Effects of methadone

November 12, 2012

Effects of methadone

Methadone has been used on a large scale safely for many years as a treatment for addiction to opiates but its use still causes controversy and polarized views.

There have been many studies carried out on methadone use. If it is used as instructed the effects of methadone will not cause harm to the brain, lungs, kidneys, heart or liver. It doesnÂ’t give a high and people will still have the ability to live their life as normal.

For many who use methadone they report no obvious side effects but some people report suffering from mild side effects. Others who take methadone report experiencing side effects which they cannot tolerate but the numbers are small. Methadone is safe to take as instructed when it is part of an addiction treatment program which is medically supervised.

The side effects of methadone treatment occur within a few weeks and months. Over a period of time and after the dose has been adjusted and a tolerance to the medication has developed the side effects lessen.

Taking the correct amount of methadone works well in eliminating the feelings associated with withdrawal of opiates. It takes approximately one week of taking methadone before the body can provide 24 hour relief from the withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone is accumulated in the liver and is released slowly in the body and over a 24 hour period a stable level of methadone activation is created. It can take 5-7 days using methadone for the body to store the correct amount of medication. Until the body can provide a methadone steady state mild withdrawal symptoms may be experienced when the methadone levels are low.

Common side effects of methadone use include the following:

  • Drowsiness

  • Constipation

  • Sweating

  • Skin Rash

  • Flushing

  • Water retention

  • Erectile dysfunction or sex drive changes

  • Dizziness normally at the start of treatment

  • Dry mouth

The two most common side effects of methadone are sweating and constipation. To help reduce the effects of constipation have a high fiber diet. Exercise regularly and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Sweating excessively may be experienced while on methadone by those who cannot develop any tolerance to methadone. In these cases it is possible that varying the amount of methadone has no effect.

Some men have reported sexual problems causing a delay in ejaculation, loss of libido and impotence.

A small amount of women report not menstruating but it appears regular menstruation occurs after starting the methadone treatment.

Many people experience severe drowsiness taking methadone. After a couple of weeks the sedation effects of the methadone will disappear as the body becomes tolerant to it. It may be sedation is a sign of a dosage which is too high and if patients still experience drowsiness after a few months it is best to discuss a reduction in the dose.

Abnormal side effects of methadone are seizures, itchiness and hives and these are signs of a severe and dangerous allergic reaction to methadone. It is crucial to contact a doctor immediately if any of these effects appear.

The mild withdrawal symptoms which may be experienced when taking methadone are:

  • Fatigue

  • Hot flushes

  • Depression or anxiety

  • Muscle aches

  • Insomnia

  • Nausea

  • Drug cravings

  • Restlessness

Should the above symptoms last for longer than seven days it may be that the dose of methadone is too low.

For most people the side effects of methadone can be managed. People who cannot tolerate particular side effects and who want to stay with medication management for an addiction to opiates may be able to change to Suboxone. Should this be the case sometimes it is necessary for people to reduce their dose of methadone before taking Suboxone.


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