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What Is Methadone? Statistics, Side Effects, Overdose, Withdrawal Timeline & Benefits Of A Medical Detox

Methadone is a long-acting opioid medication that helps many people struggling with addiction to opioids such as heroin.

It is used as part of a medication-assisted treatment program that includes counseling and participation in social support programs. When taken as directed, methadone is able to reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, decrease opioid cravings, and induce a significant amount of cross-tolerance to other opioids—which may block some or all of the euphoric effects of drugs such as heroin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. In some instances, certain formulations of methadone may be prescribed for pain control. 

What Is Methadone
What Is Methadone? Methadone is a long-acting opioid medication that helps many people struggling with addiction to opioids such as heroin.

What Is Methadone? Statistics

Though it has several therapeutic uses, methadone use can lead to addiction. Per the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2017, about 261,000 people aged 12 and older reported using methadone for a non-prescribed purpose at least once in their life.

Methadone was responsible for 3,194 overdose deaths in 2017, or about 1 per 100,000 people. In 2014, it accounted for 1% of all opioids prescribed for pain but was responsible for 23% of all prescription opioid deaths. 

What Is Methadone? Methadone Side Effects

Methadone can cause mild or serious side effects. The following list contains some of the key side effects that may occur while taking methadone. This list doesn’t include all possible side effects. For more information on the possible side effects of methadone, or tips on how to deal with a troubling side effect, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Common side effects

The more common side effects of methadone can include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Vomiting
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain

If these side effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious side effects

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Respiratory failure (not being able to breathe). Symptoms can include:
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain
    • Lightheadedness
    • Feeling faint
    • Slowed breathing
    • Very shallow breathing (little chest movement with breathing)
    • Dizziness
    • Confusion
  • Orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when getting up after sitting or lying down). Symptoms can include:
    • Low blood pressure
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Fainting
  • Physical dependence and withdrawal when stopping the drug. Symptoms can include:
    • Restlessness
    • Irritability or anxiousness
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Increased blood pressure
    • Fast breathing rate
    • Fast heart rate
    • Dilated pupils (enlargement of the dark center of the eyes)
    • Teary eyes
    • Runny nose
    • Yawning
    • Nausea, vomiting, and a loss of appetite
    • Diarrhea and stomach cramps
    • Sweating
    • Chills
    • Muscle aches and backache
  • Misuse or addiction. Symptoms can include:
    • Taking more of the drug than prescribed
    • Taking the drug regularly even if you don’t need it
    • Continuing to use the drug despite negative outcomes with friends, family, Your job, or the law
    • Ignoring regular duties
    • Taking the drug secretly or lying about how much you’re taking
  • Seizures.

Take as directed

Methadone oral tablets are used for short-term treatment. It comes with serious risks if you don’t take it as prescribed. If you stop taking the drug suddenly or don’t take it at all: Your pain may not be controlled and you may go through opioid withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Tearing Of Your Eyes
  • Runny Nose
  • Sneezing
  • Yawning
  • Heavy Sweating
  • Goosebumps
  • Fever
  • Chills Alternating With Flushing (reddening and warming of your face or body)
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight Loss
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Tremors
  • Cramps
  • Body Aches
  • Involuntary Twitching And Kicking
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule: Your medication may not work as well or may stop working completely. You may also experience withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Methadone? Methadone Overdose

If you take too much, you could have dangerous levels of the drug in your body. Symptoms of an overdose of this drug can include:

  • Loss Of Muscle Tone
  • Cold, Clammy Skin
  • Constricted (Small) Pupils
  • Slow Pulse
  • Slowed Breathing
  • Low Blood Pressure, Which May Cause Dizziness Or Fainting
  • Extreme Sedation Leading To Coma (Being Unconscious For A Long Time)

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center. If your symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

What Is Methadone? What to do if you miss a dose?

If you’re taking this drug to treat pain don’t take more than your prescribed dose in 24 hours. If you take this drug for pain and miss a dose, take it as soon as possible. Then take your next dose 8–12 hours later as directed by your doctor. If it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. 

If you’re taking this drug for detoxification and maintenance of addiction: Take your next dose the following day as scheduled. Don’t take extra doses. Taking more than the prescribed dose may cause you to overdose because this drug builds up in your body over time.

How to tell if the drug is working: You should have decreased pain, or your withdrawal symptoms should go away.

What Is Methadone
What Is Methadone? If you’re taking this drug to treat pain don’t take more than your prescribed dose in 24 hours.

What Is Methadone? Detox Withdrawal Timeline

According to the typical methadone withdrawal timeline, when you are in the early withdrawal stage, symptoms can include agitation or anxiety, muscle aches, tearing eyes, runny nose, inability to sleep, and excessive yawning.  As withdrawal progresses, you may have symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, goosebumps, and dilated pupils.  Methadone is a long-acting opioid, and withdrawal symptoms generally appear around 30 hours after the last dose.  Acute methadone withdrawal can last for about 2–3 weeks, with symptoms improving gradually around the 10th day of departure. 

You may experience a protracted withdrawal period or post-acute withdrawal syndrome, in which withdrawal symptoms may persist for weeks or months.  Physical symptoms of post-acute withdrawal can include fatigue. Cognitive symptoms, such as having difficulty focusing on a task, may also occur. Protracted withdrawal can consist of emotional symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and constant irritability. 

What Is Methadone
What Is Methadone? As withdrawal progresses, you may have symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, goosebumps, and dilated pupils.

What Is Methadone? Benefits Of Undergoing A Medical Detox

One of the most significant benefits of undergoing a medical detox is the around-the-clock medical care and supervision. Because you have trained medical professionals constantly checking on you, they can make the entire withdrawal and detox process as painless and comfortable as possible. They will also make sure that you are slowly weaned off the methadone instead of just quitting cold turkey.

Methadone addiction is a chronic disease that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up California can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from this condition with a professional and safe detox process. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition and give you clarity about questions like “What is methadone?,” by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.