Methadone is a long-acting prescription opioid that can serve two medical purposes: relieving pain, and helping people overcome addiction to other opioids. Compared to opioids such as fentanyl and OxyContin, methadone is considered less addictive and is commonly used within medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs.
The uses of methadone for treating opioid addiction include:
- creates a safer withdrawal process for people undergoing detox for severe opioid dependence
- relieves withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings
- use within methadone maintenance therapy for people who are pregnant or in a position where it is unsafe to completely withdraw from opioids
- blocks the euphoric effects of short-acting opioids
Despite its lower risk for abuse and effectiveness for treating addiction to other opioids, methadone can still be abused when the use of the drug isn’t monitored. Like other prescription opioids, methadone can cause dependence in the body and carries a risk for addiction.
If you suspect someone you know is misusing methadone, it can be helpful to know what signs to look for in order to help them get the treatment they need.
What Are The Signs Of Someone Abusing Methadone?
Methadone is available in the form of a pill, liquid, or wafer and is primarily used alongside counseling and support groups for people overcoming addictions to other narcotics.
Although less powerful than short-acting opioids, methadone can still produce effects that mirror those of the more addictive opioids, such as sedation. The effect is it less likely to produce is euphoria or the ‘high’ associated with opioid abuse. If people do experience a high, it is likely to be mild.
Those at greatest risk for developing a problem with methadone are people who are either taking it outside of an opioid treatment program, have stopped treatment, or have never sought help for opioid abuse.
If you are concerned that someone you know is abusing methadone, common signs of methadone abuse include:
- taking higher doses or taking doses more frequently than prescribed
- avoiding going to support groups or individual counseling sessions
- changes in weight or appetite (with no other likely cause)
- preoccupation with getting more methadone
- snorting, smoking or injecting methadone
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep during the night
- having trouble concentrating on tasks or work
Compared to more potent opiates such as heroin, methadone works much slower and tends to have milder effects. Although this can be helpful for treatment, it can also make it more difficult to detect that a person is abusing methadone.
If someone is taking methadone as prescribed within a medication-assisted treatment program, they are at low risk for experiencing major side effects as a result of the drug. Abusing the drug, however, can lead to more noticeable side effects, if still more subtle than those of other opioids.
Physical symptoms that can indicate methadone abuse include:
- unusual sluggishness
- poor reflexes
- vision problems
- clammy skin
- dry mouth
- slow breathing rate
- sexual dysfunction or irregular menstruation
If someone is experiencing methadone side effects that are more intense than is normal with MAT, this can indicate the need for a dose readjustment, or be a sign that they are not taking the drug as directed.
How Do I Know If Someone Is Addicted To Methadone?
Drug abuse and addiction are two separate things but often occur together. This is especially true for opioids, which can become psychologically addictive and lead to physical dependence within weeks of use.
Methadone works slower than most other opioids and can have milder effects in the body. Its use for easing withdrawal from other opioids often makes it helpful for people overcoming severe dependence. Despite this useful purpose, methadone can still become addictive when abused.
The primary signs of methadone addiction are an inability to stop using the drug and experiencing methadone cravings.
Other signs of methadone addiction can include:
- stockpiling doses
- going to more than one doctor to get multiple prescriptions
- lack of control over drug use
- behaving aggressively or defensively when confronted about methadone use
- experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- lying about or hiding the extent of methadone use
- high drug tolerance
Addiction can make a person unrecognizable from who they were before, causing changes in behavior, mood, and their ability to see their problem for what it is. Watching someone you care about change as a result of addiction can be a painful process, but it’s not a burden you have to face alone.
How Do You Get Help For Someone Who Is Abusing Methadone?
There are several treatment options that can be effective in helping people overcome methadone abuse and addiction. Although methadone is commonly used within treatment plans for addiction to other opioids, there are also ways to overcome an opioid problem without methadone.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is considered the most effective method of treatment for opioid abuse and can be personalized to exclude the use of methadone in favor of other safe and effective medications.
The most supportive environment to begin treatment for methadone abuse is an inpatient rehab program where patients can safely detox from their drug use and find stable ground. Inpatient rehab can offer a strong support system for patients and lay a more confident foundation for a steadier path towards recovery.
Treatment services within an inpatient program for opioid abuse may include:
- medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- 24-hour support and supervision
- behavioral counseling
- group therapy
- family or couples counseling
- relapse prevention
- aftercare services
Within a rehab program, patients are treated by a full team of specialists who can develop a long-term treatment plan for care by assessing each patient’s needs. This can offer recommendations for how patients may continue treatment on an outpatient basis as they transition back into a normal, daily routine.
Find Treatment For Methadone Abuse
Finding treatment for someone you care about who is struggling with a drug problem can be difficult and confusing without the help of a professional.
Vertava Health offers 24/7 free and confidential support through our helpline to answer questions about addiction and help people find treatment options best suited to meet their needs.
If you or someone you know is struggling with methadone abuse, there’s no time to wait. Contact one of our dedicated treatment specialists today to find treatment options for yourself or a loved one.