Methadone is a pain medication used to treat long-term pain, especially after surgery. It falls into a category of drugs called opioids. Although opioids effectively block pain, they’ve received a lot of negative media attention in recent years because of their highly addictive properties and their potential to lead to harder drugs. Methadone is, unfortunately, no exception.
"People who take [methadone] illegally often inject it, which exposes them to diseases like HIV.”
The Dangers of Methadone
When used correctly, methadone can provide relief from otherwise intolerable pain, but because methadone is dangerous under the wrong circumstances, it’s only legally available via prescription. Methadone should only ever be used under the careful supervision of a doctor. Methadone can cause some severe side effects, including but not limited to the following:
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Difficulty Breathing
If a patient experiences these or any other side effects, he or she should seek medical attention immediately. Additionally, because methadone is an opioid, it does come with the risk of an addiction.
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If you’ve been prescribed methadone for pain, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions very carefully. Methadone sends messages to your brain’s opioid receptors, causing your brain to release dopamine, one of its primary “feel good” chemicals. Dopamine release works as part of your brain’s reward system, which is why your brain may crave more methadone after the first dose. Methadone abuse can quickly lead to an addiction, which may lead to high-risk behavior, crimes, and increased risk for infectious diseases.
“The treatment program must be approved by the state and federal governments and must treat patients according to specific federal laws. You may have to take your medication at the treatment program facility under the supervision of the program staff.”
U.S. National Library of Medicine –
The Flip Side: Methadone as an Addiction Treatment
On the other hand, methadone is also often used to treat heroin addiction. During heroin detox, a patient may experience severe withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting or pain. Methadone is much safer than heroin when used under medical supervision, and it can be used to lessen the symptoms of heroin withdrawal.
Because methadone and heroin come from the same source, methadone can temporarily replace heroin, giving the brain the dopamine that it craves. Under a treatment plan, the patient can be gradually weaned off the methadone, making the recovery process easier and less painful. The tapering process is crucial and must be followed through. Otherwise, the patient may just replace one addiction for another. It’s important to note that one can only take methadone as an addiction treatment while undergoing a rehabilitation plan.