Methadone is a medication commonly used to manage opioid dependence, such as that seen in cases of addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone. When used as prescribed (and, in instances of maintenance therapy, with close monitoring and follow-up with the dispensing clinic), methadone is safe and very effective in helping people detox and recover from opioid addiction. However, as an opioid drug, methadone has its own decided potential for abuse and addiction.
Addiction is a complex condition that is characterized by powerful cravings and the inability to control or reduce methadone use despite interferences with major obligations like work and family.
This article will discuss:
- Methadone facts.
- Treatment for methadone addiction.
- Price of methadone addiction treatment.
- Financing recovery.
- Signs and symptoms of methadone addiction.
- Causes of methadone addiction.
- Long-term effects of methadone abuse.
- How to get help for an addiction.
Long-term methadone abuse can lead to addiction, in addition to many other detrimental social, mental, and physical health consequences.
Methadone is available in pill, liquid, and wafer forms and is typically taken once per day 3. It is used extensively in drug detox programs to manage opioid withdrawal syndrome and in a recovery program as part of ongoing treatment for addiction. The use of methadone for protracted treatment of opioid addiction is referred to as Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) 2. As maintenance therapy, methadone can only be distributed at specially licensed and accredited outpatient facilities.
Methadone, in contrast with heroin, morphine, and oxycodone, is a long-acting opioid. When used correctly, it interacts with the same subset of opioid brain receptors that heroin and prescription painkillers activate. The long-acting effect subdues withdrawal symptoms without eliciting the intense euphoria or profound sedation that many of the abused opioids do. Methadone also works to relieve the intense cravings that many recovering from opioid addiction would otherwise experience 1.
When someone takes methadone in a way other than prescribed, obtains and uses it illicitly or without a prescription, or mixes it with other substances, such as alcohol or other opioids, it is considered misuse or abuse. Some people may attempt to snort or inject methadone to enhance the effects and elicit euphoria. Long-term methadone abuse can lead to addiction, in addition to many other detrimental social, mental, and physical health consequences.
Treatment for Methadone Addiction
Individual addiction counseling may focus on how the individual relies on drugs or alcohol, instead of how the individual is interacting with family and society.
The incidence of methadone abuse is relatively low. Methadone may not be abused as often as short-acting opioids because its effects are more gradual and do not produce a pleasurable high when taken as prescribed. As a closely regulated treatment drug, methadone may also be more difficult to obtain than many of the more commonly abused opioid drugs—further limiting the numbers of individuals abusing it. However, like all opioids, it has addiction potential and can produce a number of negative short-and long-term effects. It can be difficult to quit due to the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms associated with the sudden cessation of methadone use.
Although it is possible to quit abusing methadone on your own, there are many benefits to seeking a professional treatment program, such as:
- Supervised detoxification (involving a gradual taper off of methadone).
- Individual therapy and group counseling.
- Physical and psychological evaluations.
- Medical and mental health care.
- Relapse prevention classes.
- Aftercare planning, involving attending ongoing treatment upon completion of the recovery program.
There are many different types of addiction treatment programs. There are many different possibilities, and what may work best for you will depend on your own individual needs. These recovery options include:
- Inpatient treatment: Residential programs that provide 24-hour structured treatment, detox-support, counseling and medical care.
- Outpatient treatment: Includes a variety of programs involving behavioral counseling on both an individual and group level. You will live at home and continue working or going to school while attending treatment sessions at an outpatient facility.
- Community-based treatment: This includes peer-to-peer programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), as well as church groups and other support programs.
- Specialized treatment: Some treatment programs specialize in treating specific populations, such as LGBT people, teens, veterans, women, and men.
- Luxury treatment: Includes inpatient programs that provide upscale facilities and luxurious amenities like swimming pools and massage, for a higher cost.
- Executive treatment: Inpatient programs that cater to working professionals who wish to continue working while recovering from a methadone addiction.
- Holistic treatment: Often utilizes alternative practices like yoga, acupuncture, meditation, or art and music therapy.
Price of Methadone Addiction Treatment
Private and public health insurance often covers at least a part of the costs of residential and outpatient treatment for all types of addiction.
There is not one set price for methadone addiction treatment. Programs range from free to thousands of dollars, depending on a number of factors, such as:
- The type of treatment program (inpatient tends to be more expensive than outpatient).
- The length of the program (30-day programs cost less than 90-day programs).
- Amenities offered (luxury is more expensive than standard inpatient).
- Your individual insurance plan.
If you have health insurance, your plan may provide partial or full coverage for addiction treatment. Call your insurance company to discuss the details of your plan and potential treatment options, or ask a member of our treatment support team for more details by calling 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? .
If you don’t have insurance, don’t become discouraged. There are many other ways to finance addiction treatment.
- Sliding scale: Some clinics offer limited free, low-cost, or reduced-cost treatment to people who cannot afford to pay.
- Ask friends and family: Talk to your friends and family about your recovery plan. Chances are they’ll be willing to help finance your treatment.
- Start a crowdfunding campaign: Try internet sites like GoFundMe or IndieGoGo to raise money for your addiction treatment.
- Use a credit card: You can pay for your treatment up front then pay off the credit card in monthly installments.
- Use savings: Weigh the risks of cutting into your savings against the risks of continued methadone abuse.
Signs and Symptoms of Methadone Addiction
There are numerous signs and symptoms of a substance abuse disorder. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, you may have noticed behavioral changes or other psychological and physical symptoms. The following is a list of some of the behavioral signs that may indicate a methadone addiction 4:
- Wanting to cut down or quit but not being able to.
- Spending a lot of time obtaining and using methadone.
- Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school or home.
- Taking methadone in larger amounts or more frequently than intended.
- Continuing to use despite the negative consequences.
- Stopping or reducing previously enjoyed activities.
- Acting secretive or defensive.
- “Doctor shopping,” or attempting to get several prescriptions.
- Skipping doses and saving them to take all at once.
Some possible psychological and physical indicators of methadone abuse and addiction include 4:
- Experiencing strong cravings for methadone.
- Slurred speech.
- Significantly slowed or shallow breathing.
- Track lines or collapsed veins (for intravenous users).
- Nose bleeds or irritated nasal mucosa (for intranasal users).
If you or someone you know is abusing methadone, it is time to get help. Addiction is a treatable condition. Call our helpline today at 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? to speak with a treatment support advisor about finding a recovery program in your area.
Causes of Methadone Addiction
Substance use disorder is a complex condition. While methadone addiction is most common among people recovering from an opioid addiction, there is no one single reason that people become addicted and there are no single predictors of who will experience addiction during their lifetime. A number of different factors interact to lead to addiction, including:
- Environment: This includes a number of different influences such as family, friends, economic status, and community. Early trauma, such as physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, peer pressure, stress, and lack of parental guidance can increase the risk of addiction 5.
- Genetics: There is no single gene that causes addiction, but addiction does have an inherited component. This means that susceptibility to addiction can be passed down from parent to child.
- Mental health: Recent research has shown that about 45% of Americans who seek addiction treatment also have a co-occurring mental health disorder 6.
Long-term Effects of Methadone Addiction
Although methadone is safe when taken as directed, abusing methadone can have dangerous consequences on many aspects of a user’s life. Addiction is progressive, which means that the condition tends to worsen the longer it goes untreated. The ramifications of addiction can be severe and have long-term effects on your happiness. These may include 3,5,7,8:
- Losing personal relationships with family and friends, divorce and break-ups.
- Experiencing legal problems.
- Contracting HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis, or developing other infectious processes such as bacterial endocarditis (infection of the heart lining) in conjunction with intravenous use and non-sterile needles.
- Perforated nasal septum as a result of snorting methadone.
- Severe constipation.
- Having difficulty concentrating or remembering things.
- Experiencing financial difficulties.
- Impaired behavioral regulation, decision-making, and stress-response.
- Increased risk of overdose (since methadone has a long half-life, it remains in the body even after the acute effects wear off and can build up in tissue).
Get Help for Methadone Addiction
- Attorneys at the Legal Action Center. (2009). Know Your Rights: Rights for Individuals on Medication- Assisted Treatment. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 09-4449.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). What every individual needs to know about methadone maintenance.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Methadone.
- Preda, A. (2016). Opioid Abuse.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Drug Facts: Understanding Drug Use and Addiction.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Behavioral Health Treatments and Services.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What are the possible consequences of opioid use and abuse?