Methadone is a long-acting opioid medication used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). It helps people to reduce or quit their use of shorter-acting opioids like heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl, or hydromorphone. It is safe and effective when it’s taken as prescribed, and it allows individuals to recover from their additions. Here’s what you should know about what Methadone is, how it works, and whether it’s the right treatment in your situation.
How Does Methadone Work?
Methadone alters how the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It not only lessens the painful symptoms of opiate withdrawal, but it blocks the euphoric effects of opiate drugs like heroin, morphine, and codeine as well as semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone.
Methadone can be taken either in pill, liquid, or wafer forms once a day. Pain relief from a dose lasts between 4 to 8 hours. For heroin users, Methadone is effective in higher doses and supports their stay in treatment programs.
Like other medications in medication-assisted treatment, Methadone must be prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. These treatment plans include counseling and participation in social support programs.
How Do You Get Methadone?
It is U.S. law that Methadone is only dispensed through an opioid treatment program (OTP) certified by SAMHSA. The only way to take Methadone is under the supervision of a physician for the treatment of opioid addiction. If the patient shows progress as well as consistent compliance with medication dosage, then the provider may allow them to take Methadone at home between program visits.
How Long Do You Take Methadone?
The length of treatment time varies from person to person. However, the recommended minimum length of Methadone treatment is 12 months. Some patients may require treatment for years. When an individual is ready to stop, they must do so gradually and with a doctor’s supervision to prevent withdrawal.
Is Methadone Safe to Take?
Yes, Methadone is safe to take when it’s used exactly as prescribed. It can be addictive if it’s not taken correctly, and it can also cause an unintentional overdose. Providers will work with patients to adjust and readjust doses based on needs and medical history. You should never share or give Methadone to others.
For the best treatment results, use these tips:
- Never take more Methadone than prescribed
- Always take Methadone at the times prescribed
- Do not take an extra dose if you’ve missed a dose and feel it isn’t working
- Do not consume alcohol while taking Methadone
- Drive and operate machinery cautiously while taking Methadone
- Call 911 if you suspect a Methadone overdose by you or anyone else
- Store Methadone at room temperature and away from light
- Dispose of unused Methadone by flushing it down a toilet
Does Methadone Have Side Effects?
Yes, Methadone has side effects that should be taken seriously. While some of these may seem mild, they can indicate an emergency. Contact a doctor and emergency service immediately if you experience the following:
- Difficulty breathing or shallow breath
- Chest pain
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Hallucinations or confusions
- Hives or rash
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
Is Methadone Suitable for Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women?
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can safely take Methadone. Methadone is particularly effective because it prevents withdrawal symptoms that can prompt the uterus to contract — prompting a miscarriage or premature birth. It can also help a pregnant woman better manage her addiction and avoid health risks that can impact her or the baby.
If you’re pregnant and taking Methadone, the medication will not cause birth defects. However, your baby may undergo withdrawal after birth. Withdrawal symptoms can begin anywhere from a few days to two to four weeks following birth.
You can still breastfeed if you’re taking Methadone. While research shows that a small amount of Methadone does enter breast milk, the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any effects of this.
Talk to your doctor before stopping Methadone treatment due to breastfeeding or pregnancy concerns.
Can You Overdose on Methadone?
Yes, Methadone is still an opioid even if it’s long-acting. As a result, all opioids have the risk of overdose. The risk is highest when you start treatment and when you stop taking methadone for a while and start once again. Always take Methadone under the supervision of a medical provider who can help you monitor your use.
Complete Healthcare offers a thorough outpatient drug rehab program to help those in recovery transition to drug-free lives. If you’re struggling with addiction to opioids, a Methadone treatment program might be the best resource. Visit here for more information about working with Dr. Milroy J. Samuel.