(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
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
- Muscle relaxers
- Medicines that can cause drowsiness or slow your breathing
- Diuretics(water pills)
- Heart or blood pressure medications
- HIV medicines
- MAO inhibitors
- 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:
- Sleep problems
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased sex drive
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:
- Chest pain
- Muscle pain or cramps
- Bleeding gums
- Difficulty swallowing
- Blurred vision
- Blood in urine or stool
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Extreme fatigue
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
- bluish fingernails and lips
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:
- Muscle pain and aches
- Rapid heartbeat
- Stomach cramps
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.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
I’m just gonna say this right off the bat…a lot of people aren’t going to like what I have to say about this topic.
There are those people, myself included, who believe that the use of any mood or mind-altering substance is a break in sobriety and therefore anyone using one of these so-called medications, even if prescribed by a doc, cannot be considered to be in recovery.
Then there are others who believe that the use of methadone or Suboxone is a lesser evil than heroin or other opiates and that somehow they can be considered to be sober. I am going to explain a few things about methadone and Suboxone to help clear the air about whether or not people on methadone or Suboxone are truly in recovery.
So, Are People On Methadone or Suboxone “in Recovery?”
Methadone: Synthetic Opiate
First of all, methadone is a Schedule II drug along with oxycodone and morphine. That’s right, they’re both classified just like other opiates. However, methadone and Suboxone are technically classified as ‘opioids.’ The only difference between an opioid and an opiate is that opioids are a synthetic version of opiates. For example, heroin, morphine, and codeine are all derived from the poppy plant and are therefore opiates. Methadone and other narcotic painkillers, such as oxycodone, Opana, and Tramadol are opioids simply because they are the man-made version of heroin and its derivatives.
According to Wikipedia (and all other medical sources), “Methadone…is a synthetic opioid.”Plain and simple.Methadone has what is called ‘cross-tolerance,’ which means that it has tolerance to similar drugs, including heroin and morphine, and causes similar effects as these but with a longer duration of effect. And because it is so similar to morphine or heroin, methadone acts on the same brain receptors as these drugs do, therefore causing many of the same effects; just like with heroin and other opiates and opioids, methadone’s adverse effects include respiratory depression (slowing down of breathing) which is also the mechanism behind fatal overdose, constipation, miosis (pinned pupils), dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.
Suboxone Contains an Opiate
Suboxone (the name brand for the generic drug Buprenorphine), is scheduled a little differently than methadone as it is considered a Schedule III drug, making it similar to methadone and other opiates and opioids but it considered to have a lower potential for abuse than these others.
Now, in the case of Suboxone, it contains two drugs: an opiate agonist – an actual opiate – and an opiate antagonist, which blocks the action of the opiate. This blocker drug works to block certain brain receptors in order to keep the patient from achieving the same level of euphoria – the ‘high’ – that they would with a straight opiate. It’s kind of like a governor on a car’s engine – it only allows the opiate part of the drug to work to a certain degree.
And, just like with other opioids, the most common adverse effects associated with Suboxone include nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness, headache, memory loss, cognitive disruption, sweating, itchiness, dry mouth, miosis, decreased libido, and difficulty with urination. Respiratory depression, the most serious adverse reaction related with the use of opiates and opioids, is also associated with Suboxone use, although it isn’t as high of a risk in Suboxone users as it is in people who use other opiates.
Methadone and Suboxone Maintenance Programs
From personal experience with both of these drugs – as a way to treat my opiate dependency and addiction during the decade or so of my active addiction, I will tell you that these programs are misguided. They boast that they can help opiate addicts who otherwise can’t get clean to lead a “normal” life. I see it differently. Big Pharma, methadone and Suboxone clinics and their staffs see desperate opiate addicts as a cash cow, offering a steady stream of income with little work on their part. All they have to do is make empty promises and supply desperately addicted people with their form of legalized dope.
As a person in long term recovery from all mood and mind altering substances, and as someone who had tried both methadone and Suboxone, it is my belief that pure abstinence and successful recovery from opiates and all other illicit and prescription drugs is possible.
The way I was able to achieve sobriety was by getting professional help from a drug and alcohol treatment program. There, I was eased off of Suboxone so as to be as comfortable as possible through the detox process. I then attended a 30 day rehab, which I completed. After that, I received ongoing support and therapy from an IOP. Early on, I became involved in a 12 Step fellowship, which supports me in my ongoing sobriety. If you or someone you love is on methadone maintenance or Suboxone, give us a call toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 where we have Addiction Specialist available around the clock to answer your questions.
Several years ago while in active addiction, I began to feel desperate about my situation – wanting to do anything to quit using opiates. I didn’t know anything about addiction and recovery so, when a “using buddy” suggested going to the methadone clinic, saying it was a solution to my situation, I jumped at it. I didn’t know anything about methadone or methadone clinics, either, and blindly enrolled in a program. Here are 5 things no one tells you about going to a methadone clinic that I wish I had known before I sought methadone out as a “solution” to my drug problem.
First, and for most, methadone is a drug, and a very powerful one at that.
And not only is it any kind of drug, methadone is an opiate, just like heroin is. It confounds me that there is so much “information” out there stating that methadone is a successful way of treating opiate dependence. Well, of course it is. That is, if your definition of successful opiate treatment is to substitute one opiate for another with the goal of putting off the inevitable: intense withdrawal symptoms. The fact is, methadone is a synthetic version of heroin that is prescribed legally so that people don’t go about living the druggie lifestyle. But methadone doesn’t make addiction go away and it doesn’t solve anything. I was on methadone maintenance for 8 months and it was no cake-walk. I had to get up very early every morning to travel half an hour to the methadone clinic. Every day like clockwork, around noon or 1 o’clock I had to take a nap because I was so groggy. Life certainly wasn’t normal. And, I still found myself going out and using other drugs. Because I am an addict – it doesn’t matter what the substance is. Addiction has everything to do with the person, why they use, what emotional pain they are numbing – and relatively nothing to do with the actual substance or substances of abuse.
It’s harder to get off methadone than it is to get off heroin.
Because methadone has a longer half-life than heroin, withdrawal from it is slower and longer if one was to stop taking it suddenly, or going “cold turkey.” Medically supervised withdrawal, where the client is gradually decreased over time under a doctor‘s supervision, can lessen the severity of the withdrawal symptoms but it is an inevitability that you will experience some withdrawal while tapering and when you finally stop altogether.
It takes a long time to get off methadone.
A general guideline is a 1:1 ratio for “trouble-free” detox. For example, if you have been on a dose of 100ml for one year means that it can take 18–24 months to detoxify safely. At high-maintenance doses, sudden cessation of therapy can result in withdrawal symptoms described as “the worst withdrawal imaginable,” lasting from weeks to months. Here is one person’s testimony:
“It took me eight years to get off it. But it took that many years because I was being cautious, I was in no rush to be off it completely, and I paused the decrease if I ever felt the slightest discomfort in order to let my body adjust.”
This, after 2 years of heroin addiction. The logic here is non-existent. How is trading 8 years of being dependent on methadone (an opiate) for 2 years of being dependent on heroin (also an opiate) worthwhile?
It’s expensive and usually not covered by insurance plans.
Although substance abuse, physical dependence, and addiction are considered medical conditions, treatment for opiate dependence with methadone is not a necessary form of treatment. Insurance companies rarely, if at all, cover methadone treatment for those addicted to opiates. And methadone treatment is expensive. For example, I had to pay $175 up front the first day I went and then $12 every day. That’s over $300 a month! And, that’s pretty much all profit for the methadone clinic and its industry. Methadone is basically legal heroin that is being dealt indirectly by the government.
The goal is not to help you get off drugs.
It’s called methadone maintenance for a reason. The overall goal of methadone clinics is not to help you get off of opiates; it’s to keep you complacent while steadily upping your dose. After only a couple of days of going to the clinic, I changed my mind about wanting to do a methadone maintenance and suddenly stopped going. I actually felt alright. But then my counselor from the clinic called me to see why I hadn’t come. She told me that I might feel OK for now but that I will undoubtedly start getting sick and that I needed to come back. Again, I didn’t do my homework. My counselor put the fear of facing extreme withdrawals in me and I went back. This is my opinion, of course. But, why would you need to be on methadone for years and years? And what is the need for increasing your dosage? It’s obvious that the agenda of methadone clinics is not to wean you off so that you are no longer dependent on it or any other opiate.
I stayed on methadone for 8 months altogether until one day, I decided I was done with it and quit cold turkey. I had no idea what I was in for. It took me 2 months to begin to feel normal again. Today, I am drug-free and have been for over a year. I don’t need methadone or any other drug to keep me clean and sober. I work a program of recovery and my life is amazing.
If you or a loved one is struggling with opiate addiction or methadone addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
There is no doubt in my mind that Suboxone is a helpful tool in leading the way to recovery. Studies find that the main obstacle to abstinence and recovery is the fear of withdrawals. From personal experience, I do believe Suboxone is a helpful tool in the first step to recovery from opiate addiction. That is, when prescribed responsibly by the doctor and taken correctly by the patient. That being said, I do not endorse the long term use of Suboxone (or methadone maintenance for that matter).
Suboxone is a drug that contains both an opioid and an opioid blocker. The way it works is, at the onset of withdrawals, the opiate addict begins the Suboxone therapy (at a therapeutic dose, read: low dose). Suboxone treatment should only last about a week and involves a rapid taper, meaning, the patient takes a full dose the first couple of days and then takes less and less the following days until they stop completely. When used properly, the patient will have experienced less-acute withdrawal symptoms. There is no magic bullet; you will still go through withdrawals but it will be way more tolerable than quitting cold turkey.
During the years of my addiction, I had periods of abstinence and usually could stop on my own. At one point, I had gotten in over my head, though, and, without doing any research into it, started going to a methadone clinic. After about 8 months of that, I decided that enough was enough and decided to quit cold turkey. Again, I didn’t really know what I had gotten into and so, needless to say, the next couple of months were – how can I describe it – hell on earth. After that, I had a period of abstinence from opiates but I was still smoking a lot of weed. I eventually started using again.
About a year before I actually decided to get clean, I was under the care of a psychiatrist who also happened to be trained in prescribing Suboxone (not all doctors have this authority). He treated me with Suboxone and I was relieved to be “back on track” and no longer having to use on a daily basis to keep from being dope sick. But, even for that week on Suboxone, I was still an addict: finding a way to inject it instead of taking it as prescribed. I stayed away from my drug of choice for a little while but, soon enough, life’s stresses drove me back to my old ways. I was using illicit drugs interspersed with Suboxone that I would buy off the street. In fact, I knew a lot of people who used it in the same way: doing Suboxone maintenance for a while, then purposely stopping it in order to do straight opiates such as painkillers and heroin. Off and on, like that, cycling Suboxone for heroin or roxies.
It was slowly dawning on me that I had a real problem for which I needed professional help again. At this point, I went to a Suboxone doctor in order to get my own prescription and to get his help with tapering off. At my first and only visit, the doctor instructed me to take the Suboxone at a higher dose than I was doing on my own. And when I told him it was my goal to be tapered off as soon as possible, he said we would “talk about it” in a couple of months. This is all too often the case with Suboxone doctors, also known as “dirty docs.” You see, Suboxone maintenance like methadone maintenance, is not covered by insurance – it is all an out-of-pocket expense. Therefore, dirty docs charge their desperate opiate-dependent patients an arm and a leg and then pocket most of that money.
Suboxone is Not Effective at Preventing Relapse
From personal experience and seeing others use and abuse Suboxone, it is clear to me that it is not effective at treating relapse. In fact, studies have identified the specific parts of the brain that deal with relapse; medications like Suboxone do not activate the areas of the brain associated with relapse. Furthermore, these studies find that the chronic blockade of opioid receptors has anti-reward effects which increase the potential for relapse.
If you or someone you know is in need of painkiller, heroin, or Suboxone addiction treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.