Methadone is an opioid medication that’s used to treat opioid use disorders. It’s often administered as part of an opioid maintenance program, which involves the long-term use of methadone to replace more harmful opioids. Methadone treatment can help to limit intoxication, withdrawal symptoms, and drug cravings, while people attend treatment and manage daily responsibilities.

Methadone is also controversial because it has high abuse potential and can cause particularly intense withdrawal symptoms. The use of methadone in the treatment of opioid use disorders is closely regulated. If you do become addicted to methadone, treatment options are available.

Signs and Symptoms of Methadone Addiction

Methadone maintenance programs mean that the person in treatment will continue to be dependent on opioids. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are in active addiction. Addiction is characterized by the compulsive use of a drug despite negative consequences.

If methadone use starts to have a negative impact on your life, and you still can’t stop, you may have a severe substance use disorder. Methadone abuse may have some physical signs like frequent intoxication, loss of consciousness, and itchiness. Other signs and symptoms of methadone addiction may include:

  • Using the drug more than directed
  • Getting the drug from illicit sources
  • Using more of the drug than you intended
  • Lying about drug use
  • Hiding methadone
  • Isolation
  • Loss of interest in regular activities
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Trying and failing to quit or cut back

How Is Methadone Addiction Treated?

If you develop a substance use disorder involving methadone, it can be treated with a multidisciplinary treatment process. Medical detox is often the first step in addiction treatment. It involves 24-hour medically managed services for people who are likely to go through severe withdrawal symptoms.

Opioids don’t usually cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, but they can be extremely unpleasant. Plus, methadone is said to cause particularly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Detox may also be necessary if you have other medical conditions that need to be complicated by withdrawal.

After detox, you may also go through inpatient treatment, which involves 24-hour medical monitoring. If you’re ready to live at home, you may go through intensive outpatient services, which involves more than nine hours of services each week or partial hospitalization, which involves 20 or more hours per week. If you only need a few hours of services each week, you may go through outpatient treatment, which involves fewer than nine hours of treatment each week.

Through each level of care, treatment will be tailored to your individual needs, and it should address medical, psychological, and social needs.

How Dangerous Is Methadone?

As an opioid, methadone can be dangerous when it’s abused. When it’s obtained from a legitimate source, the drug is relatively safe in prescribed doses. It may cause some discomfort like constipation or itchiness.

In high doses, it can cause respiratory depression, which can lead to oxygen deprivation, coma, and death. Illicit sources of methadone may include other opioids like fentanyl that are more potent, increasing the risk of an overdose. Opioid overdoses can be reversed with the use of a drug called naloxone.

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