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Methadone is a synthetic opioids agonist. It is sometimes prescribed for pain relief. It is also used for people addicted to heroin, morphine, or prescription pain medication to reduce withdrawal symptoms. It does not produce the same high as heroin and other drugs, but it prevents many intense and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
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Methadone is an effective addiction recovery tool because it has a long duration and there is not a high risk of tolerance. Despite its usefulness, methadone abuse exists. It occurs when someone takes it without a prescription or in combination with other drugs.
Methadone is taken orally or by injection.
During the detoxification phase, the dose is based on standards in the 42 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Section 8.12. Dosage ranges from 20 mg to 40 mg throughout detoxification and maintenance.
Someone using methadone can administer his or her dose with training. However, methadone should be used under the careful supervision of a doctor.
Methadone might not be appropriate for people with:
People using methadone hydrochloride tablets are at risk for life-threatening respiratory depression. This is one of the reasons medically supervised detox is so important.
Misusing methadone can lead to addiction, overdose, and death. Do not combine it with alcohol or medications that slow breathing. Do not use methadone while pregnant or breastfeeding. Newborns dependent on opioids often need medical treatment for several weeks after birth. Passing methadone to a baby through breast milk causes drowsiness, breathing problems, or death.
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Other side effects that could indicate a serious problem include:
There are 636 drugs known to interact with methadone, nearly 300 of which have a high risk for major interactions. Medical experts warn against using methadone in combination with any of the following:
Yes, methadone is addictive. Methadone is used as an alternative to opioids. It isn’t as dangerous as opioids and provides a controllable tool for withdrawing gradually from opioid addiction.
Signs of methadone addiction include:
Methadone is used for extended periods. This might be appropriate but it comes with risks, including:
People taking methadone via injection face a higher risk for blood-borne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. Methadone overdose is also a concern.
Methadone withdrawal, sometimes referred to as methadone detox, triggers several mild to severe symptoms. These symptoms begin approximately 24 to 36 hours after the last dose of the drug. Methadone detox should be medically supervised.
The duration of methadone withdrawal varies from person to person but usually lasts from 2 to 3 weeks up to 6 months.
Within the first 55 hours of the last dose, methadone withdrawal symptoms include:
Additional symptoms that tend to peak after three days:
All symptoms tend to be most severe during the first week of withdrawal. Symptoms that tend to last longer include low energy levels, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and depression.
Withdrawal is an uncomfortable process that is made easier through medically assisted detox.
Someone prepared to stop using opioids can detox with methadone. Methadone detox reduces the level of the drug in the body until it is completely removed. If done quickly, it produces intense and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Medical supervision ensures comfort and safety.
Following the initial detox, someone with a methadone addiction can participate in a rehabilitation program. Treatment is based on a person’s level, frequency, and intensity of methadone dependence. Co-occurring disorders are also considered.
Treatment can occur on an inpatient and outpatient or outpatient only basis. In both cases, someone with a methadone addiction receives cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or motivational interviewing. This addresses triggers for substance abuse and reduces the risk of relapse.
Many people follow-up formal treatment with participation in Narcotics Anonymous, a 12-step program designed to foster recovery and building a sober support system.
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“Methadone.” Drugs.Com, Drugs.com, 2019, www.drugs.com/methadone.html
Cherney, Kristeen. “Going Through Methadone Withdrawal.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 24 June 2014, www.healthline.com/health/going-through-methadone-withdrawal
Farrell, Michael, and Wayne Hall. “Methadone and Opioid-Related Deaths.” Methadone Matters, 2003, pp. 155–165., doi:10.1201/b14312-19.