Using Methadone Appropriately

Opioid addiction and overdose are referred to as crises for good reason. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that almost 50,000 Americans died of overdoses involving opioids in 2019.

One of the treatments for opioid use disorder uses methadone. Up to 80% of people who suffer from opioid addiction do not seek or receive specialty treatment, though. Moreover, methadone treatment can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone can be helpful in reducing opioid detox symptoms, getting you through withdrawal, and reducing the risk of relapse. But people can also abuse it, making it necessary for them to seek treatment for methadone addiction and withdrawal. Thankfully, our methadone detox program can help.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a prescription medication that is used to relieve pain and treat drug addiction. It is an opioid that works in a similar manner as other narcotics. Methadone is considered to be safer than many other opioids, such as heroin or fentanyl. Therefore, doctors and psychologists use it to manage treatment for opioid addiction.

When you take methadone as it is prescribed by your doctor or treatment center, it shouldn’t get you high. However, some people abuse the substance, using it to produce euphoric effects. Using methadone to get high is dangerous because you must take an abnormally elevated dose. Doing this increases the drug’s toxicity and puts you at risk of an overdose. While it is legal to use methadone according to a health care provider’s prescription, it is illegal to use it recreationally or to get high.

How Does Methadone Work for Addiction Treatment?

Methadone-AbuseYour central nervous system contains receptors that interact with certain chemicals. When you take opioids, the drugs bind to the opioid receptors in your brain. Normally, your body produces natural chemicals to bind with these receptors, relieving pain and producing feelings of well-being. Opioids mimic these natural chemicals, overriding them and enhancing the effects.

Since methadone is an opioid, it helps with pain management and feelings of well-being. In a sense, it replaces the more dangerous narcotics that you may have been using to achieve those results.

Methadone does not interact with the reward system in your brain in the same way that other narcotics do. While it can help with pain, it doesn’t make you feel euphoric unless you take it more frequently or at higher doses than your doctor prescribes.

When you use it to manage addiction, methadone eases withdrawal symptoms while preventing the cravings and the urge to get high. But methadone can produce its own withdrawal symptoms, leading users to need to detox from methadone to achieve a full recovery.

Using Methadone Appropriately

You should always take methadone as it is prescribed by a medical professional. The drug comes in the form of a wafer, pill, or liquid. If you are taking it for addiction management, you may start out using the drug while you’re detoxing from heroin or another opioid. Medication is administered in detox centers, where healthcare professionals can regulate the dosage to suit your needs.

Many people who struggle with opioid addiction take methadone throughout their lives to manage their cravings and help prevent relapse. When it is regulated and taken as prescribed, methadone can be an effective way to manage addiction and experience long-term recovery.

How Is Methadone Abused?

You may wonder why methadone abuse is a problem if the medication is so highly regulated and doesn’t produce euphoric effects. One of the concerns is that methadone can become the drug of choice for many former painkiller or heroin addicts.

Methadone blocks the euphoric effects of other opioids. If you try to get high using heroin or another narcotic while you’re taking methadone, you won’t feel the mood-enhancing effects of that drug. But that doesn’t mean that methadone can’t produce its own form of euphoria.

For many users, the drug’s sedative effect brings about a feeling of well-being that is euphoric in itself. In this manner, methadone can be indirectly rewarding. It can also numb the effects of intense emotional and physical discomfort, leading users to become dependent on the substance.

Methadone can also produce euphoric effects directly if you take more of it than your doctor ordered. It works more slowly than other narcotics and stays in your body longer. Although methadone’s half-life is about 24 to 36 hours, it can stay in your body for up to five days.

Your body stores the methadone in the liver and other organs. The substance gets released as you need it. If too much of the chemical gets stored in your body, you could develop methadone toxicity. If you snort or inject it to feel the effects more quickly, you may get high. However, you’ll also be at a higher risk of developing serious side effects.

Signs of Methadone Overdose

Methadone overdose can happen in a number of ways. Individuals can suffer from an overdose if they take the medication more frequently than prescribed or a higher dosage than prescribed. Overdose can also occur if an individual takes methadone in an unindicated manner, such as snorting or injecting it. Using the medication after stopping it for a time may also lead to an overdose. 

Developing toxicity from accumulation in the body can cause an overdose to occur. Finally, combining the medication with certain drugs, such as other opioids and nervous system depressants can result in an overdose.What-is-Methadone

Some signs of overdose include:

  • Erratic mood
  • Light-headedness
  • Respiratory distress
  • Changes in perception
  • Significantly increased energy
  • Hypoxia, or low oxygen levels in your tissues
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Discolored fingertips
  • Digestive distress
  • Constricted pupils
  • Hypertension

An overdose is dangerous and requires immediate medical attention. It’s important to notice the signs so that you can get help right away.

Signs of Methadone Addiction

Even though methadone can be helpful for getting someone off of other opioids, the drug has a high risk of addiction. As a user becomes more dependent on the substance, they become more tolerant to it. That means that they require higher or more frequent doses to maintain the effects.

How do you know if you or someone you love is facing a methadone addiction? Some of the symptoms of dependency include:

  • Increased tolerance
  • Unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug
  • Problems with family, finances and other responsibilities due to methadone use

Can You Detox from Methadone On Your Own?

It is not recommended to stop taking methadone on your own. If you have been taking the medication under a doctor’s orders, continue working with them to detox safely. If you have been using methadone recreationally or in a manner that’s not consistent with a prescription, you should still seek treatment as you quit. This will help to minimize withdrawal symptoms and increase your chances of a successful recovery.

How Long Does Methadone Withdrawal Last?

When you take methadone regularly, your body gets used to it. The drug slows down your system, blocks pain, and makes you feel at ease. Ending the use of this medication can make you feel antsy, achy, and moody.

This happens because your body needs time to regain balance and respond to the natural chemicals that stabilize your mood and diminish pain. The withdrawal period depends on your body chemistry and the way that you used the drug.

Methadone withdrawals can produce the following symptoms:Does-Methadone-Work-for-Addiction-Treatment

  • Chills
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Hot flashes
  • Constipation
  • Excessive sweating
  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Cravings for methadone
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Excessive yawning
  • Low energy levels
  • Nasal congestion

One way to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms is to give it time. However, you may need medical, physical, and emotional supervision while you go through the process. Withdrawal symptoms can feel like the worst flu that you have ever had, and it’s difficult to get through them without support.

Another way to lessen the severity of methadone withdrawal symptoms is to take an opioid again. Doing so will make withdrawal symptoms disappear, but you’ll have to deal with the side effects of the drug again. Also, you may end up managing the consequences of addiction.

How Long Does It Take To Get Off Methadone?

The methadone detox timeline is different for everyone. If you’re wondering how long it takes to get off methadone, you should consider the dosage and its frequency. It’s also important to think about the length of time that you’ve been taking methadone.

Since methadone is a slow-acting opioid, it can take longer to withdraw from it than it would from other narcotics. Symptoms usually start within two to four days of your last dose. They peak within a week and then begin to taper off.

Even after the acute, flu-like symptoms disappear, however, you’re not in the clear. You could experience depression, drug cravings, and anxiety for many weeks or months. During this time, you might feel as though you have the following:

  • Low energy
  • Sleeping problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty feeling pleasure

Although the worst of the withdrawal may be over, it helps to have continued support during this post-acute withdrawal period. Even these symptoms should resolve within a year or less.

How to Manage Methadone Withdrawals

Research shows that people are more likely to maintain abstinence from drugs if they seek professional treatment. Although relapse is part of recovery and does not indicate failure, it could have fatal consequences.

If you’re concerned about your methadone use or that of a loved one, please reach out to find more about treatment options. Some possibilities for managing detox from methadone include:

  • Medication management: Other medications can be used under a doctor’s supervision to reduce withdrawal symptoms and shorten the withdrawal timeline.
  • Gradual tapering: Talk to your doctor about tapering off of the medication slowly.
  • Dosage reduction: You may be able to use methadone safely to avoid other drugs if you taper down to a low dosage at which you can remain stable for a long-term period.
  • Emotional support: Talking to a counselor or peers can help you develop coping skills for managing intense emotions that may lead you to use methadone or other narcotics again.

Reach Out to North Jersey Recovery Center About Methadone Abuse Treatment

Contact us if you have questions about methadone abuse and withdrawal. We’re happy to answer your questions about methadone abuse, how long is methadone withdrawal and how to manage it. We will help devise a customized treatment plan to help you stay healthy and establish success during methadone detox and your long-term recovery.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Laura-Riley-Cropped-Profile-150x150Laura Riley, MA, LCADC, CCS is an Administrator with North Jersey Recovery Center.