Uses and Side Effects
While there’s no set amount of time you’ll take methadone to treat an addiction, experts say it should be at least a year, and maybe more than that. The doctor will carefully track your body’s response to it and adjust your treatment. When it’s time to stop taking it, he’ll help you stop slowly to prevent withdrawal.
With short-term use, you may notice:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Slow breathing
- Itchy skin
- Heavy sweating
- Sexual problems
- Some side effects are more serious. Call the doctor if you:
- Have trouble breathing or can only take shallow breaths
- Feel lightheaded or faint
- Get hives or a rash
- Have swollen lips, tongue, throat, or face
- Have chest pain or a rapid heartbeat
- Have hallucinations or feel confused
If you use the drug for a long time, it might lead to lung and breathing problems. It can also change a woman’s menstrual cycle. If you get pregnant, talk to your doctor about changing your dose. It can cause complications.
What Are the Risks?
Some people shouldn’t take methadone. Tell your doctor if you have:
- Heart disease
- A heart rhythm disorder
- An electrolyte imbalance
- Breathing problems or lung disease
- A history of head injury, brain tumor, or seizures
- Liver or kidney disease
- Problems urinating
- Gallbladder, pancreas, or thyroid problems
- A condition for which you take sedatives
Drugs than can affect methadone include:
Drugs that make you sleepy or slow your breathing
Drugs that change your serotonin level
You can become dependent on it. Your brain may begin to rely on the pain relief it brings.
Even though the effects are milder than other opioids, your body can still adapt to it. This means that you’ll need to take more to feel the same relief from pain or withdrawal symptoms, which can lead to abuse and addiction. Your doctor will call this tolerance.
No two people react the same to methadone. Your doctor calculates the dose that’s right for you. Changing it can lead to dangerous side effects or an overdose.
Overdose symptoms can include:
- Slow breathing
- Slow heart rate
- Severe drowsiness
- Weak muscles
- Cold, clammy skin
- Small pupils
In some cases, overdose can be fatal. It’s important to be honest with your doctor about your methadone use.