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Methadone Addiction: Some Important Facts

Methadone is another synthetic opioid used as a prescription medication for the treatment of moderate to severe pain.  Just like morphine and many other opioid painkillers, it is classified as schedule II substance by FDA which means that it has therapeutic uses but there is a high potential of becoming addicted to it. The drug is also widely used for the treatment of withdrawal symptoms produced by a number of other drugs such as heroin. It acts on the morphine receptors of the brain and mimics the effects of heroin thus helping to ease down the symptoms. Whether it is used to treat pain or addiction, the potential of development of an addiction stays. The number of people becoming addicted to it is rapidly increasing.

Methadone Addiction

Table of Contents:

  • What is methadone?
  • Can methadone be addictive?
  • How does methadone work?
  • Common methadone drug combinations
  • Some facts and figures on methadone abuse

What is Methadone?

It is a synthetic opioid used for the treatment of pain as well as several opioid addictions. The effects produced by it are similar to morphine. Even though it is addictive itself, it is used for the treatment of other opioid addictions. It is because it does not produce as intense high as other opioids. Methadone was first introduced in United States in 1947 as a pain reliever but it was not before 1960s that its addictive potential and consequences were studied.

Methadone has a long duration of action and it has been found to be helpful for the treatment of withdrawal symptoms for up to 36 hours. However, patients tend to develop tolerance that leads them to taking more and more amounts of methadone. That results into abuse and addiction. So even if methadone is used for therapeutic purposes, its use should be highly supervised and monitored to avoid unpleasant consequences. It should not be used on your own without a valid prescription from the doctor. Methadone is sold under a number of brand names such as:

  • Methadone HCl Intensol
  • Methadose
  • Methadose sugar free
  • Dolophine

Methadone is usually available in pill and liquid form. The pill may have varying potency depending upon the brand and needs of the patient. It is usually manufactured 5mg, 10mg and 15mg tablets. Shape and color may also vary for different brands. For example, dolophine is a round white tablet with printed with different numbers depending upon the dose while methadone is printed with both numbers and brand names.

The oral solutions of the drug are available in different forms such as methadone HCl Intensol and methdose sugar free. The dosage amounts for oral solution is usually 10mg/mL.

Can Methadone be Addictive?

Methadone is a potent schedule II substance and just like other schedule II substances for example, oxycodone and morphine, it has a high addictive potential. It is frequently used for the treatment of other more harmful opioids such as heroin. The drug administration is prescribed by a doctor and monitored strictly under expert supervision in methadone clinics. Even after these measures, the potential of becoming addicted to it always stays.

The therapeutic as well as non-therapeutic use of methadone results into physical dependence which means that there will be withdrawal symptoms once the drug is quit. The experience may vary from one person to the other but many patients have reported having severe withdrawal symptoms. Studies suggest that methadone addicts continue to abuse it even after years of becoming addicted to it. So methadone addiction is a serious condition that needs a proper treatment program to recover from.

How Does Methadone Work?

Methadone is an opioid so it acts on the opioid receptors of the brain to produce its effects. When taken in high amounts, it produces a euphoric high that is somewhat different from other opioids. It has a potential to stop cravings the reason why it is used to treat heroin addiction. Its pain relieving action has a potential to relieve the pain for up to 8 hours.

Methadone blocks the receptors in the brain associated with the sensation of euphoria and pleasure induced by certain drugs. When taken in controlled amounts, its high effects are not experienced. However, at high dosage amounts, it can cause a high feeling. Further increased amounts can even result into overdose and toxicity.

Common Methadone Drug Combinations:

Methadone is central nervous system depressant that means it has an ability to suppress mental and physical functions such as respiration and heart rate. When it is combined with another depressant such as alcohol, results can be deadly. The reason is that both the depressants can slow down the body functions to such a level that the life is no more sustained. For example, respiratory rate can be lowered down to such a level that not enough oxygen is supplied to the body to work.

The drugs that can be particularly harmful when paired with methadone include benzodiazepines which are also CNS depressants. Other sedatives and general anesthetics can also prove to be deadly. It is important to take methadone under expert supervision due to theses dangers and its addictive potential.

Some Facts and Figures on Methadone Absue:

Even though methadone is a useful drug for the treatment of a number of addictions, the cases of methadone addiction and abuse are increasing. Just like other addictions, methadone addiction needs a proper recovery plan. Even death is possible if the condition is left unattended.

  • Methadone is a slow acting substance. It is slow to action and remains in the system for much longer periods of time. Unlike heroin which only lasts for up to 6 hours, it can remain in human body for up to 60 hours.
  • Deaths due to methadone toxicity increased by 700 percent between the years 2001 to 2014 in United States.
  • As reported by DEA, more than 2.5 million Americans reported having abused methadone in the year 2012.
  • In 2011, more than 65,000 emergency room cases involved methadone abuse.

Even though methadone is a prescription drug, it is no less harmful than other drugs. It is important to raise awareness to keep people from dying due to its abuse.


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