Methadone is a powerful medication used to treat opiate addiction. It is a synthetic (man-made) opiate.
Opiates or opioids are drugs derived from opium. Opium is a natural narcotic made from poppies or similar man-made substances. Opioids include heroin, morphine, codeine, hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and oxycodone (Oxycontin).*
How and why methadone treatment works
Methadone is very effective in the following ways:
- Methadone is taken orally, not by injection. Methadone frees you from the dangerous habit of “shooting up.”
- Methadone is very long acting. You only need to take methadone once a day. Methadone lasts between 24 and 36 hours.
- Methadone takes effect slowly. Because its effects come on more slowly and gradually, you won’t get a “rush.” This helps break the cycle of “rush-stoned-crash-withdrawal” symptoms.
- Methadone side effects actually decrease as your treatment advances. You will then feel fewer of the medication’s initial effects.
- You will look, act and feel drug-free once you are appropriately stabilized.
- Methadone prevents withdrawal symptoms, reduces hunger/cravings and blocks other effects of opioids.
Please remember that methadone is a tool. As useful as it is, methadone is not enough on its own.
It is not treatment by itself and must be combined with other clinical services to be effective.
Learn more about methadone treatment
Contact Overmountain Recovery to find out more. We’re happy to answer any questions and help you get started on the path to recovery.
Methadone side effects
Methadone side effects are usually minimal and short-lived. And they happen most often in the early stages of your treatment.
Most patients experience no severe side effects.
Please read the list below and notify the Overmountain Recovery medical staff if you experience any these symptoms.
Most common side effects
The most frequent negative effects of methadone are:
- Extreme tiredness
- Ankle swelling
- Skin rash
Less common side effects
Much less often, negative effects might include restlessness, malaise (a general feeling of discomfort, illness or uneasiness, the exact cause of which is difficult to identify), weakness, headache, insomnia (sleeplessness), agitation, disorientation, visual disturbance, constipation, dry mouth, flushing of the face, low heart rate, faintness or fainting, problem urinating, changes in sexual drive, irregular menstruation, joint pain, joint swelling, and numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
If you experience any side effects
You might experience some side effects from methadone, but they are usually minor and typically don’t outweigh the benefits of treatment.
Notify the nurses if you experience any of the side effects listed above.
Methadone is a medication that produces dependence and has the same side effects as other opioids. Overdose might cause sedation and/or respiratory and cardiac depression.
If you have difficulty breathing, chest pains or other serious symptoms, call 911 immediately!
If you have a mild reaction that you believe could be medication related, call the Overmountain Recovery medical staff for help – (833) 371-0509.
After business hours
After hours, contact your local emergency room.
If necessary, go to the hospital, but be sure to have someone else drive you.
Methadone overdose: what you need to know
What to watch for
An often unrecognized symptom of methadone overmedication is unusual feelings of excess energy (with or without euphoria).
As methadone levels drop, the other signs/symptoms can emerge.
Signs and symptoms of methadone overdose
- Body is limp
- The person can’t be aroused or is unable to talk
- Difficulty waking the person from sleep
- Fingernails or lips turning blue/purple
- Mental confusion, slurred speech or intoxicated behavior
- Pinpoint pupils (miosis)
- Slow heartbeat or lowered blood pressure
- Slow or shallow breathing
- Unusual sleepiness, grogginess, drowsiness (oversedation, somnolence)
- Unusual snoring while asleep
- Vomiting or gurgling noises
What to do for methadone overdose
Take immediate action
If there are possible signs or symptoms of overmedication or overdose, determine if the person is responsive.
To arouse them, you can try:
- Shouting their name
- Pinching their ear
- Rubbing your knuckles on their breastbone
Keep them awake and call 911.
If the victim can’t be aroused, call 911 immediately.
Use intranasal naloxone
Naloxone given through the nose can be life-saving for someone who has overdosed on opioids.
After using naloxone, it’s still important to get immediate medical help. This is because the naloxone effects will wear off before the methadone effects do.
Ask an Overmountain Recovery team member about how to get naloxone.
What not to do for a methadone overdose
There are many “street myths” about how to deal with an opioid overdose, including a methadone overdose.
All of the alleged “remedies” take precious time away from getting real help. And they all can be harmful rather than helpful.
Here are several precautions you, your relatives and friends should know about:
- Do not inject the person with any substance (salt water, “speed,” heroin, etc.). The only antidote for an opioid overdose is naloxone.
- Do not put the person into a cold bath or shower. They could fall, go into shock or drown.
- Do not slap the victim or walk/drag them around to wake them up. If they cannot be roused by shouting, rubbing knuckles on the center of the rib cage or pinching their ear, they are unconscious. Stimulating the person more will not help and can cause injury.
- Do not try to make the victim vomit any orally ingested opioids. They might choke or inhale the vomit into their lungs, causing fatal damage.
Call 911 without delay
The most important thing to do for a drug overdose or medical emergency is call 911!
Questions? Ready to get started?
See our frequently asked questions to read more about Overmountain Recovery.
Or contact us about your questions and for help getting started on the path to recovery.
*Please note: Medication brand names in parentheses are the registered trademarks of their respective owners.