Updated on February 29, 2024
5 min read

Methadone Addiction: Understanding the Signs and Symptoms

Healthcare professionals prescribe methadone for chronic pain because of how long its effects last. It’s also useful in opioid addiction treatment because it can mitigate withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Methadone is a synthetic opioid agonist used for pain management and opioid dependence treatment. However, despite its medical uses, it carries the risk of misuse and addiction.

Methadone addiction is a complex issue, often accompanied by physical and emotional pain and trauma. In this article, we go over its physical and behavioral signs, treatment options, and alternative methods of pain management to help support sobriety.

Is Methadone Addictive?

The risk of methadone addiction is particularly high if you don’t take it as prescribed or forego a prescription completely. Because it’s an opioid, it has the potential to be misused.

Methadone doesn’t produce the same euphoric effects as heroin or morphine, as it is designed to block the pleasurable effects of other opiates. However, it does have some euphoric effects, which can lead to its misuse.

What are the Signs of Methadone Addiction?

Signs of methadone addiction can be similar to other opioid addictions. It includes a range of physical, behavioral, and psychological signs.

One of the most common physical signs of methadone addiction is developing a tolerance for the drug. This means you need higher doses to feel the same effects as before.

Other physical symptoms of methadone addiction include:

  • Withdrawal symptoms upon ceasing or decreasing use
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Neglect of personal hygiene

Behavioral signs of methadone addiction include:

  • Doctor shopping: Visiting multiple doctors to obtain more prescriptions
  • Isolating from friends and family: Withdrawing from social activities
  • Neglecting responsibilities: Failing to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home
  • Continued use despite harm: Using methadone even when it causes problems in relationships or at work
  • Secretive or deceptive behavior: Being evasive or lying about the amount of methadone you take

A person addicted to methadone may also experience cravings for the drug, rapid and extreme mood changes, and persistent feelings of anxiety and depression. If you notice these signs in yourself, bring these up to your healthcare provider so they can guide you towards the best steps to take.

What are Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms?

The duration of methadone withdrawal varies for everyone but usually lasts from 2 to 3 weeks up to 6 months. Within the first 24 hours of the last dose, methadone withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Nasal discharge
  • Watery eyes
  • Yawning
  • Insomnia

Additional symptoms that tend to peak after 3 days include:

  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Fast heart rate
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps (pilorection)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Drug cravings

All symptoms are the most severe during the first week of withdrawal. Symptoms that can last longer include low energy levels, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and depression.

What are Methadone Overdose Symptoms?

Methadone's long-acting nature means it can build up quickly in your body. Taking even one more dose than prescribed can lead to an overdose.

The most common signs of methadone overdose include:

  • Irregular breathing
  • Ankle swelling
  • Chest pain
  • Increased sweating
  • Sleepiness
  • Cold skin
  • Severe coughing
  • Leg swelling
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Constricted pupils
  • Pale or bluish skin or lips
  • Slow responsiveness
  • Respiratory depression
Methadone pill

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How Do You Treat Methadone Addiction?

The best option for methadone treatment, like other opioid addictions, is medical intervention with professional help. Depending on your needs, treatment may include a combination of medication-assisted therapy (MAT) and behavioral therapies.

Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)

One of the best opioid treatment programs is medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT combines psychotherapy with medications, reducing cravings and painful withdrawal symptoms while addressing the psychological and social aspects of your addiction.

Common MAT medications that treat opioid use disorder include buprenorphine and naltrexone. These drugs don't produce a high, but they can reduce cravings and block the pleasurable effects of opioids like methadone.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapy and counseling treat synthetic opioid addictions by helping you change your behavior and attitudes toward the drug. It also helps you learn ways to cope with withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Examples of behavioral therapies include:

  • Motivational Interviews: Takes place in an intimate counseling setting to help you cope with the recovery process and stay abstinent
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Helps manage stress, triggers, expectations, and behaviors related to methadone
  • Contingency Management: A voucher-based treatment that awards you with “points” based on your length of sobriety; helps develop healthy habits and encourages you to live drug-free after treatment is complete

Support Groups

Support groups allow you to connect with those who understand the struggles of methadone addiction. They provide you with the necessary resources and aid to continue on the path of sobriety.

Examples of support groups include Narcotics Anonymous (NA), SMART Recovery, and Heroin Anonymous (HA). These programs support people in recovery by providing them with a safe space to share struggles, successes, and experiences in maintaining sobriety.

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Resources for Help and Support

If you or someone you know is struggling with methadone addiction, there are resources available to help. Consider reaching out to:

  • National Helpline: 1-800-237-TALK (8255)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Treatment locator
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
  • Your primary care provider or a mental health professional: Consult them for personalized guidance and treatment options


Methadone is a powerful opioid medication for pain and helps those struggling with addiction. However, it also has the potential for abuse and can lead to methadone addiction.

If you or someone you know is struggling with methadone addiction, reach out for help immediately. Support and resources are available, including national hotlines and treatment locators.

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Updated on February 29, 2024

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