Side-Effects of Methadone to Watch For
Author: Justin Mckibben
Medication maintenance programs have become a staple in the fight against the opioid epidemic in America. Methadone is one of the more commonly utilized medication maintenance drugs. For years now heroin addicts have found some semblance of relief and support through methadone clinics while trying to wean themselves off of the illicit drug.
However, many who have experienced the methadone maintenance program are no so quick to promote it as a means of recovery from addiction. This powerful substance is not without its innate risks. In fact, methadone abuse and serious side effects are common.
Side-Effects of Methadone to Watch For: What is Methadone?
Methadone is not as popular for producing the same ‘high’ feeling associated with heroin, but abuse can still cause the same effects as most opiates, such as:
- Reducing anxiety
Methadone hydrochloride is the generic form. If you are interesting in learning more about methadone maintenance programs, there are a lot of reasons to be thorough before making the choice to rely on this powerful drug. It is important to be sure you fully understand how methadone is used and what the dangers are.
The dose of methadone an individual receives will depend on a few factors, including:
- Age of the individual
- General condition and medical status of the patient
- Other medications being taken
Side-Effects of Methadone to Watch For: Combining Medication
It is very important to note that methadone can have side-effects when interacting with other medications, such as:
- Narcotic pain medications
- Muscle relaxers
- Medicines that can cause drowsiness or slow your breathing
- Diuretics(water pills)
- Heart or blood pressure medications
- HIV medicines
- MAO inhibitors
- Seizure medication
Combining other medications with methadone can cause other serious medical problems. Speak with a doctor about what medications you take and if they could impact the side-effects of methadone.
Side-Effects of Methadone to Watch For: Common Side-Effects
Methadone is a narcotic used as a pain reliever, so many of its side-effects are comparable to other narcotic painkillers, especially opioids. It is also used as part of drug addiction detoxification and maintenance programs. Common side effects of methadone hydrochloride include:
- Sleep problems
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased sex drive
Some of these more common side-effects may not be especially dangerous, but they can lead to much more serious complications.
Side-Effects of Methadone to Watch For: Serious Side-Effects
When experiencing these serious side-effects, immediately contact your doctor or seek emergency medical treatment if you experience serious side effects of methadone hydrochloride including:
- Chest pain
- Muscle pain or cramps
- Bleeding gums
- Difficulty swallowing
- Blurred vision
- Blood in urine or stool
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Extreme fatigue
One of the most critical mistakes many people make is assuming there is no danger in relying heavily on methadone as a means of recovery from opioid abuse. The reality is, approximately 5,000 people die due to abuse of methadone each year.
Admittedly, this is often more likely when methadone has been mixed with other substances, including alcohol and benzodiazepines. However, it is absolutely possible to overdose on methadone.
Side-Effects of Methadone to Watch For: Overdose
It is possible to overdose on methadone, just as with any other powerful prescription opioid medication. Again, methadone is a narcotic and many of the overdose symptoms for methadone are the same as with other opioid medications, such as:
- Difficulty breathing/shallow breathing
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Twitching muscles
- bluish fingernails and lips
With drug overdose, especially with such strong substances, death is a possible side-effect. Therefore it is extremely important that all side-effects are taken seriously and that someone trying to utilize methadone consults with their doctor about the risks.
Side-Effects of Methadone to Watch For: Mental Health
While the physical side-effects of methadone can be very difficult to deal with, methadone also has a tendency to cause some psychological side-effects, such as:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Impaired concentration
The truth is, these psychological side-effects can be just as serious as physical side-effects, and some people have more difficulty dealing with the psychological aspect of methadone.
Also, people who already struggle with other co-occurring mental health disorders may experience some side effects more intensely. It is important to make sure both mental and physical health is taken into account with every form of drug treatment.
Side-Effects of Methadone to Watch For: Withdrawal
One big issue many people have with methadone maintenance is that even though it is primarily used for fighting opioid withdrawal, methadone does indeed come with its own set of withdrawal symptoms.
Methadone withdrawals become more severe with extended use. These withdrawal symptoms are often similar to those from other opioid drugs, such as heroin. The most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle pain and aches
- Rapid heartbeat
- Stomach cramps
Quitting methadone “cold turkey”, meaning abruptly without a safe medical taper or detox, can cause more severe withdrawal symptoms.
Side-Effects of Methadone to Watch For: Detoxing from Methadone
Medical detox from methadone is safest and most efficient way to taper off of the drug, specifically after long-term use. Medical detox helps to taper an individual off of methadone with a supportive medical staff and other addiction treatment professionals in order to reduce the severity of withdrawals.
Holistic drug treatment programs design a personalized treatment plan in order to give the individual the best opportunity for lasting recovery, and anyone who has been using methadone for an extended period or developed a tolerance to it should pursue an inpatient treatment option. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
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