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Methadone Addiction and Abuse

Commonly used as a way to curb cravings for other opiates, methadone is also an addictive substance in its own right.

Methadone Defined

methadone addiction pillMethadone is a synthetic opioid prescribed for moderate to severe pain. It is also commonly used to treat opiate addictions, especially addiction to heroin. Methadone acts on the same opioid receptors as morphine and heroin to stabilize patients and minimize withdrawal symptoms in the case of an addiction.

Methadone is a federally designated Schedule II drug, meaning it has a legitimate legal use but also a high likelihood of its users developing a dependence. Other Schedule II drugs include hydrocodone and morphine.

Methadone Abuse

Because methadone is used as a way to curb addiction and reduce cravings, it isn’t as heavily regulated as other drugs. However, it is still a powerful opiate with potentially addictive qualities. People who start using methadone to overcome their heroin addiction are at a higher risk of abuse because they already have a history of opioid dependency.

Any time someone uses more methadone than they are prescribed, or use it without a prescription, it is considered abuse.

Methadone does not create the same euphoric effects as heroin or morphine because it is designed to do the opposite; the drug is formulated to block the pleasurable sensations of other opiates. Despite this, some people still take methadone illegally in search of a high.

Methadone Addiction

Addiction to methadone can be a bit of a taboo topic, as many people in the medical community see it as a necessary aid in helping heroin addicts recover. But as with any opiate, addiction is an all-too-common side effect.An addiction to methadone can come about because the drug eases a user’s pain. As time goes on and tolerance builds, more of the drug is needed for the same effect.

Methadone and Other Drugs

Methadone is a depressant, and as such can cause negative interactions with other drugs—especially alcohol, which is also a depressant. Some people struggling with a methadone addiction are also alcoholics. This is a potentially deadly combination as the two together can cause dangerously low blood pressure and respiratory depression.

It is never recommended to use methadone with any other substance, even some herbal remedies (particularly St. John’s Wort). If you or someone you know has an addiction to methadone and any other substance, get help now.

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Statistics of Methadone Abuse

  • The number of poisoning deaths involving methadone increased from 790 to 5,420 between 1999 and 2006 (assumed to be linked to the drug’s increased use as a pain medication).
  • In 2008, there were 750,000 methadone prescriptions written for pain relief.
  • Between 2000 and 2001, the number of people treated for abuse of “other opiates” (including methadone) increased from 28,235 to 36,265.
  • Methadone is involved in one third of opiate pain reliever-related overdose deaths.

Overcoming Your Methadone Addiction

Methadone, like any other opiate, can be very challenging to quit. Even though it’s not known for being powerfully addictive like heroin, it still holds significant withdrawal symptoms and can be hard to overcome on your own. Call us to find help now in your fight to overcome methadone addiction.

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Sources & Author Last Edited: January 21, 2016

  1. Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Methadone Fact Sheet. Retrieved on March 30, 2014, from: http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/methadone.asp
About the Writer, Kayla Smith

Kayla Smith is the editorial director for Addiction Center. After working for years as a journalist, she joined the Addiction Center team in hopes of spreading awareness about addiction and mental health issues and helping people get treatment.

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