What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone?

What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone?

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Author: Justin Mckibben

In the fight against opioid addiction many have turned to medication maintenance programs as a means to help them curb their substance abuse. Methadone is one of the more commonly utilized medication maintenance drugs. However, the system is not without its inherent and relatively serious risks. In fact, methadone abuse is common.

While methadone may not produce the same high in the same manner as heroin, it can be abused to cause the same effects as most opiates, including:

When considering methadone, there are a lot of reasons to do your research and make sure you fully understand how methadone is used and what the dangers are. Dosing of methadone will depend on a few factors, including:

  • Age of the individual
  • General condition and medical status of the patient
  • Other medications being taken

It is very important to note that methadone can have side-effects when interacting with other medications, such as:

  • Narcotic pain medications
  • Sedatives
  • Tranquilizers
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Medicines that can cause drowsiness or slow your breathing
  • Diuretics(water pills)
  • Antibiotics
  • Heart or blood pressure medications
  • HIV medicines
  • MAO inhibitors
  • Rifampin
  • Seizure medication

If methadone is taken with some other medicines the combination can cause serious medical problems. Looking at the side-effects of methadone, one should talk to their doctor about any other medications they take.

What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone: Common Side-Effects

Methadone is a narcotic used as a pain reliever, and is also used as part of drug addiction detoxification and maintenance programs. Methadone hydrochloride is the generic form. Common side effects of methadone hydrochloride include:

  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep problems
  • Weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Impotence

Some of these more common side-effects may not be especially dangerous, but they can lead to much more serious complications.

What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone: Serious Side-Effects

When experiencing these serious side-effects, immediately contact your doctor or seek emergency medical treatment if you experience serious side effects of methadone hydrochloride including:

  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle pain or cramps
  • Bleeding gums
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Blurred vision
  • Convulsions
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Fainting
  • Seizures

One of the most critical mistakes many people make is assuming there is no danger in relying heavily on methadone as a means of recovery from opioid abuse. The reality is, approximately 5,000 people die due to abuse of methadone each year.

Admittedly, this is often more likely when methadone has been mixed with other substances, including alcohol and benzodiazepines. However, it is absolutely possible to overdose on methadone.

What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone: Overdose

It is possible to overdose on methadone, just as with any other powerful prescription opioid medication. Again, methadone is a narcotic and many of the overdose symptoms for methadone are the same as with other opioid medications, such as:

  • Difficulty breathing/shallow breathing
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Twitching muscles
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • bluish fingernails and lips
  • Coma
  • Death

With drug overdose, especially with such strong substances, death is a possible side-effect. Therefore it is extremely important that all side-effects are taken seriously and that someone trying to utilize methadone consults with their doctor about the risks.

What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone: Mental Health

While the physical side-effects of methadone can be very difficult to deal with, methadone also has a tendency to cause some psychological side-effects, such as:

The truth is, these psychological side-effects can be just as serious as physical side-effects, and some people have more difficulty dealing with the psychological aspect of methadone.

Also, people who already struggle with other co-occurring mental health disorders may experience some side effects more intensely. It is important to make sure both mental and physical health is taken into account with every form of drug treatment.

What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone: Withdrawal

The reality that makes the use of methadone seem self-defeating is that methadone does indeed come with its own set of withdrawal symptoms that become more severe with prolonged use. These withdrawal symptoms are often similar to those from other opioid drugs, such as heroin. The most common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle pain and aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Stomach cramps
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Diarrhea
  • Cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression

Quitting methadone “cold turkey”, meaning abruptly without a safe medical taper or detox, can cause more severe withdrawal symptoms.

What Are the Side-Effects of Methadone: Detoxing from Methadone

Detoxing from methadone is safest and most efficient when done under the supervision in a medical detox of a drug treatment facility or hospital. Most medical detoxes provide a tapering off of the drug in order to reduce the severity of withdrawals. Quitting cold turkey is much more painful and difficult to do.

Drug treatment programs like Palm Partners also utilize the combined expertise of therapists and medical physicians in order to design a personalized treatment plan in order to give the individual the best opportunity for lasting recovery, and anyone who has been using methadone for an extended period or developed a tolerance to it should pursue an inpatient treatment option. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

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