Methadone is a leading medication-assisted treatment option for heroin addiction and opioid use disorder, which affect the lives of millions of Americans and their families.
Unfortunately, methadone can for some become a drug of abuse. Chronic abuse of this drug, alone or in combination with other drugs, can lead to methadone addiction and other health problems.
Methadose abuse is treatable. By seeking treatment for methadone addiction, you or a loved one can find alternative treatment options for opioid addiction and develop skills for a successful future in recovery.
What Is Methadone?
Methadone is a long-acting, synthetic opioid medication used in medication-assisted treatment programs (MAT) to treat heroin addiction and prescription opiate addiction.
It is also prescribed by doctors as a painkiller for around-the-clock relief of severe pain.
Methadone is marketed under the following brands:
Methadone is taken in a daily dose for addiction. This can help relieve opioid cravings, offer pain relief, and relieve opioid withdrawal symptoms in early addiction recovery.
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How Methadone Abuse Occurs
Methadone is a full opioid agonist, like other common opioids of abuse. While its effects are weaker, it can be misused by some for its mild to moderate euphoric effects.
That is, methadone may provide a weak high similar to that of other opioids when abused.
Risk factors for methadone abuse include:
- prior history of opioid abuse
- long-term use of methadone for pain management
- taking unsuitable doses of methadone (too low/high)
- current misuse of other opioids
According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), methadone does not generally cause a euphoric high when taken at doses indicated by a prescribing doctor.
However, taking too high a dose, or too low a dose (resulting in opioid cravings), could place a person at risk for misusing methadone or other opioids of abuse.
Examples Of Methadone Abuse
Methadone is a drug that can come in several different forms and be abused in a number of ways. Not all forms of methadone abuse may be immediately obvious.
Examples of methadone abuse include:
- taking higher doses than prescribed
- taking doses more often
- snorting methadone (after crushing tablets)
- injecting methadone
- plugging methadone (i.e. rectal administration)
- taking someone else’s methadone
- mixing methadone with other drugs to get high
Signs Of Methadone Abuse
Abuse of any medication usually means not using the medication as directed, usually to seek faster or stronger effects.
Signs and symptoms of methadone abuse include:
- euphoria (i.e. a “rush”)
- extreme drowsiness
- taking excessive doses
- hiding or lying about your drug use
- missing doctor visits or counseling sessions for opioid addiction
- unusual mood swings or anger issues when taking Methadone
- dramatic changes in physical appearance (e.g. weight gain/loss)
Side Effects Of Methadone Abuse
Methadone effects on the body result from abuse of the medication. Behavioral effects and mental side effects are also possible.
When taken as directed, methadone side effects may include drowsiness, relaxation, nausea, dry mouth, constipation, and flushed skin.
Does Methadone Abuse Lead To Addiction?
Chronic methadone abuse over a period of time can lead to drug addiction, which can greatly affect a person’s recovery from opioid use disorder.
Someone who’s 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.
Over time, however, your brain may come to rely on these positive effects to function, similar to addiction to other opioid drugs.
Signs Of A Methadone Addiction
Methadone addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition that’s marked by a mental and physical reliance on the medication in order to function normally day by day.
Signs and symptoms of a methadone addiction may include:
- inability to stop misusing methadone (i.e. feeling reliant on it)
- injecting, snorting, or plugging methadone for faster effects
- continuing to use methadone even after recognizing abuse
- experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms when not using methadone
- running out of methadone prescriptions early
- going to multiple healthcare providers for methadone
- abusing methadone despite negative consequences
Treatment Programs For Methadone Abuse And Addiction
Overcoming methadone abuse isn’t easy, but it is possible with time, a well-rounded treatment plan, and a strong support system.
Methadone addiction can best be treated in an inpatient drug rehab program or an intensive outpatient program that offers medication-assisted treatment.
Treatment for methadone addiction can offer:
- medical care
- pain management
- treatment for methadone withdrawal
- behavioral therapy
- substance use counseling
- medication for opioid use disorder
- group therapy
- self-help support groups
- relapse prevention planning
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) For Methadone Addiction
Medication-assisted treatment is a leading treatment for opioid addiction. This combines medication to treat withdrawal with counseling and several forms of therapy.
Methadone maintenance treatment is one MAT option, but there are other effective medication options that have a lower potential for abuse and addiction.
Alternative MAT options include:
MAT is the most effective treatment for opioid addiction. This can help you restore a sense of normalcy to your life, while keeping cravings for opioids at bay.
Why Do People Abuse Methadone?
Methadone may be abused for several reasons. This can vary from person to person.
Some contributors to methadone abuse might include:
- pain relief: Methadone may be abused for stronger, faster pain relief in those who experience moderate to severe chronic pain.
- euphoria: Methadone can cause euphoria, or a rush of pleasure, in non-prescribed doses, or when mixed with certain drugs.
- opioid withdrawal: Methadone may be taken to relieve withdrawal symptoms when someone is dependent on and unable to use other opioids (e.g. heroin).
Methadone And Polysubstance Abuse
People who misuse methadone will sometimes take it with other drugs to enhance the drug’s effects. This is called polysubstance abuse.
Common methadone drug combinations include:
- methadone and benzodiazepines
- methadone and heroin
- methadone and alcohol
Mixing methadone with other drugs, particularly other central nervous system depressants, can have serious and life-threatening consequences.
This is a risk factor for overdose, respiratory depression, organ damage, and death.
Methadone Overdose Signs And Symptoms
Methadone overdose can occur if you take very high doses of methadone or use it in combination with other non-prescribed drugs, including alcohol.
Overdose is a medical emergency. If someone is showing signs of a methadone overdose, call 911 for help right away.
Signs of a methadone overdose include:
- blue or purple color to skin and nails
- very slow or shallow breathing
- cold or clammy skin
- nausea or vomiting
- extremely small pupils
- unable to respond
- slow heart rate
- changes in blood pressure while taking Methadone
- stomach or intestinal spasms
- muscle twitches
- gurgling noises
- stopped breathing
- coma, or loss of consciousness (inability to be roused)
Overdose can be effectively treated with the drug Narcan, or naloxone. Without treatment, severe cases of methadone overdose can be fatal.
What Is A Lethal Dose Of Methadone?
Taking too high a dose of methadone, or mixing it with other drugs, can lead to fatal outcomes without quick medical intervention.
A lethal dose of methadone can range from 10 milligrams (for children) to >200 milligrams for opioid-tolerant adults.
Methadone Detection Times
Methadone is a long-acting drug. It can remain detectable in the body for days, and potentially weeks at a time, depending on personal factors related to your drug use.
Methadone may be detected by:
- urine drug testing
- blood drug testing
- hair drug testing
- saliva drug testing
Is Methadone Detoxification Necessary?
Methadone detox is necessary in the treatment and recovery process for those who have developed opioid dependence through chronic substance use.
Methadone dependence can cause withdrawal symptoms with sudden, stopped use.
Side effects of methadone withdrawal can be highly distressing and potentially dangerous without medical support and supervision.
Methadone Addiction FAQs
Find answers to frequently asked questions about methadone abuse and addiction.
Where Do You Get Methadone?
Methadone doses can be acquired in some rehab programs and at methadone clinics (MAT clinics) with a prescription, or be prescribed by a doctor for chronic, severe pain.
Is Methadone Addictive?
Opioid analgesics like methadone can become addictive if misused over a period of time, due to their effects on the brain and the body’s opioid receptors.
Is Methadone The Same As Buprenorphine?
No. Buprenorphine is classified as a partial opioid agonist, while methadone is a full opioid agonist medication.
Both are used as medication-assisted treatment options for opioid use disorder, but differ in several respects.
What Are Common Street Names For Methadone?
Methadone is sometimes referred to using slang terms, or street names. Common street names for methadone include meth, dollies, and fizzies, among others.
How Much Does Methadone Cost?
Methadone can cost between $5 to $30 per dose on the street. Pharmacy prices for methadone prescriptions may vary based on a variety of factors.
Call Today To Find Methadone Addiction Treatment
Recovering from opioid addiction and methadone abuse is possible. Let us help you find an addiction rehab program that can meet your needs.
Call our helpline today to speak to a treatment specialist about the best addiction treatment options for yourself or a loved one.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Opioid Overdose: Prescription Overdose
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Methadone
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Methadone