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Methadone is an opioid medication sometimes referred as a narcotic. The drug is used to reduce withdrawal symptoms for people undergoing detoxification for heroin and other narcotic drugs. Methadone does not produce “high” sensation which often associated with drug addiction.

Also, methadone is commonly used as a pain reliever. It serves as an important medication in the detoxification process. Methadone is only available in selected certified pharmacies.


Quick Facts about Methadone:

  • In a study of the Drug Enforcement Administration:
  • From the year 1999 to 2005, overdose deaths because of methadone increased around 460%
  • In 2011, records shows that over 65,000 emergency room visits were related to methadone abuse.
  • About 2.5 million people ages 12 years old and above abused methadone in some point in their life in 2012. The number grew from 2.1 million in just one year.


History of Methadone

Scientists working in I.G. Farbenindustrie AG at Farbwerke Hoechst in Germany developed methadone in 1937. During those times, Germany suffers from opium shortage problem and scientists have to think a way to solve it.


Bockmühl and Ehrhart filed for a patent for a synthetic drug similar to morphine on September 11, 1941. They called the drug Hoechst 10820 or Polamidon. During the WWII, methadone was widely used in Germany.


After the war, the US Department of Commerce Intelligence under the Technical Industrial Committer of the US Senate brought methadone in the US. Their investigation revealed that even though methadone contains addictive properties, it offers less sedation and respiratory distress than morphine.  After the war, ten years later, Eli Lilly introduced the drug into the US.


What causes Methadone addiction?

Like other opiates, methadone acts in the brain opioid receptors which control the reward system function. Even though methadone is used as a medical management treatment for heroin addiction, it also contains potential characteristics for addiction. The problem with patients is that from heroin addiction, they often develop methadone addiction.


What are the signs and symptoms of Methadone addiction?

Methadone which contains 22-hour half-life acts longer but is less potent than heroin. Because of these properties, experts use methadone to treat withdrawal symptoms.


The use of methadone for opioid addiction is called as Methadone Maintenance Therapy or MMT. The treatment only transpires in a certified methadone clinic. However, even if methadone is used for medical treatment of opiate addiction, it also contains properties that make it prone to abuse.


Signs of methadone addiction include:

  • Using the drug more that the prescribed dosage
  • Taking the drug outside of prescriptions. Clinics generally require the user to take methadone inside their facility, but some can buy it elsewhere like on the black market
  • “Doctor shopping”, a behavior for getting legal prescription from different doctors
  • Skipping schedule drug intake to have a ‘stockpile’ for high-dose administration later
  • Ignoring responsibilities at work, school, and even relationships
  • Physical Signs of Methadone addiction include:
  • Constipation
  • Constricted pupils
  • Increased pain
  • Nausea
  • Slowed breathing
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting


Short-Term Effects of Methadone

The effects of methadone are somewhat similar to heroin but longer-lasting and less intense. It usually lasts up to 24 hours; heroin lasting effects reach up to 2-3 hours. Methadone also slows down a person’s reaction, which makes movements more exaggerated or lethargic. This makes the user prone to accidents since they cannot respond quickly enough.

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Relaxation
  • Respiratory distress
  • Sedation


Long Term Effects of Methadone Abuse

Around 5,000 people die because of methadone abuse annually. This commonly happens when users mix the drug with other substances such as alcohol and benzodiazepines.


Health complications from methadone abuse vary because of the genetic make-up of each individual, length of time which they used the substance even the duration of the intake. Prolonged methadone abuse can result in devastating effects on the overall well-being of the user. Some of the long-term effects include:


  • Impaired judgment
  • Heart complications
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Respiratory problems

Blood borne disease like HIV, Hepatitis C (related with multiple injection uses or in multiple doses as well as sharing of needles.)

Furthermore, long-term heavy use of the drug will build tolerance in the body. Users must take higher doses of methadone to get the same effect. This behavior often leads to overdose.


Overdose symptoms include:


  • Breathing problems/shallow, slow breathing
  • Hypotension or low blood pressure
  • Twitching muscles
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cyanosis  or bluish color of fingernails and lips
  • Coma
  • Death

What are the treatments available for Methadone addiction?

Fortunately, there is still hope for methadone addiction. Getting a proper assessment is a very crucial step to take. Usually, a treatment program includes detox, then a residential rehabilitation or an outpatient treatment.



To get rid of all traces of opioid use such as methadone, a detoxification process is a must. In this process, users will undergo medication which will eventually eliminate the drug from the body. However, supervision from medical practitioners for methadone detox is highly recommended. Besides administering the medication, they will ensure the total safety and comfort of the user.


Withdrawal symptoms usually occur within 24 hours from the last drug intake. For some users, it can take longer depending on how they used the drug.  During the first week until 10 days, users will experience the worst symptoms accompanied with flu-like symptoms. Also, interconnected psychological symptoms will also surface like paranoia and depression. However, the symptoms will eventually fade within several weeks.


The usual withdrawal symptoms include:


  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Stomach cramps
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations



A therapist can guide the user in getting back their essential skills to get back to their daily lives. Some may include group therapy sessions or other physical activities to regain their vitality. They can also evaluate and treat the main cause for methadone addiction. This will ensure the user to recover from their addiction.

Methadone Withdrawal Timeline *depends on factors like weight and tolerance
During the first 24 hours During the first 24 hours from the last drug intake, users can experience the physical symptoms like chills, fever, erratic heartbeat, and muscle pains.
2 to 10 days For the following days, users can feel extreme methadone cravings. The psychological symptoms may also begin to start like insomnia, anxiety, and paranoia. Aside from these, they will also experience flu-like symptoms but will improve after a week or so.
11 to 21 days About half way through the detox process, symptoms should fade. However, some users especially those who took the drug heavily in long term may still feel intense cravings for methadone. Depression may start to kick in as well, and users will find it difficult to get motivated.
22 days and beyond All of the symptoms should disappear at this time. However, mild traces of the symptoms may remain. Users can still experience depression for several weeks.



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