What Is Methadone?

Methadone is a very important drug that is used in the treatment of opioid addictions. You may be prescribed methadone if you’re currently addicted to another drug, like heroin.

Methadone belongs to the opioid family of drugs. In fact, people addicted to other opioids are prescribed methadone to ease withdrawal symptoms. However, methadone itself is highly addictive.


These drugs are known as “depressants.” This means that they slow communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Like other opioids, they’re used in the treatment of pain following trauma or surgery.

The main use of methadone is as a substitute for heroin or other addictive drugs during rehabilitation.

How Is It Taken?

Methadone can be taken in a number of ways, including:

  • Wafer
  • Liquid
  • Powder
  • Pill form
  • Dissolvable pills

When used in treatment, methadone is always taken orally and not by injection.

Methadone works differently from heroin and its effects last longer. That means that it’s usually only taken once a day. But, its effects last between four and eight hours.

Methadone Withdrawal and Detox

It’s very important that methadone is only taken under medical supervision so that it’s administered safely. Never exceed the prescribed dose. If you miss a dose, don’t take more to make up for it.

Who Takes It?

Methadone may be prescribed as a course of pain management for patients who have suffered trauma from an accident or injury. It can also be used in the treatment of pain resulting from surgery. It’s most popular for its use in the treatment of heroin addiction.

While there may be underlying psychological and genetic causes for addiction, it’s widespread and touches all communities and ethnic groups.

The good news is that studies have shown that methadone maintenance therapy is an effective tool to help people with opiate dependency overcome their addictions.

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A Brief History of Methadone

Methadone was originally developed in Germany in the 1930s. Researchers were looking for a pain reliever that was as effective as morphine, but less addictive.

At first, it was used in the U.S. as only a pain reliever. But, in the 1960s, research began into the possibility of using methadone as a way of treating heroin addiction. From 1972 onwards it’s used in this way, with an increase in usage since the early 2000s.

Consequences of Methadone Abuse

As it is an opiate itself, methadone shares pain relieving and euphoria-inducing characteristics with other drugs in this family such as heroin. However, its effects are felt differently.

Effects on the Mind and Body

The intended effect of methadone is to allow users to reduce or eliminate cravings for drugs such as heroin.

It does this in two ways. First, it treats the physical pain of withdrawal that users experience when they stop taking heroin.

Secondly, it inhibits the effects of heroin. This means if you take heroin while using methadone, the euphoria experienced will be much less intense.

This can help to reduce the use of heroin in those who are taking methadone. It’s also good to take methadone treatment in conjunction with drug counseling, to help you to overcome your addiction.

Methadone can also cause increased anxiety, restlessness, and depression in users. It does deliver a mild feeling of euphoria but doesn’t cause the extreme highs or lows of heroin.

Occasionally, users experience confusion or hallucinations due to taking methadone. This could mean that the dosage is incorrect for the user and you should promptly seek medical attention in such a situation.

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Methadone users may experience physical side effects. Some side effects require immediate medical attention. Call 911 if you experience any of the following:

  • Rashes
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Raised heart rate
  • Lightheadedness
  • Breathing difficulties

There are also some less serious side effects that some users experience. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Low libido
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Problems sleeping

Short-Term and Long-Term Health Effects of Methadone

In the short-term, methadone will cause:

  • Sedation
  • Drowsiness
  • Mild euphoria
  • Feelings of relaxation

While methadone is not as dangerous as heroin, it’s still a powerful drug and there is the possibility of overdosing. An overdose will cause a lowering of the heart rate, breathing rate, or blood pressure.

Medical help should be sought immediately if you’re concerned about an overdose.

Methadone can be used for the long-term treatment of opiate addictions. The goal is that methadone users will eventually be able to live drug-free lives. While this is the case for some, others may need to continue using methadone to remain clean.

There are many health and societal benefits that come from long-term methadone use. These include:

  • Better relationships
  • Reduction in criminal behavior
  • Avoidance of the risks of taking illegal drugs
  • More successful completion of drug rehab programs

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Using Methadone With Other Drugs

Methadone is a powerful drug, and if you’re taking it, you need to be very careful. It can interact with other drugs, amplifying its effect on the body.

It’s important that you’re completely open with your doctor about any and all drugs that you’re taking before you start taking methadone. This includes any illegal drugs.

Which Drugs Are Commonly Used With Methadone?

The most common side-effect of taking it with other drugs is an enhanced sedative effect. This is true when it’s combined with alcohol (which can also inhibit breathing), barbiturates such as Butisol and Seconal, and benzodiazepines such as Valium.

The bottom line is that methadone does not mix well with other drugs. They can decrease its effectiveness, meaning it has to be given in higher doses. It can also cause reactions which, at times, can be fatal.

Treating Methadone Addiction

While methadone is not a magic bullet, it can be a very successful element in helping you to overcome addictions to powerful opioid drugs, like heroin.

At Addiction Treatment Services, we can help. We’ll find services including both inpatient residential treatment and outpatient treatments for people with opioid addictions.

Contact us today to find out which service will give you the help you need.