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Signs Of Methadone Abuse

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 6, 2019

Methadone is a commonly used drug in the treatment of individuals with an opioid addiction. This drug is used in medication-assisted treatment programs to help lessen symptoms of withdrawal and increase the chances of a successful recovery. Methadone, however, still has the potential for abuse and if taken other than prescribed can lead to dangerous health consequences.

Methadone is a drug typically used for treatment of substance abuse. When taken as prescribed methadone can provide a safe and effective way to taper off use of potent illicit drugs. This helps with intense withdrawal symptoms, and allows you to manage your level of discomfort until you can stop use of the drug.

However, methadone works similar to opioids, which means it can be addictive when misused. When your methadone use is monitored by rehab center staff through medication assisted therapy, you take careful doses at regular times and your vital signs are closely watched. This ensures less risk of addiction.

But when you abuse methadone, your risk of addiction greatly increases. The medication comes in either pill or liquid form, and is meant to be taken orally. People who abuse it tend to crush and snort the pill for faster effects. Even though methadone doesn’t produce the same rush of euphoria as other opioids, it will still produce a high feeling when you abuse it.

However, methadone is meant for a slow release of effects. This means taking too many doses, too close together, can cause some adverse side effects, including risk of overdose.

Because methadone is a medication, abusing it may be easier than abusing other drugs. Like other opioids, methadone causes a number of side effects, and abuse results in enhanced side effects. If you suspect someone close to you is abusing methadone, or you fear you have fallen into abuse, here are some signs to look for:

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Lethargy/weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

In addition, people who abuse opioids may experience trouble sleeping and suffer an irregular sleep schedule. They may also feel intense itching (a skin-crawling sensation), headaches, intense dry mouth, and loss of appetite. Abuse of methadone may also cause increased sweating, flushed skin, and weight gain or loss.

Perhaps the biggest indicators, and some of the most dangerous, are the effects abuse of opioids like methadone can have on your breathing and heart rate. Opioids produce a calm, relaxed feeling through slowing these functions, so taking more of the drugs or taking doses too close together can slow breathing or heart rate to dangerous levels.

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Why Is Methadone Used?

If methadone can cause addiction, why are we using it to treat addiction? Many types of drugs cause withdrawal symptoms when not using them. Once you’ve succumbed to addiction, you experience these effects when you don’t have access to the substance. Withdrawal may not always be life-threatening, but it can be uncomfortable enough to keep you from wanting to stop use of drugs.

Medications like methadone can help quell the symptoms of withdrawal. It produces calming effects and euphoria similar to other opioids, but without the instant rush feeling that often contributes to addiction. Methadone works slowly over time, replaces the high of opioids, and allows you to gradually taper off use of them.

But isn’t using medications like methadone simply replacing one addiction with another? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), this is not the case because “buprenorphine and methadone are prescribed or administered under monitored, controlled conditions and are safe and effective for treating opioid addiction when used as directed.”

When safely monitored by licensed clinical staff, methadone can be very effective in helping you safely detox, which is an important part of treatment for opioid addiction. Only once you detox, or rid your body of the toxins gained during abuse, can you begin treatment.

Can Medication-Assisted Therapy Work?

Absolutely. Medication-assisted therapy is a proven method for helping many people addicted to opioids to safely taper off use of the drugs. As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains, “methadone is effective in higher doses, particularly for heroin users, helping them stay in treatment longer.”

Methadone has been used for opioid abuse treatment for decades, but recent years have shown an increase in abuse. The best way to ensure methadone helps you overcome opioid abuse is to receive assistance in treatment. When you’re committed to healing, medication can ease discomfort and help you manage withdrawal and deal with detoxification.

If you’ve tried methadone before, but found you fell into abuse of it, and are ready to explore your options, there are other medications available to help you. For instance, many of our rehab centers offer treatment with buprenorphine (commonly known by brand names Suboxone and Zubsolv).

This medication is available for use during treatment and after if needed. According to SAMHSA, unlike methadone, buprenorphine increases chances of the following positive treatment outcomes:

  • Reduced potential for continued misuse of opioids
  • Reduced symptoms of withdrawal and cravings
  • Less likelihood of overdose when taken as prescribed

The Importance Of Treating Opioid Abuse And Addiction

Perhaps you question the importance of treating opioid abuse, knowing that misuse of some medications could lead to further abuse. The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that, “the treatment of opioid dependence is important to reduce its health and social consequences and to improve the well-being and social functioning of people affected.”

Treating addiction doesn’t stop with treating the physical symptoms like withdrawal and cravings or dependence. SAMHSA explains that any medication assisted treatment is designed to be part of a comprehensive healing plan. Such a plan includes behavioral therapy, counseling, support groups, and more.

Addiction doesn’t just affect your physical health. It can change your behavior, causing your life to change as well. It can infect your personal life, from relationships and social functioning to finances and work performance. And we can’t ignore that the risk of overdose, which can be fatal, is increased with addiction to a substance.

In light of all the ways opioid abuse and addiction can change your life, seeking a way to stop use of a substance is more important than ever. At, we can connect you with treatment specialists who will help you build a comprehensive treatment plan and find a facility that offers treatment for your specific needs.

Safe Methods Of Treatment

Again, taken as directed, methadone, and especially buprenorphine can help you detox from use of opioids. Detoxification alone isn’t enough to overcome abuse or addiction, though. The following treatment modalities may combine to give you a well-rounded approach, and all are offered at our rehab centers:

  • Treatment for teens
  • Treatment for pregnant women
  • Treatment for men/women
  • Behavioral therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Different levels of counseling (family, group, individual)
  • Alternative therapy, such as wilderness or adventure therapy
  • Nutritional and exercise guidance
  • Intervention services
  • Aftercare support
  • Welcoming, supportive environment in which to heal

Get Help For Methadone Abuse Today

If you’re suffering from methadone abuse because you sought treatment for opioid abuse, don’t be discouraged. Sometimes, the pull of abuse is too strong, but that doesn’t mean you’re weak, or that treatment didn’t work. It simply means you need more time in treatment to master the principles and apply them to your life.

The best recourse against addiction is a strong foundation of all treatment principles. This gives you the greatest chance of achieving your recovery goals, and maintaining them. Contact us today at to see how we can help you reach your recovery goals.

Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration - Buprenorphine

U.S. National Library Of Medicine - Methadone

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