The United States is in the middle of a serious opioid epidemic. Over two million people have reported regular misuse of prescription opioids and drugs like heroin, and over 100 people die of an opioid overdose every day.
For many of these people, methadone is (or could have been) a lifesaving drug. It can help them to overcome their withdrawal symptoms and kick opioid addiction to the curb for good.
At the same time, though, methadone does not come without its own set of side effects and consequences. It may be used to treat opioid addiction, but it can also be addictive itself.
Read on to learn more about the risks of methadone addiction and abuse.
Methadone Addiction Statistics
Methadone was originally created as a painkiller. But, these days, most people who become addicted to methadone begin taking it while staying at a rehabilitation facility.
They often receive a prescription for methadone to help manage the withdrawal symptoms they experience while detoxing from opioid drugs like heroin.
Over the last few years, the number of treatment facility clients who receive methadone has increased dramatically, by nearly 100,000 people.
Those who receive methadone make up between 21 and 25 percent of all substance abuse treatment clients.
General Stats on Addiction to Methadone
As one might expect, an increase in methadone prescription administration also seems to have resulted in an increase in methadone abuse and addiction.
Methadone-related deaths have increased more than eightfold in North Carolina, for example. Methadone-related deaths also accounted for nearly one-fourth of all overdose deaths in the state of Maine.
Tens of thousands of people also end up in emergency rooms every year in order to receive treatment for symptoms and complications associated with methadone abuse.
Anyone who has received a prescription for methadone is at risk for abusing it. But, some people are more likely to abuse and become addicted to it than others.
Those who receive a methadone prescription to help them overcome another addiction are most likely to become addicted to this particular drug.
Those who do not have a strong support system coming out of rehab are also more likely to experience an addiction. Those who have easy access to large supplies of the medication, too.
Signs of Methadone Abuse
Methadone can be very helpful to some people. In many cases, it’s the only thing that helps them overcome their opioid addiction.
But, because it works in a similar way to other opioid drugs, it also has the potential to be habit-forming.
Methadone is an opioid agonist. It works by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors in the same way that other opioid drugs do.
Methadone differs from these other opioids, though, because it takes effect more slowly. It also does not bring about the same sense of euphoria. But, some people still have a hard time weaning themselves off of it.
The warning signs of methadone abuse and addiction are similar to the warning signs associated with an addiction to other opioid drugs.
Am I Addicted?
If you are addicted to methadone, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Developing a tolerance to the prescription and requiring a larger dose to experience the same effect
- Experiencing a lack of control and having a hard time going without the drug, no matter how much you want to or know you need to
- Prioritizing methadone use over other responsibilities, including work, family, and friends
- Spending an inordinate amount of time visiting doctors and trying to obtain more methadone that you were originally prescribed
It’s also common for individuals who are addicted to methadone to experience withdrawal symptoms.
Common Withdrawal Symptoms
The withdrawal symptoms associated with methadone abuse are similar to the withdrawal symptoms one might experience when they stop consuming heroin or other opioids. But, it may take several days for these withdrawal symptoms to present themselves.
The withdrawal symptoms may be less severe, but they may also last quite a bit longer.
Common symptoms include:
- Sore muscles
- Muscle cramping
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Chills or hot flashes
- Insomnia and/or restlessness
It can be hard to evaluate yourself honestly to determine whether or not you’re addicted to methadone. This can be especially challenging if you’ve already gone through addiction treatment for another drug.
Developing a dependence on methadone does not make you a failure. But, it is important for you to seek help as soon as you can. This will help you continue in your recovery and avoid the risks associated with methadone abuse.
Dangers of Methadone Abuse
Both long-term and short-term methadone abuse come with a number of serious consequences for your health.
Some of the most well-known risks tied to short-term methadone abuse include:
- Breathing difficulties
- A decrease in blood pressure
- Frequent twitching or tremors
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Cyanosis (a slight blue tinge to the nails and/or lips)
- Coma and/or death
Long-term methadone abuse can also bring about its own negative effects, including the following:
- Hallucinations and/or delusions
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Nerve damage
- Liver damage
- Brain damage
- Coma and/or death
As you can see, methadone abuse is not something to be taken lightly. Whether it’s abused for a short period of time or a long period of time, it comes with serious risks.
To avoid these risks, it’s important to seek out help if you find that you’ve become addicted to methadone.
Final Thoughts on Methadone Addiction and Abuse
Are you or someone you know struggling with methadone addiction or abuse? Are you feeling frustrated, confused, or unsure of where to turn for support?
It’s easy to feel helpless when you’re struggling with an addiction. But, there are resources out there to help you overcome it once and for all.
If you need help overcoming an addiction to methadone, we are here for you at Addiction Treatment Services. We offer several different levels of care at our facility, from detoxification programs to outpatient services.
Contact us today to learn more about our services and programs. We have counselors available online or by phone 24-7 to answer any of your questions.