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Methadone Side Effects: What’s Normal & Not?

In a world that has been completely flipped upside down because of the opioid crisis, addiction specialists have sought out better ways to overcome opiate addiction and thrive in the world after active addiction. Currently, more than 130 people die in the United States due to opiate overdoses every day, which includes a myriad of drugs ranging from heroin to prescription pain relievers.

While the United States has been going through one of the darkest times in its history, early indications show that the crisis is spreading to other countries, such as the United Kingdom. Addiction to these illicit substances does not discriminate based on age, location, gender, sexual preference, etc., and anyone can be affected at any time.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) remains the gold standard for the treatment of opioid use disorder. MAT reduces the frequency of injecting for those who use needles to administer their drugs. MAT includes opioid agonist treatment, such as methadone, in combination with counseling and behavioral type therapies to treat opioid use disorders.

Still, more must be done to facilitate treatment options, and the development of therapies meant to address opioid use disorders as a chronic disease. It means helping more individuals secure medication-assisted treatment, which means breaking the stigma that surrounds the use of medications to treat opioid addiction.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking steps to encourage the development of medications to treat opioid use disorder. According to a spokesperson for the FDA, “The Trump Administration is pursuing every opportunity to address our country’s opioid epidemic and support patients struggling with opioid use disorder.” 

Methadone is designed to stabilize brain chemistry, which relieves physiological cravings and normalize body functions. It has been shown as a highly effective treatment, and those receiving MAT cut their risk of death from all causes in half.

While methadone treatment is highly sought to overcome opioid addiction, there are still side effects that can range from mild to severe. As an opioid itself, it must be monitored closely by medical professionals to ensure the client is responding as they should. 

As our focus shifts to helping those with opioid addiction live a life of sobriety, we must be open to all forms of treatment without stigma. Let’s take a more in depth look into what methadone is  and what side effects are normal.

What Is Methadone?

Methadone is a drug that has been used for decades to treat individuals with heroin addiction. When the drug is used as prescribed, it is very safe and effective. It allows individuals to recover from their addiction and reclaim active and meaningful lives. For the most optimal results, individuals must participate in therapy programs that include counseling and social support.

How Does Methadone Work?

Methadone changes how the brain and nervous system respond to pain, and it reduces the agonizing symptoms of opioid withdrawal. In addition to these reductions, it blocks the euphoric effects of other opioids, such as morphine, heroin, codeine, as well as oxycodone and hydrocodone. 

Methadone is offered in pill, liquid, and wafer forms to be taken once a day. The pain relief from methadone can last about four to eight hours, and it has been proven to be more effective in higher doses, specifically for heroin users.

Normal Methadone Side Effects

While methadone can treat the withdrawal symptoms of opioid use disorder, there are still common side effects that can occur as a result of use. It’s important to mention that these will vary from one person to another based on brain chemistry, but some of the most common side effects include:

  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia)
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Impotence
  • Inability to have an orgasm

Serious Methadone Side Effects

While it’s unusual to experience severe side effects as a result of methadone use, it does not mean they can’t occur. If you experience any of the side effects listed below, you must immediately call your primary care physician or the person in charge of your methadone therapy. Some of these adverse side effects include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Shallow breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Lightheadedness

Methadone Dosage

The dose each person is prescribed will depend on factors like age, general condition, medical status of the client, and if other medications are being taken. Methadone can interact with other narcotic pain medications, tranquilizers, muscle relaxers, sedatives, or other medicines that can make you sleepy or slow breathing to the point of death. Many other drugs can cause severe medical problems if you take them in conjunction with methadone. You must be honest with your doctor about any medications you use.

Sources

Lynne.walsh. (2015, June 16). Methadone. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/methadone

Commissioner, O. O. (n.d.). FDA takes new steps to encourage the development of novel medicines for the treatment of opioid use disorder. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-takes-new-steps-encourage-development-novel-medicines-treatment-opioid-use-disorder

Mittal, M. L., Vashishtha, D., Sun, S., Jain, S., Cuevas-Mota, J., Garfein, R., . . . Werb, D. (2017, October 03). History of medication-assisted treatment and its association with initiating others into injection drug use in San Diego, CA. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5627474/

Opiod drug use: Is the UK on the verge of a crisis? (2019, July 09). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-politics-48922885/opiod-drug-use-is-the-uk-on-the-verge-of-a-crisis

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 22). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

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