Dangers of Methadone Abuse

A Double-Edged Sword of Addiction

Methadone has long been, and continues to be, a viable and effective means of long-term maintenance for heroin and other opiates. It is also used to treat chronic pain, and severe pain in hospice and post-surgical contexts. Although drugs like buprenorphine (Suboxone) and naltrexone (Vivitrol) have become increasingly popular in the recovery community, methadone remains a medication of choice for many former opioid users looking to reduce cravings and minimize withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately for many, methadone abuse has become a common biproduct of long-term maintenance and patients just end up trading one addiction for another. Methadone addiction affects about 1,000,000 Americans, a little over ten percent of whom are actually taking it to assist with addiction. Methadone is responsible for over a quarter of all opioid-related deaths each year.

Signs of Methadone Abuse

Abuse Vs. Normal Use

Like other prescription opioids, it can be hard to distinguish between normal methadone use and abuse. Even the slightest deviation from a physician’s prescribed methadone regimen can result in overdose. Methadone, unlike other opioid painkillers, stays in the bloodstream long after pain relief has worn off. With the pain back, patients assume the drug has worn off and take more, leading to overdose, coma, respiratory failure, and death. Some of the more common signs of methadone abuse include:

Signs of Methadone Abuse
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Flu-Like Symptoms
  • Joint and Muscle Pain
  • Impaired Judgment
  • Preoccupation with Methadone
Methadone Abuse Vs. Normal Use
  • Doctor Shopping
  • Bizarre Changes in Mood
  • Social Isolation
  • Hallucinations
  • Sweating
  • Slowed Breathing
  • Constipation

It can also be difficult for patients on methadone for opioid maintenance to distinguish between these symptoms and lingering withdrawal effects. This is why it’s important that you work closely with your prescribing physician to monitor symptoms.