- Understanding A Methadone High
- What A High Feels Like
- Side Effects
- Methadone Abuse & Overdose
- Medication-Assisted Treatment
Methadone is a fully synthetic (man-made) opioid analgesic that is used to manage chronic pain and alleviate cravings and withdrawal symptoms in those who struggle with opioid dependence and opioid substance use disorders.
But while methadone is safe and effective when used therapeutically under medical supervision, methadone may be abused by people to get high, with potentially dangerous results.
Understanding A Methadone High
Methadone is a full opioid agonist and attaches to opioid receptors in the central nervous system to provide pain relief and sedation, as do other opioid drugs. However, the overall effects of methadone are quite different from other common opioid painkillers.
This is because methadone is unusually long-acting, with a half-life of between 12-18 hours or longer. Morphine, the first opiate drug isolated for medical use, only has a 3-hour half-life, meaning that the drug is active in the body for a much shorter length of time with a much higher intensity of the effect.
Can Methadone Get You High?
Because of its low-and-slow action, methadone is much less likely to cause a euphoric high in the same way that heroin, oxycodone, or other opioids might.
But if methadone is taken by those who aren’t used to it, if it is taken with other substances, or if it is taken in higher doses than prescribed, methadone may cause a person to feel high.
What A Methadone High Feels Like
The euphoric effects of the illicit opioid heroin have been described as an overwhelming sense of peace, serenity, bliss, and warmth that covers and engulfs your entire body for a period of time.
A high from high dose of methadone, on the other hand, provides a much longer-lasting but less intense experience marked by sedation, reduced anxiety or stress, decreased attention and reaction speed, and mild euphoria or pleasure that decreases as the drug is slowly processed out of the body.
Side Effects Of Methadone Abuse
Abusing methadone increases the risk of certain side effects, including:
- difficulty thinking or remembering
- difficulty with balance or coordination
- physical dependence or addiction
Methadone Abuse & Overdose
Methadone is a tightly controlled and highly regulated substance due to its risk for diversion and misuse, which can lead to methadone overdoses.
Methadone is generally prescribed so that a person receives their entire daily dose of the drug at once.
If a person who isn’t used to methadone (or other opioid drugs) and hasn’t built up tolerance takes this full dose to get high, there is a risk that the effects of the drug may overwhelm the body, resulting in a dangerous overdose.
Keeping in mind that a regular maintenance dose of methadone is active for at least twelve hours, the risk of overdose is even greater if a person were to take other common drugs of abuse during this time, including alcohol or benzodiazepines.
Any polydrug abuse may intensify methadone’s effects and greatly increase its toxicity.
Signs & Symptoms Of Methadone Overdose
Classic symptoms of a methadone overdose include:
- constricted/pinpoint pupils
- blue-tinted nails, fingertips, or lips
- cold, clammy skin
- nausea and vomiting
- slurred speech
- difficulty staying awake or responding to others
- loss of consciousness
- gasping and slow, shallow, or stopped breathing (respiratory depression)
Methadone overdoses can be life-threatening if respiratory depression interferes with the body’s ability to take in oxygen and transport it to the brain and other organs. If you suspect an overdose has occurred, immediately summon local emergency health care services.
Methadone & Medication-Assisted Treatment
Methadone is one of three medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of opioid addiction, and either of the other two options, buprenorphine or naltrexone, can be prescribed by clinicians to improve treatment outcomes without the same risk of abuse or overdose.
Buprenorphine (combined with naloxone) is a direct alternative to methadone maintenance treatment and the recommended option for mild and severe opioid/opiate addiction treatment.
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, generating weaker effects and blocking other opioid drugs if they are taken while buprenorphine is active in the body.
Like methadone, buprenorphine alleviates both cravings and symptoms of opioid withdrawal, and can be taken safely long-term.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist and blocks opioid receptors in the body, reducing opioid cravings and blocking the effects of other opioid drugs if taken. Naltrexone does not generate a high in any dosage and is not considered to have any potential for abuse or diversion.
Naltrexone can be taken long term but should only be prescribed after a person has fully completed opioid detoxification.
If you or a loved one struggle with harmful opioid use, including methadone abuse, help is available. Contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center today to learn more.
Northeast Addition Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.