What are the Risks of Methadone Maintenance Treatment?
People who are looking at methadone maintenance treatment are right to do all of the research that they can and that includes investigating any possible dangers associated with the program. There are a lot of myths out there about methadone and many places will falsely report risks that are relatively rare.
It is important to not only be aware of risks, but to also keep the chances of that risk in mind. After all, every medication carries some risks for users. But, we continue taking them because we understand that such risks are rare and are therefore unlikely to happen to us.
The following discussion will look at the side effects of methadone, as well as the risk of methadone abuse. It should leave you feeling more knowledgeable about the drug and its risks. But, it should also help you to put those risks into perspective.
Every person who takes methadone has a small chance of experiencing negative side effects, as they do when taking any medication. It’s important to remember that a doctor prescribed methadone because its benefits outweighed the possibility of negative side effects. Common side effects of methadone include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decrease in appetite
- Lowered sex drive, impotence, or difficulty achieving an orgasm
Common side effects may lessen after you use methadone for a while. However, if they persist, a doctor should be notified.
Early on, you can make changes that combat these side effects. For example, exercising, drinking a lot of water, and eating plenty of fiber will all help with constipation. Or, to reduce the risks associated with being lightheaded, you can get up slowly when you rise from a lying or sitting position.
A doctor should be notified if a person experiences some of the more serious side effects, like:
- Shallow breathing
- Muddled thinking
- Chest pain
- Rapid or pounding heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare, but they are a risk, as are dangerous interactions between methadone and other medications. Communicate with your health care provider to limit the degree of risk posed by these situations.
Replacing One Addiction with Another
Many people argue that methadone maintenance replaces a heroin or prescription pain reliever addiction with an addiction to methadone. This is not the case. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, methadone is “prescribed or administered under monitored, controlled conditions and [is] safe and effective for treating opioid addiction when used as directed.”
Methadone and other treatments for opioid addiction, like buprenorphine, lack the interactions that are the hallmark of addiction. For the opiate addict, the cycle of a euphoric rush followed by a crash and a subsequent craving is all too familiar. Heroin addicts cycle through these three stages over and over again, and that is what marks them as addicts.
On the other hand, methadone doesn’t produce a euphoric rush. It has a gentle, gradual onset and maintains a stable level of drug in the brain. This diminishes dependence upon opioids by suppressing the high, should a person receiving methadone maintenance treatment attempt to use heroin or other opioids.
Although the risk of developing dependence upon methadone and later addiction is limited, there are people who choose to use the drug recreationally and it can lead to these situations, as well as to overdose.
There is a practice called diversion, where people divert methadone from its intended purpose into black market sales for recreational use. As you can see, this violates the “as directed” part of methadone maintenance treatment.
When the drug is not used appropriately and under the care of a physician, it poses greater risks. One of the true dangers associated with methadone diversion is overdose. Users who choose to take it recreationally often use more than would be prescribed and they end up dying.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reminds readers that research demonstrates methadone is medically safe. Long-term treatment with daily doses of 80 to 120 mg is neither toxic nor does it endanger any organ system during continuous use for 10 to 14 years.
To learn more about how to safely integrate methadone into your treatment, call 800-891-9360. Don’t delay. Your recovery begins as soon as you call.