Methadone is a medication that is often prescribed to treat addiction to opioids, such as heroin and prescription painkillers. It is considered a safe replacement for such drugs, which is why since about 1964, thousands of people have been using it to quit their opioid addiction.
But like any medication that has beneficial effects on patients, methadone has potential drawbacks. Side effects of methadone may be uncomfortable, and in some cases, severe. If you are thinking of going to rehab and may be prescribed this drug, you should be aware of the most common methadone side effects first.
While methadone can be used to treat an opioid use disorder, it is also addictive in itself. However, treatment options are available.
What Is Methadone Used for?
Methadone is often given as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) at rehab centers. It is used to treat addiction to opioids, such as heroin, oxycodone, or fentanyl. In recent years, methadone has been quite effective at helping fight the opioid epidemic, during which more than 1.6 million people have reported opioid use disorder in the last year alone.
As a result, about 350,000 Americans now rely on methadone to help them quit their opioid addiction. This synthetic opioid comes in a few forms, including tablets, powder, and liquid. If you have been prescribed methadone, you will need to see a medical professional to get your prescribed dose. This may require you to visit a methadone clinic daily, though some patients qualify for take-home doses that last them a few weeks.
How Does Methadone Work?
When you take methadone during opioid addiction treatment, you can expect to feel some relief from your withdrawal symptoms. You will also notice that your cravings for opioids have weakened when you take methadone. This can help you maintain your sobriety, especially when you pair this medication with therapy.
Knowing how methadone affects your brain can give you an idea of what to expect from this drug, including the side effects you may experience. This drug works by changing how your brain and nervous system will react to pain. It weakens the pain and discomfort of your opioid withdrawal symptoms.
It also weakens the euphoria you might feel from opioids. This is because methadone binds to the same receptors that opioid drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers do. The difference is that methadone is stored in the body and then released over time at a much slower pace than opioids like heroin.
This means you are getting a much more subtle and less dangerous effect from methadone than with opioids. It is usually sufficient to keep you from craving drugs, helping you battle your opioid addiction. But as with any drug, there are some methadone side effects you should be aware of before you consider this medication as part of your MAT plan.
What Are the Most Common Methadone Side Effects to Expect?
Methadone can cause side effects for some people. Most are minor and do not require medical treatment, such as the following:
- Stomach pain
- Vision changes
- Dry mouth
- Sore tongue
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Trouble urinating
- Loss of appetite
These are just some of the methadone side effects that people have reported. You likely will not experience all of them. But if you do, or if the symptoms you notice are affecting your life negatively, talk to your treatment team to find a solution that may work better for you.
At Zinnia Health, we offer several treatment options for people struggling with opioid addiction and would be happy to help you adjust your treatment plan as needed. Reach out to us at (855) 430-9439 if you are concerned about these or other methadone side effects.
What Are the Severe Methadone Side Effects?
Some methadone side effects are more serious and may require immediate medical treatment. If you notice any of the following side effects, you should see a doctor:
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Severe restlessness
- Swelling of the throat, tongue, mouth, face, or eyes
Fortunately, most methadone side effects are minor, and many people do not even notice them. But if you do, this could be a sign that you need a different dose or different treatment altogether. Your treatment team can help to ensure you are on a plan that will help you in the long run so you can safely quit opioids for good.
What Are the Symptoms of Methadone Addiction and Overdose?
Methadone is an effective treatment for people who are addicted to opioids. It is normal to become physically dependent on it, but some people misuse this drug and end up addicted to it — or even overdose on it.
Taking this drug at your prescribed dose to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms will result in physical dependence to it as you work on quitting more dangerous opioids. If you find yourself taking more of this medication than prescribed or changing your behaviors as a result of using it, you may be psychologically addicted.
That addiction may lead to overdose, which can be deadly. It is considered easier to overdose on methadone than many other opioids. If there is enough methadone in your blood, you could experience the following dangerous symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue
- Shallow, slow breathing
- Clammy skin
- Blue tint to skin, lips, and fingertips
If you are taking methadone in the prescribed form and dose, you are highly unlikely to overdose on it. But if you take more than you are supposed to or mix it with other drugs, you could experience these and other fatal symptoms. If you think you are addicted to methadone, contact your treatment team immediately to get help.
What Happens When You Quit Methadone?
Many people who find success with methadone will continue to take it for years. At the very least, most people are encouraged to take it for at least one year to reduce their odds of relapse. If you are just getting started with this drug and have not noticed any concerning methadone side effects, you do not have to worry about quitting it anytime soon.
On the other hand, some people find that it is just not the right option for them. If you have been experiencing the methadone side effects described above, you and your treatment team may decide it is best to try something else. In that case, you will be gradually tapered off this drug.
Quitting slowly with the help of your treatment team should reduce any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. But just as when you quit any other drug, you might still notice some side effects of quitting, typically starting within two to four days of your last methadone dose.
Some of the most common methadone withdrawal symptoms include:
- Achy bones and joints
- Runny nose
- Flu-like feeling in the body
These methadone withdrawal symptoms will feel mild at first and then get worse over a few days. But they should go away within two weeks. At that point, you might start to notice some other symptoms that could continue for about six months. They include:
- Low energy
- Memory problems
- Trouble feeling excited or happy
While these methadone withdrawal symptoms can be hard to deal with, the good news is they are temporary. In most cases, these symptoms will not last more than six months to a year.
During this time, it is important to be getting treatment — including ongoing therapy — at a center like Zinnia Health. You will need support and coping mechanisms to stay sober as you get used to life without opioids of any kind.
How Can You Start Treatment Today?
If you are addicted to opioids and are curious about how methadone can help, know that it is considered an effective treatment option for many people. In fact, experts often claim that MAT — including Suboxone and methadone — is the most effective choice for opioid addiction treatment.
However, it is not the only treatment available. Therapy is a very big factor in drug treatment options that are considered effective. In fact, even if you take methadone, you are supposed to combine it with ongoing therapy for the best results. Fortunately, you can get therapy from either inpatient or outpatient treatment centers.
If you are addicted to opioids and you want to immerse yourself in a treatment program that will affect every aspect of your life, inpatient treatment may be right for you. While there, you will get a custom treatment plan that may include a combination of the following:
- Individual therapy
- Group counseling sessions
Note that inpatient treatment will require you to put your career or education plans on hold temporarily while you recover. If that is an option for you, the results should be worth it as you have a good chance of learning coping strategies to help you stay sober.
Outpatient treatment is better suited for those who cannot leave their responsibilities for any period of time, or who have less severe addictions. During outpatient treatment, you will still have access to the most effective treatment options — such as therapy and medication. But you can live at home and visit the treatment center a few times per week for therapy and support group sessions.
You also have the option of intensive outpatient treatment. In this case, you will still live at home, but you will spend a lot of time at the treatment center, often spending up to 20 hours per week in therapy. This option is usually best for people who have already completed inpatient treatment and are on their way to recovery from their drug addiction.
There are several effective options to choose from as you seek drug treatment help. When you come to Zinnia Health, our team will go over the programs we offer and help you choose the right one. Contact us today at (855) 430-9439 to get started on a treatment plan that may include individual therapy, group therapy, methadone, and more.