Methadone: A Necessary Evil?
Methadone is most commonly used to curb cravings for addictions to other opiates, such as heroin. For the past 20 years or so, the drug has been increasingly prescribed as a painkiller for moderate to severe pain. Methadone is often seen as a necessary evil for addicts who need to overcome a much more dangerous addiction. Methadone is controversial in some circles because it is an opioid, and there are academic and moral concerns over using it to treat opioid addiction. There are also concerns about how addictive methadone is and the damage that it has done to the lives of methadone abusers and their families. However, methadone maintenance programs have consistently been found to be among the most common and effective methods for treating heroin addiction since the late 1970’s. Every year, tens of thousands of recovering addicts are treated with methadone.
Many people underestimate the effects methadone has on its users.
Side Effects of Methadone Use
Methadone is most commonly administered orally, through pills or tablets. Some illicit uses of methadone may include crushing and swallowing the pills or administering the drug via injection. Intravenous use of methadone can lead to side effects like collapsed veins and transmission of other diseases, including HIV.
Recognizing a Methadone Addiction
A methadone addiction can turn healthy, happy people into dependent, depressed versions of themselves. Knowing what to look for in a methadone addiction can help you or someone you love regain control of life.
A red flag may be any time someone’s behavior changes dramatically, especially in correlation with starting or increasing doses of methadone. Here are some telltale signs of methadone addiction:
When a methadone user develops a tolerance to the drug (meaning they require a higher dose to get the same effects as before), they may have an addiction. This is usually the first sign, but on its own not always a surefire indicator.
Presence of withdrawal symptoms
A habitual methadone user has unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. Symptoms range from depression to cramps to insomnia.
When a methadone user chooses the drug over social and familial responsibilities, addiction may be present.
Potential Side Effects of Methadone:
- Difficult, labored breathing
- Trouble sleeping
- Blurred vision
- Muscle pain and cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Decreased reaction time
- Decreased attention span
- Droopy eyelids
- Dry mouth
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased body temperature
- Decreased blood pressure
- Little to no reaction to light
Because methadone is often used as a drug to wean addicts off of heroin, the effects and the consequent withdrawal symptoms between the two are similar. Some sources have gone so far as to say that withdrawing from methadone is even worse than withdrawing from heroin.
Potential Withdrawal Symptoms
- Abdominal pain
- Chills or hot flashes
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Overcoming a Methadone Addiction
Whether you’ve used methadone as a painkiller or a way to manage a harder addiction, coming down from it can be challenging at best. Contact a treatment provider to discuss available treatment options.