Methadone Symptoms and Warning Signs

Methadone, as a drug, is popularly used in medical settings for the pharmaceutical treatment of opioid addiction. People addicted to morphine, heroin, or other prescription painkillers are put on methadone as a way to manage the addiction.  Over the years, methadone has proven useful in this regard and for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a very long-acting medication. This means that most people only ever generally need one dose per day.  Secondly, the drug is very effective when taken orally, and, finally, it doesn’t lose its efficacy even when there is a need to keep using it over an extended period of time.

However, like other drugs in its class, methadone can be easily abused when people take it without a prescription, or when they use it in combination with other drugs and alcohol.

The Dangers of Methadone Abuse

Methadone is used widely across the medical and addiction treatment niche, because it is affordable and is readily available. However, this also means that methadone can be easily abused by anyone. The drug doesn’t have the exact same effects as other opiates like heroin but, it still has some of the effects seen in these types of opiates, such as a feeling of tranquillity, relaxation, and sedation.

When you abuse methadone, you may feel a slowdown in your reaction time as lethargy grows. Your movements will also feel more exaggerated. At this point, you are more likely to get into accidents, as you will find yourself reacting slower than you should be able to.

Abusing methadone can also keep you in a state of perpetual mood swings, especially as your body starts to get used to the methadone leaving your cells. The feelings you will witness can vary from mania to depression. At this stage, your health and personal relationships will struggle.  Other dangers of methadone abuse include respiratory depression, nausea, and pinpoint pupils.

When it is not being abused, methadone is beneficial to anyone that is using it for the right reasons. Thousands of people have used it to recover from their opiate addiction, in what is known as methadone maintenance therapy.

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Recognising a Methadone Addiction

Drugs like heroin have a short half-life, which is why users shuttle between intense highs and crushing lows. Methadone, on the other hand, has a 22-hour half-life which makes it longer-acting and far less stronger acting than heroin. This is why many people who do not want to risk heroin abuse see it is a good alternative. Other people, who are being treated for heroin abuse using methadone, may also begin to see it as an ideal replacement for their heroin cravings, and thus begin to abuse it.

Physical signs that point to methadone abuse
The physical signs and symptoms of methadone abuse are very similar to those of other opiates. Some of these include:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Increased pain
  • Constipation
  • Constricted pupils
  • Sweating
  • Constipation

There are other signs of methadone abuse too. However, these are generally behavioural. Some of these include:

  • Actively seeking and obtaining multiple prescriptions for methadone.
  • Going above the prescribed methadone dosage level. This is especially true in cases where the individual is taking the drug outside of a
  • Intentionally skipping doses so as to take one large dose at a preferred time.
  • Going to illegal places in search of methadone.
  • Ignoring aspects of work or life, in pursuit of methadone, or quitting work or a relationship instead of dropping the habit.

If you notice any of these signs and symptoms in a loved one, they are either abusing methadone or a similar substance.

Methadone Addiction and The Brain

Methadone replicates the behaviour of opiates in the brain by triggering the pleasure centre. However, its longer-acting nature means that the feelings are more gradual, and last for a longer period of time. Extreme usage/abuse of the substance can negatively affect the areas of the brain that are responsible for learning and memory.

What are the Immediate Side Effects of Methadone Abuse?

Some of the immediate side effects of methadone are as follows:

  • Drowsiness
  • Relaxation
  • Sedation
  • Feelings of Euphoria

These are similar to those seen in heroin, but they are far less intense and longer-lasting. These effects can last for up to 24 hours.

What are the Long Term Side Effects of Methadone Abuse?

Thousands of people die around the world as a result of long term methadone abuse. Most of the deaths are related to long term methadone abuse and mixing it with other substances, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines

The long term effects of methadone abuse are nearly the same as that seen with the abuse of heroin. Methadone can cause impaired judgement, and also lead to cardiovascular problems, as is the case with other opiates. If you crush the tablets and inject them into your bloodstream, like some people do, you run the risk of developing blood transmitted diseases and infections. This is especially true if the needle is used for multiple purposes or used by various people at the same time.

Intervention for a Methadone Addiction

Anyone that is struggling with a methadone addiction will most likely be battling with intense emotional and physical challenges. It is, therefore, vital for you to show support for them instead of being judgemental.

One method of intervention that can be used is known as Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). With this approach, you and your family will be trained on the best way to help the addicted individual.  You will be shown how to convince the addicted individual to get treatment.

The CRAFT approach is a collection of therapies that have been borrowed from the community reinforcement approach, and deployed in the substance abuse population. The process targets the significant others around an addicted individual, instead of going directly to the affected individual.  During this process, you will learn the following:

  • How to change your usual behaviours, reactions, and expectations towards the addicted person.
  • How to eliminate the substance use, and addictive, behaviours in the addicted person.
  • How to motivate the addicted individual to seek methadone abuse treatment.
  • How to take care of yourself as you seek intervention for the addicted individual, in order to avoid mounting levels of stress.

The importance of being mentally prepared to stage an intervention for an addicted individual cannot be overemphasised. This is why the best rehabs make sure to address this.  Some of the difficulties associated with being the loved one of an addicted person include:

  • Increased danger to physical health
  • Poor relationship with the addicted individual
  • General social and relationship issues as a result of the addiction
  • The risk of developing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem
  • The rise of finance-related problems

With CRAFT, the intervention will be more straightforward. The addicted individual will be taken care of both at home, and with the help of professionals.

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Treatment and the Next Steps in Methadone Abuse

There are lots of methadone abuse treatment centres around today. These centres are experienced in the handling of opioid-related treatments. To begin the treatment process for your methadone abuse, you need to, first of all, get evaluated by a trusted addiction counsellor. Your specific situation is what will determine the level, frequency, and the intensity of your withdrawal detox and treatment. It is also what will determine if your treatment will be provided on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

Detox is usually the first stage of treatment, and will be provided in the presence of medical professionals, in order to ensure overall comfort and safety.  Depending on your situation, the treatment process might involve switching you to another medication that can replace methadone, such as Suboxone and Subutex.

One of the main benefits of residential treatment programmes is that they allow you to focus solely on recovery, without the distractions you face in everyday life, some of which may be responsible for your abuse of methadone in the first place.

At the end of the treatment process, you may need to go through aftercare therapy. This process is where cognitive behavioural therapy, and motivational interviewing, can be used to double down on the lessons you have learnt in treatment, and also ensure that you do not have a problem in the future with relapse.

Questions About the Treatment of Methadone Abuse and Addiction

How Long Will I Stay in Treatment for Methadone?

It is important to stay in treatment for methadone addiction for as long as possible, to be sure that you are adequately taken care of. The duration of treatment will only be determined on a case by case basis. This means that you will have to remain in treatment for as long as the treatment team decides is appropriate. During the treatment process, the emphasis will be on minimising withdrawal symptoms, and minimising cravings, while decreasing and ultimately eliminating methadone abuse.

What are the Side Effects of Methadone?

 Methadone isn’t as harsh as other opioids like heroin. However, it still has a selection of negative side effects such as sweating, somnolence, constipation, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and nausea.  During methadone abuse treatment, you will be monitored closely for these side effects, and then the proper treatment will be deployed to ensure you are in good health for the duration of the treatment process.

Is Methadone Related in Any Way to “Meth”?

Not in any way. Methadone is not related “meth”. Meth is a shortened form of the dangerous substance methamphetamine. It is also known as crystal meth, crank, or speed, and is created illegally by criminals in labs hidden in remote parts of the world. Methadone, on the other hand, is a perfectly legal opioid produced by licensed pharmaceutical companies.

What is the Cost of Methadone Treatment?

The treatment you receive in a standard methadone rehab will be customised solely to your specific needs. The medications prescribed, the therapy sessions, and all other additional services that will be required, can have an impact on the final amount you pay. Additionally, the method of payment you choose can also affect how much you will pay. The best way to know the exact amount you will pay is to contact your chosen treatment centre to discuss your options.

Why Can’t I Just Quit on My Own?

You can’t quit on your own because it is very difficult to overcome any kind of addiction this way. Drug addictions are even tougher. Many people in your position have tried to quit their methadone abuse. However, they usually end up failing. Due to the strong physical effects of prolonged drug use, your body will become dependent on it. When you attempt to quit on your own, you could get overwhelmed as your body attempts to recover. At this point, you will most likely run back to your methadone pills to alleviate the symptoms you are feeling.  The best way to ensure successful treatment is to combine extensive behavioural counselling with medically-assisted supervision.

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