Can you get addicted to methadone?

Methadone has a high potential for abuse and may lead to serious psychological or physical dependence. How can you tell if you are addicted, or not? We review the main signs here.

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It is possible to be addicted to methadone?


Contrary to popular belief, people can become addicted to methadone. How? Methadone can be habit forming when used other than prescribed over a prolonged period of time. In fact, long-term use of any drug can lead to physical and psychological dependence.

Still, there is a certain profile of people who are at greater risk of developing methadone addiction. How can you know if you are one of them, or not? What are the objective signs of becoming addicted to methadone? We’ll look at these questions in more detail here. For any further questions, join us in the comments section at the end of the article. In fact, we take the time to respond to all real life questions personally and promptly.

What medicines contain methadone?

Methadone is a medication used for mainly during detoxification treatment and for the maintenance treatment of narcotic addiction. It comes in the form of a tablet, oral solution, or injectable liquid and has a molecular formula C21H27NO.

Methadone can be recognized under the following brand names:

  • Dolophine
  • Diskets
  • Dolophine Hydrochloride
  • Methadose
  • Methadone Hydrochloride Intensol TM
  • Westadone

What does methadone do in the body?

Methadone has two purposes:

  1. To relieve moderate to severe pain
  2. To help treat opioid or opiate dependence

Methadone works by “occupying” the brain’s receptors affected by heroin and other similar drugs. Methadone blocks the euphoric and sedating effects of these stronger drugs, and simultaneously relieves cravings and symptoms associated with withdrawal from opiates.

However, methadone may cause euphoric effects and produce a “high” when it binds to the opiate receptors in the brain. Although the high from methadone is far less intense when compared to other medications and drugs, it can still cause significant toxicities. For that reason, methadone has been classified as Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

How do you get addicted to methadone?

You get addicted to methadone when you use it in doses or ways OTHER THAN PRESCRIBED. If the habit isn’t stopped in time, the consequences can be very serious. The following two (2) main factors contribute to the addiction potential of methadone.

FACTOR 1: Dosing

You can take low doses of methadone on a daily basis and still not become addicted to it. In fact, many people are prescribed low doses of methadone for chronic pain issues and remain addiction-free. Even those who take it in higher doses are not addicted. For example, people who are prescribed higher doses of methadone in addiction treatment stay in treatment longer, use less heroin, have a lower chance of relapse, and have lower incidence of HIV infection.

This is because dose levels depend on individual needs.

However, if a person takes methadone in higher doses than those prescribed, s/he risks the development of tolerance. While tolerance does not indicate addiction in itself, a higher tolerance for a drug can lead to habitual use…which can lead to addiction. So, high dosing to achieve euphoric effect is one factor that leads to addiction.

FACTOR 2: Methods of abuse

When a person is abusing methadone by snorting it or injecting it, s/he will experience more potent effects and they will occur much faster; addiction can develop quickly. But, the faster the onset of euphoric effects, the shorter their duration. Once the extremely intense effects wear off, the user will feel the need to take methadone again. In this way, taking methadone in ANY WAY OTHER THAN PRESCRIBED can lead to addiction.

History of addiction to other substances

People who have a history of addiction to other substances are at highest risk of developing methadone addiction. Their brains have become acclimated to the psychoactive effects of substances and can be sensitive to methadone’s euphoric effect. If you’ve been diagnosed with Substance Use Disorder in the past, you must be extremely careful with how you use the methadone, especially in long-term methadone maintenance treatment.

3 Common signs of methadone addiction

1. Tolerance. You can recognize methadone addiction when a person has developed tolerance to this medication. Tolerance means that s/he requires higher doses of methadone to reach the same effects that used to be achieved at lower doses.

2. Withdrawal. Another sign of methadone addiction includes methadone withdrawal symptoms when the person stops using this medication. However, withdrawal indicates physical dependence. The next symptoms indicates psychological dependence.

3. Cravings. A person addicted to methadone will also obsess over obtaining the drug and start to crave it compulsively. This means that the user thinks about methadone constantly, and won’t stop using, even when health, relationships, home, or work life are at risk.

Of these three symptoms, cravings indicate a real problem with methadone. Tolerance and withdrawal are expected outcomes of regular dosing. But if you start to crave the drug, thinking about it obsessively, and believe you cannot live without it…you may need to seek professional help. An addiction specialist can screen you and help provide a diagnosis for addiction.

Behavioral, physical and mental symptoms

Methadone addiction is characterized by a set of behavioral, physical, and psychological symptoms. In addition to financial, social, work, family and life implications, many chronic and long-term methadone abusers display the following side-effects as a result of their habit.

1. Mood changes that are recognized as behavioral symptoms of a methadone problem include:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Disorientation
  • Euphoria
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness

2. Physical symptoms that can indicate a methadone problem include:

  • Increased body temperature
  • Open sores
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tachycardia
  • Urinary retention

3. Psychological symptoms that manifest as a result of methadone problems include:

  • Confusion about identity, place, and time
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Repetitive behaviors

How to avoid methadone addiction

The best way to avoid developing an addiction to methadone is to follow your doctor’s advice on dosing, use, and duration of treatment. Do not use methadone for euphoric effect. Be careful with the use of this medication if you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse because you are more susceptible to develop a dependency on methadone.

Questions about methadone?

Still have questions about methadone addiction? Please leave them in the section below and we will try our best to provide you with a professional and prompt response.

Reference sources: NHTSA: Methadone
NCBI: Methadone
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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