Methadone: What Is It and How Is It Used?

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By David Cassise, Regional Director in Virginia, Pinnacle Treatment Centers

When treating opioid use disorder, or opioid addiction, methadone is often used as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) plan. Learn more below about methadone and opioids, and how to seek treatment for opioid abuse.

What Is Methadone & What Is It Used For?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid, which is used as an analgesic for severe pain in cases where the patient may not respond to lower-grade painkillers. It is legal when used under the direction of a doctor, but as with any opioid, there is a risk of developing a dependence on the drug, leading some to seek it out illegally.

Methadone affects the same parts of the brain as morphine and heroin, but has a longer-lasting effect. With the help of a doctor in the proper treatment center, it is often used to help patients overcome opioid addiction. This process is referred to as medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, and includes counseling to be most effective.

Woman doctor who can prescribe methadone.

Methadone Treatment for Opioid Abuse

Addiction recovery can be a long and challenging process. It is both a physical and psychological journey, which requires a great deal of support, medical assistance, and determination.

Methadone medication is used to alleviate or lessen physical withdrawal symptoms to enable the patient to fully focus on recovery. It also blocks the euphoria, or “high,” of opioid use and is an effective way to help the body adjust under controlled conditions.

Among other benefits, treatment with methadone significantly reduces deaths, relapse, and criminal behavior associated with opioid addiction.

Warnings

Keep in mind that there are conditions that should be avoided when using methadone. For example, do not consume alcohol or operate heavy machinery, store it safely away from children, and never take more than the recommended dosage.

Potential Side Effects

As with any medication, taking methadone does have potential side effects. Watch for any of the symptoms listed below and contact your doctor right away if you are concerned for any reason.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Hallucinations or confusion
  • Hives or rash
  • Swelling of lips, tongue, face, or throat
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat

Man receiving help with opioid addiction by using methadone.

Signs of Abuse of Methadone and Opioids

If you are concerned that someone you love is abusing methadone or other opioids, reach out for help right away. Some of the signs to watch out for can be found below.

  • Euphoria
  • Sedation, drowsiness
  • Decreased reaction time and/or attention span
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Dry mouth
  • Low body temperature
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
  • Little or no reaction to light

Overcoming Your Addiction

For medical assistance in overcoming an addiction to opioids, contact your doctor or Pinnacle Treatment Centers.

Woman reflecting on how she over came opioid addiction by using methadone.

We understand that no two addiction experiences are exactly the same, which is why we work with you to create a plan that begins where you are. We’ll not only help you with the physical withdrawal symptoms during recovery, we’ll also help you get to the root causes of your substance abuse. Join us at one of our many locations to get started with MAT, behavioral therapy, and more.

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.