Can I Self-Regulate My Methadone Dosage?

If you feel like the dose you are receiving for your methadone maintenance treatment isn’t effectively dealing with your withdrawal and cravings, you may be tempted to self-diagnose and self-medicate. Fight that urge. Methadone is a very strong drug and using it in a manner other than prescribed can lead to overdose and death.

For help understanding your methadone treatment and for resources that can help you, contact MethadoneClinic.com at 800-891-9360 and speak with a knowledgeable staff member today. Get connected with someone who can help you make medically sound decisions about your care.

History

Methadone maintenance treatment dates back to the mid-1960s, when it was introduced as a medical response to the post-World War II heroin epidemic in New York City. A review of historical and clinical issues notes “The findings of major early studies have been consistent. Methadone maintenance reduces and/or eliminates the use of heroin, reduces the death rates and criminality associated with heroin use, allows patients to improve their health and social productivity. In addition, enrollment in methadone maintenance has the potential to reduce the transmission of infectious diseases associated with heroin injection, such as hepatitis and HIV.”

Treatment

Self-Regulate My Methadone

Any changes in a methadone dosage need to be determined by a medical professional.

Methadone maintenance treatment is used to relieve a craving for narcotics, suppress the syndrome associated with drug abstinence, and to block the euphoria associated with heroin use. Because the treatment is corrective rather than curative, treatment lengths are indefinite. According to the National Institute on Drugs Abuse: “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.”

The NIDA also cautions: “The specific dosage for a patient cannot be determined arbitrarily because patients metabolize methadone at different rates. In addition, the appropriate dosage can change over time or in response to specific situations such as pregnancy or the use of other medications. Overall, methadone dosage should be based on the patient’s individual needs, goals of treatment, and progress in treatment.” Because of these complicated factors, a patient should never, ever decide to independently change their dosage.

The best plan is to participate in dosage decisions and to be participatory and vocal. “A nationwide U.S. telephone survey of a randomized and stratified representative sample of 172 outpatient methadone units found that relatively high methadone dosage levels and patient participation in dosage decisions are related to higher retention rates.” Presumably, higher retention leads to higher rates of success.

Unfortunately, lower doses may not block the euphoria or prove as effective. This becomes a problem when people decide to take their treatment into their own hands.

Overdose

Simply put, increasing your dose of methadone, using it in conjunction with other medications, or using it in a manner other than prescribed is dangerous and may lead to overdose. Methadone can slow or stop breathing an combining it with other respiratory depressants can worsen this problem.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, the following are symptoms of an overdose:

Eyes, ears, nose, and throat:

  • Pinpoint pupils

Gastrointestinal:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Spasms of the stomach or intestines
  • Vomiting

Heart and blood:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Weak pulse

Lungs:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Breathing – slow and labored
  • Breathing – shallow
  • No breathing

Nervous system:

  • Coma (decreased level of consciousness and lack of responsiveness)
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle twitches (spasticity)
  • Weakness

Skin:

  • Blue fingernails and lips
  • Cold, clammy skin

How Do I Tell My Doctor I Need a Higher Methadone Dose?

Emergency Care

If you believe you have taken an overdose or are in danger from improper usage of your methadone, you should be taken to an emergency room as quickly as possible. Do not attempt home care. A delay in seeking professional medical care could cost the life of the addict.

When admitted to the emergency room, the following treatments may be used:

  • Activated charcoal: helps prevent the poison from being absorbed from the stomach into the body
  • Fluids by IV
  • Breathing tube: to allow for oxygen to be processed in instances where the patient cannot do so for themselves
  • An antidote to reverse the effects of the drug
  • A tube inserted through the mouth into the stomach to wash it out: also known as a stomach pump

To avoid risking your life, it is imperative that any changes in your methadone maintenance treatment be undertaken only under the direction of a doctor. If you would like help finding a doctor or connecting to other resources, call MethadoneClinic.com at 800-891-9360 .