Risks and Side Effects of Methadone

Addiction to opioids does not just impact the user but also the society around them. It causes medical, psychological, social, and economic problems. Opioid addiction is a chronic, often relapsing illness. When battling opioid dependence, methadone may be prescribed as part of a treatment plan, and while it can be successful in certain addiction treatment regimens, there can also be risks and side effects of methadone. 

Methadone is a synthetic opioid used to treat acute pain, chronic pain, and withdrawal symptoms in people who are addicted to opiate drugs like heroin, oxycodone, or fentanyl. Methadone is long-acting, meaning the effects last for 24 to 36 hours. In comparison, a person would need to use an opioid like heroin three to four times a day to avoid withdrawal. When used to treat opioid addiction, methadone works by producing similar effects and preventing withdrawal symptoms in people who have stopped using. 

The Risks of Methadone

Methadone can be a successful part of an opioid addiction treatment plan. Unfortunately, methadone maintenance programs can be difficult to access due to strict entrance criteria and long waiting lists. There are also risks to consider when taking methadone:

  • Overdose: All opioids have a risk of overdose, including methadone. The risk is higher with methadone than with buprenorphine. If you mix methadone with other drugs, it also increases the risk of overdose.
  • Tolerance: Your body can get used to methadone, meaning that you might need to take more to feel the same effect. This is called tolerance. 
  • Drug Interactions: Methadone can be very dangerous if mixed with other drugs such as opioids, alcohol, or benzodiazepines (e.g., Ativan, Xanax, Restoril, or Valium.
  • Methadone Addiction: Methadone is still an opioid – which means you can become addicted to it. If methadone use is stopped suddenly, the user will experience intense withdrawal symptoms. 

Alternatives to Methadone

  • Buprenorphine: can be particularly effective as a methadone alternative for people who are addicted to opioids, according to clinical studies. It works by attaching to the same brain receptors as opioids; however, it does not cause the same euphoria. By engaging these receptors, it helps to reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine is available in both injectable and sublingual (a tablet that dissolves under the tongue) forms, meaning that it can be prescribed in an outpatient environment. 
  • Suboxone: contains both buprenorphine and naloxone. As well as the benefits of buprenorphine stated above, naloxone is known to help reverse the effects of opioids. It is available in sublingual and tablet form. Suboxone slows you down and often provides a calming and pain-relieving effect. 
  • Vivitrol: contains naltrexone in the form of an injection. It works by blocking the effect of opioids. It also helps to reduce cravings or feeling the need to take an opioid. Vivitrol injections are administered once a month when prescribed as part of an opioid treatment program. 

If you, or someone close to you, is struggling with opioid addiction, then Medication-Assisted Treatment may be beneficial. Although methadone has been the more traditional treatment option offered, there are now more options available.

At Achieve Whole Recovery, we work with methadone alternatives to eliminate the risks and side effects that can come with methadone maintenance. We provide Buprenorphine and Vivitrol treatments, utilizing Suboxone, Sublocade, and Naltrexone medications. If you are looking for an outpatient program, call Achieve Whole Recovery.  Our team of specialists knows how hard addiction recovery is and is here to support you with a comprehensive and individual treatment regime.