Potential High-Dose Risks of Methadone

Potential High-Dose Risks of MethadoneMethadone is a synthetic opioid that is sometimes used in the treatment of pain. Traditionally, the primary use of methadone has been to help heroin addicts recover from addiction. Methadone is useful in this regard because it staves off symptoms of opiate withdrawal without producing the euphoric or debilitating high of heroin. Heroin addicts in methadone therapy are able to function normally and avoid withdrawal symptoms as they wean their bodies off of heroin. Methadone also has a longer duration of action than heroin with a 24 to 72 hour cycle, as opposed to the 4 to 8 hour cycle of heroin, which allows recovering addicts to go longer between doses.

Increase in Methadone Abuse

In recent years, methadone has increased in popularity as a drug of abuse. This has come as a surprise to law enforcement and treatment specialists, who have always considered methadone to have relatively low abuse potential since it does not produce the high of heroin or other opiates and opioids. It is not clear exactly why methadone abuse has become more common, but it may be an unintended consequence of the crackdown on OxyContin abuse. Physicians have begun to prescribe methadone more often for the treatment of pain due to the perception of methadone having lower potential for abuse. More prescriptions translate to increased availability on the black market. Many heroin and opioid addicts are at the “maintenance” stage of addiction, which means that they no longer chase the “high” but merely continue to use in order to avoid withdrawal. They are willing to use methadone when they cannot obtain heroin or opioids like OxyContin. Methadone is also less expensive than heroin, which may contribute to its abuse potential and encourage recreational drug users to try it.

Addiction, Overdose and Other Hazards of Methadone Use

Although methadone does not produce the high of heroin or other opioids, it nonetheless produces many of the same negative consequences. Methadone is highly addictive, and methadone withdrawal lasts much longer than heroin withdrawal. Recovering heroin addicts on methadone therapy have to detox from methadone once they have detoxed from heroin.

Opiate and opioid addicts, as well as occasional recreational users, are likely to take high doses of methadone. Addicts who are accustomed to the effects of heroin, morphine or OxyContin will not experience the same effect from methadone and may think that it is not working. Since methadone has a longer cycle, it is also slower to take effect, which may lead addicts to conclude that they need a higher dose. Those seeking a heroin-like high will not experience the effect they anticipate and may be tempted to take more. When the drug finally does take effect, they may already have overdosed.

Any use of methadone may lead to addiction; using higher doses increases this risk. Higher doses also increase the primary health risk of opiate abuse, which is death from overdose. Intravenous injection may also lead to indirect consequences, such as the transmission of communicable diseases, damage to veins and arteries and infections of the blood and heart.

Treatment for Methadone Addiction

Addiction to methadone requires professional, medically supervised treatment to be overcome safely and successfully. If you or someone you know suffers from methadone addiction and needs treatment, call our toll-free helpline today. Counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have and to help you find the treatment you need.