Methadone Addiction | Side Effects, Abuse, Warning Signs, & Treatment

Methadone can cause several unwanted side effects, depending on the dose, how it is used, and if it is taken with other medications.

Methadone is a synthetic opioid medication most commonly used as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program. It can prevent opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings, which helps reduce the risk of relapse.

However, methadone is also a schedule II controlled substance with a high risk of dependence, even when taken as part of a methadone treatment program. If you take methadone long-term or abuse it, you may develop a drug addiction.

How Methadone Works

Daily doses of methadone are administered under the supervision of a healthcare professional in a clinic that is licensed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

It may also be given during the detoxification process to alleviate severe withdrawal symptoms.

Along with methadone, FDA-approved MAT medications also include buprenorphine, buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone), and naltrexone (Vivitrol).

As an opioid agonist drug, it activates opioid receptors in the central nervous system and provides pain relief. However, unlike other opioid painkillers, like oxycodone, it blocks euphoric effects associated with substance abuse.

Effects Of Methadone

Many methadone maintenance treatment programs provide the medication once a day, in the morning, because the effects can last around 24 hours. It can also cause several unwanted side effects, depending on the dose, how it is used, and if it is taken with other medications.

Side effects of methadone may include:

  • drowsiness
  • constipation
  • restlessness
  • increased sweating
  • slow breathing
  • itchiness
  • dry mouth

Learn more about the Side Effects Of Methadone

Methadone Abuse

Methadone and other FDA-approved MAT medications, like buprenorphine, should be used as part of a comprehensive program that includes behavioral therapy and other treatment services.

Although methadone can help people struggling with opioid addiction, it can also be abused if someone takes it in a way other than how it is prescribed.

Substance abuse includes:

  • taking a higher methadone dose than prescribed
  • taking someone else’s medication
  • mixing methadone with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or other opiates
  • snorting or injecting methadone

Drug abuse increases the risk of respiratory depression, which is the main cause of an opioid overdose. A methadone overdose can cause shallow breathing, loss of consciousness, bluish skin, and slow heart rate.

If you recognize the signs of overdose, seek medical help immediately. If you have naloxone (Narcan), administer it while you wait for help to arrive.

Methadone Addiction Warning Signs

Drug abuse also increases the risk of developing an opioid use disorder (OUD), or addiction. An OUD can cause brain and behavioral changes that lead to uncontrollable drug use, regardless of the consequences.

Signs of methadone addiction include:

  • using methadone more frequently than intended
  • unable to stop using methadone on your own
  • isolating from friends and family
  • loss of interest in activities
  • difficulties with work or school
  • engaging in high-risk behaviors
  • increased tolerance

Methadone Dependence & Withdrawal

If you are addicted to methadone, it is likely that you are also opioid dependent.

Opioid dependence occurs when the body adapts to receiving regular doses of the drug. It can cause changes in brain chemistry that cause withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking methadone.

However, methadone can last much longer than other opioids in your system.

You may not experience withdrawal symptoms until up to 36 hours after your last dose of methadone. Depending on the dose and how long you’ve taken methadone, withdrawal symptoms can last between two weeks to several months.

Methadone withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • sedation
  • difficulty sleeping
  • restlessness
  • sweating
  • teary eyes
  • runny nose
  • muscle aches
  • goosebumps
  • diarrhea
  • yawning

Learn more about Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline

Methadone Addiction Treatment 

If you or a loved one is struggling with methadone addiction, an opioid treatment program can help you recover.

You may struggle with substance abuse and want to stop taking methadone to prevent a drug overdose or long-term health problems.

Alternatively, you may have been taking methadone as part of a treatment program and want to switch to a different MAT medication or come off medication entirely.

Depending on your needs, your treatment plan may include: 

At Northeast Addictions Treatment Center, we offer a wide range of outpatient rehab services. Our services vary in intensity, depending on your individual needs. If you would like to learn more about our opioid addiction treatment programs, please reach out to a treatment provider.


How Long Does Methadone Stay In Your System?

Methadone can stay in your system for about 5 to 11 days after the last use. A urine drug tests can detect methadone use for up to 14 days later.

To learn more, read How Long Does Methadone Stay In Your System?

How Effective Is Methadone Maintenance Treatment?

Numerous medical studies have found methadone treatment is effective in reducing opioid use, opioid-related transmission of infectious disease, and drug-related crime.

Those participating in methadone maintenance treatment are more likely to stay in treatment compared to those not receiving any form of medication-assisted treatment.

Learn more about the Pros & Cons Of Methadone Maintenance Treatment

Is Methadone A Strong Opioid?

Methadone is classified as a strong opioid, according to the World Health Organization. Use of methadone is often supervised by medical professionals as part of an opioid abuse treatment plan, since methadone can reduce opioid cravings.

To learn more, read Is Methadone A Weak Or Strong Opioid?

What Substances Should Be Avoided On Methadone?

Methadone, an FDA-approved maintenance treatment medication for opioid addiction, may negatively interact with certain medications. Depressant drugs, antidepressants, antifungals, and antibiotics can cause increased sedation or respiratory depression.

Anticonvulsants and some HIV antivirals can decrease methadone levels in the body and cause the onset of opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Learn more about Methadone Drug Interactions

Can You Take Methadone While Pregnant?

You can take methadone while pregnant as long as you take it as directed and under the supervision of a doctor. The drug can lead to some withdrawal symptoms in the baby, but those risks are generally outweighed by the benefits of methadone maintenance treatment.

Learn more about Methadone Use During Pregnancy

Can Methadone Get You High?

Methadone is a long-acting opioid that doesn’t generate the intense, euphoric high of other short-acting prescription or illicit opiates/opioids. However, it can be misused, resulting in a mild high with a high risk of overdose effects, dependence, and addiction.

Learn more about a Methadone High

Can You Inject Methadone?

Some people involved with methadone maintenance treatment abuse the drug by injecting it into the bloodstream. Injecting methadone causes its effects to happen quicker and more intensely.

However, injecting also increases the risk of infections, like hepatitis C. Injecting can also lead to collapsed veins, scarring, bruising, and abscesses near the injection site.

Learn more about Injecting Methadone

What Happens When You Mix Alcohol & Methadone?

Mixing alcohol and methadone can lead to serious side effects like dizziness, severe drowsiness, memory issues, and unconsciousness. This mix can also increase your risk of physical dependence and overdose.

Learn more about Mixing Alcohol & Methadone

​How Long Does It Take To Detox Methadone?

It takes about 10 to 20 days to detox from methadone. During this time, a patient may experience severe withdrawal symptoms. A medical detox program can reduce the severity of withdrawal while increasing the chances of successful detox.

To learn more, read How Long Does Methadone Detox Last?

How Long Does A Methadone Taper Take?

The length of a methadone taper can vary dramatically from individual to individual depending on their starting dosage, how well they are able to tolerate dosage reductions, and at what point they stop taking methadone and begin the detox process.

This process likely takes a period of some months to complete.

Learn more about How To Taper Off Methadone

Can You Snort Methadone?

Methadone is a prescription drug that can be snorted. When a person snorts methadone, they likely experience a more sudden onset of euphoria but risk a chance of nasal damage, addiction, and overdose.

Learn more about Snorting Methadone

How Does A Methadone Clinic Work?

A methadone clinic works by providing methadone to those struggling with opioid addiction. Methadone can help ease withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and make a relapse less likely.

Learn more about How Methadone Clinics Work

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

©2024 Northeast Addition Center | All Rights Reserved

This page does not provide medical advice.

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