The Effects of Methadone Use
- Table of ContentsPrint
- Is Methadone Harmful?
- Short-Term Effects of Methadone
- Side Effects
- Long-Term Effects of Methadone
- Methadone Dependence
- Methadone Withdrawal Treatment
Is Methadone Harmful?
Methadone Effects question 1
The treatment of opiate abuse often requires another opiate as a supportive measure when the patient stops taking the original drug. Ideally, it's a long-acting drug with a long half-life, and it should be easy to take. Often the goal is to decrease the intense drive to continue to seek out and abuse illicit opiates such as heroin. Methadone is usually the drug of choice, partially thanks to its price and easy availability; however, the system is not without its inherent risks and methadone abuse is common. While the drug does not produce a high in the same manner as heroin, it can be abused to cause the same effects as most opiates: sedation, relaxation, and reduction of anxiety.
That means it does have the potential to be harmful, but this drug usually does more good than harm to the thousands of people who take it. It is easy to reduce dosages, and it can be used safely in relatively high doses, which makes it a good option for what's usually called methadone maintenance therapy (MMT). Methadone is not to be confused with mephedrone or meth, which are both in the stimulant class of drugs.
Methadone Effects question 2
Short-Term Effects of Methadone
The short term effects of methadone usually last for around 22 hours, but they can last as long as 60 hours, depending on the dose and the physiological makeup of the person. This is much longer than heroin, which can be out of the body in as little as 30 minutes, creating rapid peaks and troughs. Methadone can therefore be taken once a day.
"Methadone is usually the drug of choice, partially thanks to its price and easy availability; however, methadone abuse is common."
It produces, like most opiates, a feeling of sedation and contentment thanks to its action on the opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors are what cause the effects of methadone abuse, including the high. Pain is the interpretation of the brain to specific stimuli. However, it's not in the body's interest to be constantly in pain, so it can switch it off. It's also good for the body to reward itself, such as after exercise. It releases endorphins, which are mimicked by methadone and all other opioids, which increase the amount of dopamine floating around the brain. However, most opiates are much stronger at binding than endorphins, which mean they cannot be kicked out quickly, and they produce a much stronger effect.
Methadone Effects question 3
This leads to the side effects of methadone abuse. Methadone slows down your reactions, making you appear more lethargic and your movements more exaggerated. This means you're more likely to have an accident as you cannot react as quickly as you should. You might also suffer from mood swings, particularly as your body's supply of methadone gets low. These can range from depression to mania and everything in between, which can really put a strain on your health and personal relationships.
Methadone Effects question 4
Long-Term Effects of Methadone
Methadone abuse, however, makes these effects last longer, and it reduces the long-term effectiveness of the drug. Approximately 5,000 people die due to abuse of this drug each year, and this often happens when the drug has been mixed with other substances, including alcohol and benzodiazepines.
In addition, the long-term effects of methadone abuse are almost as bad as those of heroin. The drug causes impaired judgment, and it can also lead to heart problems, just like other opiates. It's uncommon for tablets to be crushed and injected, but even the injectable solution can cause problems, especially if the same needle is used with multiple people or for multiple doses.
Of course, you've got the legal side of methadone abuse. It's legal to possess the drug with a prescription, but if you end up being stopped for drugged driving, you can face a driving ban of up to a year, depending on the state you’re in. Even having a prescription won't necessarily help you if your driving is considered to have been affected by the drug; the state can still prosecute you.
Methadone Effects question 5
All of this leads to methadone dependence. If you were switched to methadone after using a drug like heroin, you likely had a dependence issue to start with. The good news is that methadone is relatively simple to get off when you have the proper help. To help a Methadone addict, call our 24/7 hotline at (800) 943-0566 for more information.
Methadone Effects question 6
Methadone Withdrawal Treatment
Methadone withdrawal is usually a three-stage process. You generally start with a high dose and gradually drop it down in 5 mg increments. At 40 mg, you drop it down by 3 mg; at around 20 mg, you start dropping it by 2 mg. This ensures a slow but comfortable withdrawal process. You may experience some effects of withdrawal anyway, but they won't be as uncomfortable as they would be if you went cold turkey.
As your dosages are being reduced, you'll undergo counseling, and the counseling can take a number of forms. If you've got a co-occurring disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder, you'll likely be given psychotherapy and possibly medication assistance to help you through the process. You'll probably undergo cognitive behavioral therapy to help you find mechanisms to ensure you don't restart methadone abuse in the future.
The final stage is the recovery stage, and this is where you exit rehab and restart your life. You get to reconnect with your family members, and you can make new friends away from your old methadone-using haunts. In addition, you can find people who have been in exactly the same position as you who can offer support and help you through tough times.