15 Common Side Effects of Methadone
Methadone is a long-acting opioid analgesic medication that is used to treat severe chronic pain that hasn’t been relieved by non-narcotic pain medications or by traditional fast-acting opiates. It is also used to prevent withdrawal symptoms in opioid-dependent individuals in both detox settings, and in long-term medication-assisted maintenance treatment programs.
Since methadone is an opiate it is a central nervous system depressant that is not a cure for opiate addiction. Instead, it is a tool that suppresses withdrawal symptoms and lessens the lingering cravings that opiate addiction creates. When used with counseling it can assist patients to stay committed to addiction treatment, and help them live a healthier and more productive recovery centered lifestyle.
Methadone is also habit forming and affects the same area of the brain that other opiates do. While it can be used effectively to help stabilize opioid addicts, it can also be abused for the euphoric and sedating effects it creates in individuals who don’t have a tolerance to narcotics. For this reason, methadone is classified as a schedule II drug and shouldn’t be taken outside of a medically monitored setting.
Side Effects Caused by Methadone Use
Like all medications, methadone produces several common side effects in users. The following list is the 15 most common of these side effects in no particular order:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Mood changes
- Decreased sexual ability or desire
- Vision problems
- Difficulty initiating sleep or staying asleep
- Missed menstrual periods
- Difficulty urinating
Most of the side effects are normal if experienced in the beginning of methadone treatment, and will go away in time. Some can be severe though, and if any of these symptoms persist for a period of time without going away you should tell your doctor about them as soon as you can. In some cases, methadone use can cause more extreme side effects which include hives, rash, or seizures. If you notice any of these symptoms call your doctor immediately.
Severe Side Effects and Overdose
While methadone is relatively safe when used for pain management or opioid dependence maintenance therapy and most of the common side effects are mild there are potentially dangerous signs to look out for. Methadone like all narcotic pain relievers can lead to a life-threatening overdose due to the depression of the respiratory system. Symptoms of overdose may include:
- Constrained, small, “pinned” or pinpoint pupils
- Very shallow, slow, or strained low breathing
- Extreme drowsiness
- Blue tinted skin that feels cool, or clammy
- Complete and unresponsive lack of consciousness
- Limp muscles
The risk of severe or life-threatening side effects from methadone use is greatest when a person first starts taking the medication. If you experience any of the following symptoms it may not necessarily be a sign of overdose but you should contact your prescribing physician immediately: slow, shallow breathing; severe dizziness; extreme confusion; overwhelming drowsiness; difficulty breathing; or fast, slow, pounding, or irregular heartbeat.