Are There Any Known Long-term Side Effects of Methadone Treatment?
Nearly 200,000 recovering opioid addicts are maintained on methadone in the United States today. This is because the drug, when dosed correctly, does not cause euphoria, intoxication, or any other dangerous side effects and can be taken daily to help minimize withdrawal symptoms and the possibility of relapse. But are there any known long-term side effects of methadone maintenance treatment?
Methadone Treatment is for Long-term Use
The drug itself is often touted as a long-term option for opioid addiction treatment. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “12 months is considered the minimum” for this treatment option, “and some opioid-addicted individuals continue to benefit from methadone maintenance for many years.” The medication is meant for patients to stay on it for a long time, and the program utilizes this to ensure that individuals are able to receive methadone for as long as it is still beneficial to them.
Are There Serious Side Effects of Methadone Treatment?
As stated by the NIDA, the use of methadone in the long term is medically safe and well tolerated by patients. “Long-term methadone maintenance treatment at doses of 80 to 120 mg per day is not toxic or dangerous to any organ system after continuous treatment for 10 to 14 years in adults and 5 to 7 years in adolescents.” This is the normal amount given in most treatment programs, and it highlights the fact that there are no known serious side effects associated with the drug when used over a period of many years.
The biggest issue that has been found to be associated with the drug is that cardiac complications sometimes arise in certain patients. However, this is rare and has usually only been found in those patients who were taking much higher doses of the drug or who already had serious cardiac issues before treatment began. While some other side effects do exist––and are much more prevalent than this––they are usually very minor and seldom dangerous.
What are the Mild Side Effects Associated with Long-term Treatment?
The most common side effects associated with the drug from between the 6 month and 3 year usage marks are:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Appetite changes and weight gain or loss
Most of these side effects are caused by other opioid drugs and can be treated with another medication or a lowering of the dosage. In some instances, nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness can occur, but this is usually only when individuals are still getting used to their medication or their dosage has been increased too rapidly.
Methadone Maintenance is Safe in the Long-term
This treatment program is built for long-term use, and many individuals are able to stay maintained on their dosage for years without any issues at all. In general, there is nothing dangerous associated with this drug’s use in the long-term as a maintenance medication, and the side effects experienced are, for the most part, usually very mild. If you have more questions about methadone maintenance, call 800-891-9360.