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methadone-iconMethadone is a synthetic opioid that can be used for pain management, but is primarily used for management of withdrawal symptoms and cravings in opiate addicts. It is usually administered orally as a sweetened liquid or as a pill.

When this medication is prescribed to a recovering opiate addict, they have to visit a methadone clinic to get their regular treatments, as it is not legal to dispense more than one dose at a time. Most treatment programs use a “tapered” approach, in which the patient will detox at a rate of about 1 to 2mg of methadone per week, slowly stepping it down over time.

Even though it is a treatment drug, methadone is listed as a Schedule II drug along with the other opiate painkillers. It can be abused if it is taken in excessive dosages and it is possible for it to cause tolerance and addiction. Since it is tightly controlled and not commonly sold on the street, the greatest risk of drug abuse is if it is combined with another opiate or if a dose is injected.

The effects of the drug last for 12 to 24 hours. Possible symptoms include drowsiness, nausea, itchiness and constipation. Coma and death can be caused by opioid overdose due to respiratory depression.

Street Names

  • fizzies
  • linctus
  • dollies
  • green machine
  • wafers
  • chocolate chip cookies
  • dose

Common Forms 

This medication is usually prescribed either as a large tablet that needs to be dissolved in liquid, or a sweetened liquid syrup. Medical patients generally have to visit a methadone clinic to get one individual dose at a time.

Drug Class

Methadone is a type of opiate. It is a synthetic opioid, but unlike most other synthetic opioids, it is primarily used for management of an existing opiate addiction rather than for pain. It does have a considerable analgesic effect, however, and is sometimes prescribed to manage chronic pain.

DEA Schedule

As with the other opiate pain drugs, methadone is a Schedule II drug. While it is used commonly to help addicts manage their addiction, it is still potentially addictive in its own right and can get users high with a large enough dosage.

Common Forms of Use 

This drug is both used and abused orally in its prescribed forms. It can also be injected.

General Effects 

Methadone provides pain relief. In addicts who are using it for management of their addiction, it quells opiate cravings and withdrawal symptoms without causing a significant feeling of being high, at least when kept to prescribed doses.

Negative Short-Term Effects

Some short-term effects include nausea, vomiting, itchy skin, constipation, excessive sweating and sexual dysfunction.

Negative Long-Term Effects

Some longtime methadone patients have developed lung and breathing problems. Abuse of large amounts of  this drug present an elevated risk for kidney, liver and cardiovascular disease.

Dangers of Methadone Abuse

When used as prescribed, methadone is one of the safest of the opiate medications. Overdose is possible, and is a danger to those trying to use too large of a dose to get high, or combining other opioids with this medication in an attempt to intensify the high. Death or coma from respiratory depression can result from an overdose.

What Drugs are Commonly Mixed with Methadone?

Alcohol is a particular risk for mixing with this medication. Many addicts who are early in their recovery will drink alcohol to substitute for their opiate use. Alcohol and methadone together present a risk of death by respiratory depression. This combination is also particularly hard on the liver and can cause liver damage over time.

Abuse and Addiction Rates

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration studied methadone abuse from 2003 to 2011 and found that it increased significantly over that period. Methadone treatments for opioid addiction rose from 227,000 to 306,000 over that time, and incidents of abuse are thought to have spiked by about 5,000 to 10,000 each year.

Best Treatment for Methadone Addiction

Treating methadone abuse is tricky because the drug was likely being used to control the use of another opiate addiction. There are alternate maintenance drugs that can be tried, but the first step is always a detox. An inpatient treatment stay at a certified medical facility allows a team of professionals to assess the situation as they monitor the patient and come up with the most effective possible treatment approach. Visit Methadone Rehab for more information.

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