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What is Methadone?



Methadone is a synthetic drug used to treat narcotic addiction or severe pain. It is still a narcotic and therefore, subject to abuse and is also highly addictive. Furthermore, methadone can be consumed orally through a tablet form, consumed orally through a liquid solution, or as a liquid that is injected into the body. Methadone has been used world wide as a treatment for heroin addicts since the mid 1960s. This drug is a Schedule II drug, meaning it has high potential for abuse.

How does Methadone Affect the Body?

Methadone works by suppressing the body’s withdrawal symptoms that are typically experienced by people who are addicted to narcotics. The withdrawal symptoms are suppressed for twenty-four to thirty-six hours. People withdrawing from narcotics, including heroin, often experience horrible symptoms including:

Dysphoric Mood

Since the use of heroin and opiates offer a temporary rush and euphoric feeling, not being able to feel this euphoria creates feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, and irritability. Certainly, once the narcotic addict recovers, he or she is eventually able to feel better. The body has to get unaccustomed to having the unnatural chemicals in order to experience feelings of well-being. When the narcotic user is consuming the drug regularly, his or her natural neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, quit being adequately produced. The neurotransmitters are replaced by chemicals and stop being readily produced by the body.

Aches and Pains

Anybody withdrawing from narcotics usually experiences uncomfortable flu-like aches or even excruciating pain. Since narcotics work by blocking the pain pathways of the body, the body becomes dependent on them in order to live pain-free. Most often, these pains are felt in the back or the legs. Certainly, the pain receptor in the brain is tricked into thinking that pain exists, even if there is no physical cause for the pain. Pain is what tells us that something is wrong with the body. Since the pain being felt does not appear to have a cause, this could be a partially psychological phenomenon brought on by the narcotic substance.

Excessive Bodily Fluid Release

When a person is withdrawing from narcotics, they often experience an excessive release of bodily fluids such as tears, sweat, and runny nose. Since the body is striving to detox and be brought back into a state of homeostasis, these fluids are released uncontrollably. One may be drenched in sweat, be overly emotional, or have a runny nose with no cold being present.

Diarrhea and Other Stomach Complications

In addition, the person withdrawing from narcotics may experience diarrhea followed by muscle spasms that produce pain. He or she has to be sure to stay close to a bathroom in case an unexpected release of diarrhea comes, so their regular daily routine may be disrupted for a time. The digestive system is disrupted during narcotic use and has to be trained by the body to perform regularly again.

Nausea and Vomiting

Surely, a person withdrawing from heroin or opiates will likely experience a degree of nausea and/or vomiting. These feelings are unpleasant, tiring, and suppresses one’s normal appetite.


When withdrawing from narcotics, many people experience fever. Although fever typically indicates an infection is present, this is not the case during withdrawal. Allowing the fever to run its course is the recommended decision in this particular instance.


During withdrawal from narcotics, one often experiences restlessness that brings discomfort and an inability to sleep soundly. This often results in “restless leg syndrome” for a time or “yucky” feelings felt in the pit of the stomach.

Sleep Problems

Insomnia is extremely prevalent among people who are withdrawing from narcotics. This is caused by unpleasant feelings and restlessness. People may have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep for extending periods.

Withdrawing from narcotics is not pleasant and causes people to want to reach for the drug again, no matter the cost. When in this unpleasant state, many people are unable to maintain enough self-control and willpower to resist the drug to which they no longer want to be addicted. Essentially, an addicted person is controlled by the substance. When this addiction spirals out of control, the abuser will do whatever he or she can in order to get a “fix”. Oftentimes, this includes stealing from friends and family, neglecting loved ones, stealing from people on the street, robbing institutions, prostitution, or even murder.

Why is Methadone Prescribed?

Methadone is often prescribed to control these negative, often unbearable withdrawal symptoms experienced by the cessation of narcotic use. Methadone clinics are often set up to help heroin or other opiate addicts to hopefully recover with a more bearable tolerance. When Methadone is used by opiate addicts, one does not experience the cravings of the opiate that they would typically experience. Also, the methadone blocks the euphoric feelings from occurring if the person caves and uses the drug he or she is addicted to.

How does Methadone Affect the Body When Abused?

Since Methadone is still a drug, people taking Methadone can become addicted and build a tolerance to it. Methadone is often abused and the drug does not come without side effects. Many drug abusers turn to the consumption of Methadone because the drug is often more readily available. When abused, the methadone user’s intellectual ability is drastically reduced. Since an opiate abuser is not able to perform at optimal levels in regards to their learning, memory, and attention functioning, many experts assume this is the case with methadone abusers as well. Because long-term methadone use cannot be tested in healthy volunteers because of ethical reasons, knowing the long-term negative effects of methadone is hard to determine since many of its users are former heroin or opiate addicts.

When the studies of methadone use were performed on animals, decreased brain functioning did appear to occur. Rats that were administered Methadone daily for three weeks showed less attention span than the rats in the control group. Also, the rat’s attention span did not function at a normal level the day following the administration of the drug, even after the methadone had been released from the body. This shows that a person taking methadone may still experience negative effects for days after the drug enters his or her system. Many experts suggest this is because the drug changes the person’s brain cells. Research has found that protein in the brain is negatively affected by long-term use of Methadone. These particular proteins found in the brain are essential for optimal learning and memory function.

How is Methadone Dangerous?

Methadone is dangerous because taking too much can lead to accidental overdose. Since the state of euphoria is often not achieved as with other drugs, a person may increase the intake of Methadone in hopes of achieving this desired effect. Also, when a person addicted to Methadone ceases to take the drug, he or she may experience withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain.

How Does One Go About Getting Help for Methadone Addiction?

When one discovers he or she needs help for Methadone addiction, he or she should consider seeking an inpatient treatment center. The benefits of going to an inpatient treatment center for help on his or her journey to recovery are immense. Inpatient treatment facilities often offer a secure and comfortable place for a recovering Methadone addict. A person is made to feel that he or she is not alone in his or her struggle to overcome addiction as soon as the person walks through the door. The supportive environment helps the person to deal with the heart of the issue of addiction. Often, people turn to drugs in order to fill a void in their life or to overcome feelings of depression, anxiety, or loneliness. These core life problems should be resolved before recovery can fully transpire.

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