Tolerance to methadone

Tolerance to methadone is defined as the need for more methadone (amount or frequency) to achieve effect. But does methadone tolerance indicate methadone addiction? More here.

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Is your body methadone-tolerant?

Do you need to take more methadone in order for it to work? If so, you may have developed a tolerance to the current dose of methadone. Does this mean that you’re addicted to methadone and need to treat methadone addiction?… and how is increased tolerance to methadone different than dependence or addiction?

In this article, we take a close look at what methadone tolerance is, how long it takes to develop tolerance to methadone and when it occurs. Then, we invite your questions about methadone treatment guidelines and getting help for methadone addiction at the end (we try to respond to all legitimate comments personally and promptly).

Developing tolerance to methadone

If you have been prescribed methadone and take it daily as part of a rehabilitation treatment program, it is possible that your body has or may soon develop a tolerance to the methadone. Likewise, if you take methadone to get high, tolerance can occur after regular use. Tolerance simply means that you have to increase doses or take methadone more often in order to feel any effects. But how do you know if you’re developing tolerance to methadone effects, or not?

Methadone tolerance symptoms

Tolerance is characterized by a need for a larger dose of a medication to maintain the original effect. Drug tolerance can involve both psychological drug tolerance and physiological factors and is characterized by two main symptoms:

1. The need for increased amounts of methadone to achieve intoxication or the desired effect. In the case of methadone maintenance, this means that your physician has to increase doses amount or frequency in order to maintain effective craving management and pain relief. In the case of recreational use, the same increase occurs.

2. Diminished effect on the user with continued use of the same amount of methadone. In other words, when you take the prescribed amount of methadone, no therapeutic effects occur. Likewise, if you are taking methadone recreationally, increased tolerance would manifest as no euphoric effect, or the inability to get high.

If you are finding that these methadone tolerance symptoms apply to you, don’t worry. This doesn’t mean you are addicted to methadone. Instead, these are only indicators that the effects of methadone no longer work for you. While tolerance, dependence, and addiction can be present simultaneously, each condition is a separate and different entity.

Methadone tolerance: How long?

The reason methadone tolerance occurs is not well understood by experts. However, how long it takes to become methadone tolerant is different for everyone and depends on the circumstances that lead to methadone being prescribed (addiction treatment program or recreational use). In general, how strongly an individual feels the effects of methadone, and how long they last, depend on several factors:

1. the combined effects of methadone and any other drug the user has taken

2. the individual physical and psychological characteristics of the user

3. the user’s environment

4. whether methadone is taken for prescription use or recreationally

Further, if you are using methadone recreationally methadone tolerance can occur within a significantly shorter time period, within a few weeks of continuous daily use. On the other hand, if you are using methadone as an opiate replacement therapy, tolerance will vary with the dose prescribed. It is not uncommon for a higher dose to be prescribed to beginand have that dose gradually reduced or increased over a course of a few months. If your methadone tolerance continues to increase or if you already have a high tolerance to methadone, it may be beneficial to discuss your concerns with your doctor.

High tolerance to methadone

At times, doctors may prescribe higher doses than normally considered. As a general guide, maintenance dose of methadone to treat opioid dependence is from 20 to 120 mg/day. If you are exceeding the amount of methadone prescribed by your doctor, you probably have a high tolerance to methadone.

Additionally, some people may have a high tolerance to methadone because of previous drug use, or previous methadone use. Getting the dose right to suit your circumstances can be difficult and it is important to keep a line of open communication with your doctor during times when you want to make methadone more effective. MDs can help you figure out the best possible situation for methadone cravings and examine possible alternatives.

How to lower tolerance to methadone

You can lower your tolerance to methadone with the help of a prescribing doctor. But it is important to note that you cannot lower tolerance to your original base level. In other words, there will always be a level of maintained tolerance to methadone. If you want to lower your tolerance, the best way to do so is to seek a doctor’s supervision.

Building up tolerance to methadone questions

Some worry that as they start to develop a tolerance to methadone, this means they are becoming addicted. This isn’t always the case.

If you still have questions about methadone, please contact us and we will do our best to help.

Reference Sources: National Institute of Drug Abuse
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration
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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