potent opioids, the effects it produces still become addictive. A person’s brain may come to rely on these positive effects to function, similar to addiction to other opioids.

With time and repeated abuse, a person may not recognize the difference between methadone use and abuse—which is when addiction has developed.

Signs And Symptoms Of Methadone Addiction

Methadone works in the body similarly to other opioids, producing slowed breathing and heart rates. Addiction to methadone is a mental reliance on the medication in order for a person to function.

Signs and symptoms of a methadone addiction may include:

  • increasing dosage or frequency of methadone
  • changing method of administration to force faster effects
  • inability to control use
  • continuing to use methadone even after recognizing abuse
  • experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using methadone
  • forming a tolerance, or being unable to feel the effects after use
  • needing to refill methadone before the prescription should be finished

Why Do People Abuse Methadone?

Individuals taking methadone may be unaware of the dangers of abusing the medication. Since the drug is prescribed for treating addiction to opioids, they may believe it to be safe and harmless.

Others in recovery who use methadone daily may form an addiction and find abusing methadone the only way to provide ongoing relief from opioid withdrawal symptoms, which can be painful and disrupt daily life.

Individuals may abuse methadone because they lack access to more potent drugs of abuse, such as heroin.

Individuals may also mix methadone with other drugs, seeking a combined and more impactful high. However, polydrug abuse involving opioids can be filled with risks, including overdose.

Side Effects Of Methadone Abuse

Methadone abuse can lead to multiple side effects, some of which can be dangerous and require medical monitoring.

Side effects which may result from methadone abuse can include:

  • chest pain
  • confusion
  • slow or shallow breathing
  • lightheadedness, feeling faint
  • hives or rash
  • swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • fast or pounding heartbeat
  • hallucinations

Risks Of Long-Term Methadone Abuse

Addiction is a high risk of long-term methadone abuse, making it very difficult for individuals to quit use of the medication, or overcome opioid addiction in recovery.

Other risks of long-term methadone abuse may include:

  • withdrawal when not using the medication, leading to further abuse
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • abscesses
  • sleep troubles
  • dental issues
  • poor hygiene
  • poor nutrition or diet due to cravings
  • sexual dysfunction or disinterest

Can You Overdose On Methadone?

Individuals can overdose on methadone, especially if individuals are abusing the drug rather than taking it as directed.

Methadone overdose can lead to multiple adverse symptoms which can be dangerous if left untreated.

Signs of a methadone overdose may include:

  • constipation or stomach cramps
  • cold or clammy skin
  • fatigue
  • nausea or vomiting
  • extremely small pupils
  • stomach or intestinal spasms
  • breathing troubles, such as slow, difficult, or stopped breathing
  • confusion or disorientation
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • drowsiness
  • muscle twitches
  • blue or purple color to skin and nails
  • coma, or loss of consciousness (inability to be roused)
  • seizures

Methadone And Polysubstance Abuse

Taking methadone in conjunction with other drugs is known as polysubstance abuse and is highly dangerous. Mixing methadone with other drugs can lead to worsened side effects of both drugs which can lead to overdose and even death.

Possible side effects of taking methadone with other substances include:

  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • depression
  • hallucinations
  • seizures
  • slowed breathing
  • increased heart rate

Abusing methadone with other depressant drugs, such as benzodiazepines, can lead to even worsened symptoms.

Common combinations of methadone polysubstance abuse include:

Rehab Programs For Methadone Abuse And Addiction

Methadone abuse can be treated within intensive rehab programs, such as inpatient addiction treatment.

Inpatient Rehab Programs For Methadone Abuse And Addiction

Treating methadone abuse and addiction may involve first treating withdrawal symptoms. Several other medications exist for opioid addiction treatment without the high risk of addiction, such as buprenorphine (Suboxone, Zubsolv).

Medication-assisted treatment is a form of inpatient treatment which combines medication to treat withdrawal, counseling, and several forms of therapy. This way, an individual heals from all aspects of addiction for a better chance at a successful recovery.

Addiction to opioids like methadone requires an ongoing commitment to recovery, and many forms of outpatient aftercare programs exist to help individuals in their recovery journey.

It is possible to overcome opioid addiction and methadone abuse with the right rehab program and plenty of support.

For more information on rehab programs for methadone abuse and addiction, contact one of our treatment specialists today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on November 11, 2020
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