Physical addiction to methadone

Methadone is considered an extremely addictive drug. Learn more about the physically addictive potential of methadone, here.

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Most often, methadone is primarily used in the detoxification and maintenance of individuals dependent on opiates (particularly heroin) and the treatment of people with severe and chronic pain. However, a person can develop an addiction to methadone if the opioid medication is abused.

How can you know if you are physically or psychologically addicted to methadone? What’s the difference between the two? We review the signs of methadone addiction and you options for help. Then, all of your questions about methadone are welcomed at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all legitimate questions personally and promptly.

Physical dependence on methadone

One characteristic of most psychoactive drugs – including methadone – is that the body adapts to the regular dosing. This condition where the body gets used to the presence of methadone is called “drug dependence”. Over time some users may require increasingly larger doses in order to experience the same effects as when they started using methadone. This is called “drug tolerance”.

While drug dependence and tolerance may be signs of addiction…when experienced with no other symptoms…they do not necessarily INDICATE addiction.

On the other hand, addiction to methadone can be defined as the condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with, or involved in the use and abuse of methadone. There are two main components of the definition of methadone addiction:

  1. The first symptom of addction is that individuals who are addicted to methadone use this medication regularly and habitually despite the harms it causes.
  2. The second main symptom of addiction is the occurrence of compulsive methadone use which is generally beyond the individual’s conscious control.

In other words, methadone addiction refers to a behavioral syndrome where using the substance seems to dominate the individual’s motivation. On the other hand, methadone physical dependence occurs as an expected  result of the body’s adaptation to methadone. When physically dependent on methadone, the user will experience withdrawal symptoms upon cessation or significant dose reduction.

Physical signs of addiction to methadone

It’s difficult to note physical signs of addiction to an opioid drug like methadone. Often, signs of addiction can mirror signs of drug dependence. So, you see how it can get hazy? However, some of the following physical signs and symptoms of methadone addiction may be present in methadone addicts:

  • constipation
  • constricted pupils
  • increase in pain
  • nausea
  • slowed respiration
  • sweating
  • vomiting

Treating physical symptoms of methadone problems

If you have a problem with methadone…what are your first steps towards getting off methadone for good?

STEP 1: Get methadone out of your system. Methadone withdrawal refers to the physical and emotional effects experienced when you are physically dependent on this drug. However, the withdrawal process itself is different for every individual. The length and severity of the withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the gravity of your methadone addiction problem.

What are methadone withdrawal symptoms? During methadone withdrawal you may experience the following symptoms:

  • anxiety
  • cravings
  • depression
  • diarrhea
  • flu like symptoms (fever, sweating and chills)
  • hallucinations
  • increased heart rate
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • loss of energy
  • muscle aches and pains
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • paranoia
  • stomach cramps
  • suicidal thoughts

To avoid the risks and undesired consequences from methadone, it is best to visit a methadone detox clinic for the duration of the withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities offer you medical detox as a part of the program. It’s best NOT to withdraw from methadone alone, but under the watchful eye of a medical professional team. An abrupt cessation of methadone use can cause severe consequences. This is why doctors recommended that methadone is stopped through tapering and not cold turkey.

STEP 2:  Identify WHY you’re using methadone. After you detox from methadone, you’ll need to investigate WHY you’ve been abusing methadone…what are the psychological or emotional needs that the drug meets? Seeking the help of a psychotherapist or psychiatrist can be very helpful at this point. You’ll need professional guidance and a safe environment to explore past issues and possibly even trauma. This is why rehab works so well for some. For others, outpatient treatment can be a lower cost alternative.

STEP 3: Learn to adapt new, healthy coping behaviors. Finally, you’ll need to learn how to get along without relying on methadone. This is the hardest part of any addiction treatment – staying stopped. Support groups offer specific programs designed to help. So do addiction treatment centers. Additionally, stress management, anger management, and time management skills are all needed to stay clean and sober over the long term.

Physically or mentally addicted to methadone questions

Do you have any further questions about mental or physical addiction to methadone? If so, feel free to post the in the section below. We try to respond to all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly. In case we don’t know the answer to your particular question, we will refer you to professionals who can help.

Reference sources: NCBI: Use of methadone
NIH: Definition of tolerance
Medline Plus: Opiate and opioid withdrawal
CESAR: 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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  1. Diane,
    I’m sorry you are having such a terrible time getting relief. I hope things are getting better for you. I wanted to ask you more about your original accident, on the plane, as it i has me very intrigued. At what altitude and spend was the aircraft when you fell out?? That is super scary and I’m glad you survived. How many others survived? Please do not take offense or think I am kidding with my questions. I mean no disrespect, I am genuinely interested. You might think about writing a book.

  2. I m the stright estate person I know, honor roll, great job, bought my house ,2 cars on my own! Till I fell out of a bowing 737 plane while I worked for continual airlines. I lost everything overnite. Nothing papain ed me for the life I have now. For someone who never even did pot in hi school, I was really in for it after my frist back surgery. Put in pain management, I knew nothing about drugs and just trusted my doctors. My pain is chronic and serve. Still, they only put me on 30 mags a day of methodne. I’m strong headed, took what I needed in one day. Most days I can get by with just one. But if iv done things I’m not suppose to be doing, then I will take more and wind up on the couch for a day or two. I always have pain, but have learned what I can live with. Very proud of myself after 7 yrs going to pain management never once have I ever a shed them to up my meds. As time went by people and Dr’s came and went I noticed a shift in the way I was being treated. This is where I drawl the line when I know where I have came from and they dont.! Started getting treated like a locked up criminal who was threatened if I couldn’t fill that pisses cup on demand, made to sit there for hours drinking water to give them what they want that day or else! Never mind that I still have a life with thing’s to do, they want it right there and then. If I couldn’t produce, then I would have to go up to the hospital lab later and give them a sample. And if I didn’t do that they would make me run in the same day and get a blood withdrawal. One time I had been sick with the flu, throwing up everything. Had to go in during this time, they asked for a pisses test, it came back clean, they accused me of everything, Sent it out to be retested, I came home in tears. Couldn’t put it together till my older brother spelled it out for me, as I had vomiting everything up. There have been meny things like this, I’m fed up! I realize to have a better life without pain, I need to do something. I walked out of my paim management place after this last thing they did to me, enough is enough, I knew I was cutting my own throat! I never knew there was a real hell till I tried going off these things till I tried cold turkey. They sent me a nasty letter. So, here I am with no support at all. I’m alone, no family here and if you haven’t been though it your pals don’t know the hell your going though. I tampered down some then to nothing, my worst systom, is the severe back pain that never go’s away. Spent a ton of money I didn’t have on supplements. Witch didn’t touch it, nothing did.4 days without sleep, not hungry, barley able to take care of my dog! Meny other systoms but the worst is the pain. I thought I was strong, till this brought me down to my knees and I prayed for God to just take me and get it over with. After the fourth day, I broke and took one half of a ten mil. Felt better but soooomuch down on myself. I don’t want to be treated this way by these people who are suppose to be treating me like what i am. Someone with chronic pain though no fault of mine. Think anyone would choose this life? Don’t know where to go from hesr. Need to talk to someone……Regards Diane

  3. Hi
    I like so much your blog, one of the best on the internet.
    I’ve a question,can methadone be as addictive as morphine?

    1. HI Roderick. Both drugs are addictive. The level of dependency depends from the frequency of use, duration, dosage, human body itself, etc.

  4. I was on methadone for nearly 20 years. lst for prescription pain meds withdrawal and next for chronic pain. My pain management doctor abruptly closed his practice last Sept. and could not find another dr. I went “cold turkey” and landed in my local hospital ER, 14 TIMES!!! I was admitted 2x’s, once to the behavioral health unit, where they STILL kept me on methadone and a second time after I passed out in a drs’ office – I spent 2 days in ICU unconscious and 5 more on a “regular” floor – STILL being given methadone. I finally was discharged and began looking for help – ANY help I could find that did NOT involve methadone. I must have called 40+ facilities and doctors, but could find NO HELP!!, until I found a local dr. who prescribed SUBOXONE. I began suboxone treatment on 10-20-2016, switching to SUBSOLV in late December, due to insurance issues. I stopped the program on 1-18-2017 because I had NO benefit from it, NONE. I am now waiting to see a pain management dr.; I am in a great deal of pain and I suffer from SEVERE peripheral neuropathy in addition to a spinal compression fracture in my mid back. I am fully aware of the consequences of long-term use of methadone and, quite frankly, I would like to return to it. Let me state that for the last 10 years that I was on methadone, I was prescribed 40mg/day but for the GREATEST PART, I only took 30mg/day. I was also prescribed clonazepam .5mg/3x day, although I did not take it every day. There were some days that I drank alcohol, sometimes to excess —— I have been off ALL 3 drugs for nearly 6 months. I want to also say that I abused alcohol most of my adult life, having some periods of sobriety as long a 6 years; several others from 1-3 years. MY QUESTION IS: Can methadone and alcohol affect the pain receptors in the brain in such a manner that these receptors would NOT respond to if and when opiates such as methadone or perhaps OxyContin, oxycodone, etc. were administered. To clarify, I meant to ask if the long-term use of methadone and alcohol could damage the brain’s pain receptors! Thank You.

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