Methadone Addiction

Methadone is a drug used to treat opioid addiction. For nearly 100 years, methadone has eased pain and helped people overcome opioid addiction. However, it has a high potential for addiction. Improper use of methadone—whether by itself or with another drug—can be lethal.

What is Methadone Addiction?

Methadone was created in the 1930s as a painkiller. It was later used to combat heroin and opioid addictions.

Methadone is a schedule II drug that has a long half-life. This means it can help with heroin and opioid cravings, though only when taken much further apart from them. Methadone is administered in a tablet or liquid form and taken orally.

When taken normally, methadone decreases cravings for opioids and physical withdrawal symptoms. It is cheaper than Suboxone, the other leading drug used in opioid addiction treatment.

Methadone can cause great a high similar to that of heroin. Because of this, people using methadone to defeat a heroin or opioid addiction may develop a methadone addiction.

Methadone Withdrawal

Today, methadone can only be administered by government-approved opioid treatment programs, as improper use of the drug can be lethal. People who use methadone must be tapered off the drug to prevent withdrawal or other serious complications.

Symptoms of methadone withdrawal include:

  • Restlessness/inability to sleep
  • Teary eyes and runny nose
  • Widened pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Stomach, back and joint pain

This drug is not recommended for pregnant women, as newborns can experience withdrawal symptoms after birth.

Methadone Overdose Signs

Methadone is particularly dangerous because of how long it sits in the body. Patients receiving methadone treatment feel the effects for 4 to 8 hours, but it stays active in the body for much longer. In turn, patients may increase their dosage to continue the relief brought on by the drug. This can lead to deadly overdoses.

Methadone overdose symptoms include:

  • Excessive tiredness/urge to sleep
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Slowed/labored breathing
  • Sedation
  • Comas
  • Respiratory depression or arrest
  • Death

About 33 percent of prescription painkiller deaths have been related to methadone use.

Methadone and Other Drugs

Methadone, when taken in correct doses and without other addictive drugs, can significantly help treat opioid addictions. Unfortunately, people with addictions may relapse or start using other drugs while taking methadone.

Combining methadone and heroin is extremely dangerous. It is difficult to get an additional high from heroin after being saturated with methadone orally. The end result is taking even more heroin, leading to an overdose situation.

Mixing methadone with alcohol or benzodiazepines is also very risky. You should proceed with caution if you have a high risk of relapse, as methadone mixed with other drugs can kill you.


Kent S. Hoffman, DO

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been practicing medicine for nearly 30 years. He is board-certified to practice addiction medicine and family medicine. Dr. Hoffman gets to know his patients on a first-name basis to provide compassionate and professional health care.

Last modified: 01/14/2019