What Are the Long-term Effects of Methadone?

What Are the Long-term Effects of Methadone?

What Are the Long-term Effects of Methadone?

Everyone who faces opioid addiction has a unique story. At the same time, there are some shared elements in many people's experiences. Dealing with the long-term effects of methadone is one such common thread, and it can change your life.

How does a drug used to manage addiction end up having such an impact on so many families? Here's what to understand and why knowing the facts could change your outlook on treatment.

Understanding Opioids

Opioid drugs are a broad class of narcotic substances that include chemicals such as heroin, oxycodone, and morphine. Once ingested, they attach to special opioid receptors in your nervous system and send signals to your brain. These chemical messages are very effective at counteracting normal pain, so opioid drugs are commonly used in hospitals and other clinical settings, which can lead to serious problems.

Opioids modify the chemistry of the brain. These properties mean that their use can lead to many lasting side effects, including increased tolerance, dependence, withdrawal, and addiction.

What Is Methadone?

Methadone is an opioid that was first synthesized by doctors for use in Nazi Germany during World War II. After the war, other nations adopted it as a painkiller.

Methadone was originally researched as a less addictive alternative to drugs like morphine. This distinction may have influenced later researchers who came up with the idea of using it to manage heroin addiction. In the 1970s, the U.S. government started promoting laws regulating how health care facilities could administer methadone to help individuals avoid withdrawal and gradually quit using opioids.

Today, methadone is manufactured in multiple forms, such as orally administered fluids, powders, and tablets. Its continued use as an opioid management tool relates to the fact that it can be doled out in periodic doses that last for some time.

Understanding the Effects of Methadone

Like many other opioids, methadone has a broad spectrum of side effects. The fact that these impacts vary depending on the patient and their situation makes it critical for the drug to be administered in carefully controlled settings by medical professionals.

People who take methadone may experience restlessness. Some have gastrointestinal reactions, such as becoming nauseous, vomiting or getting constipated. Many find that the drug slows their breathing or makes them sweat profusely. In some cases, people die.

Long-Term Effects of Methadone

An addiction to any substance can have an incredibly dangerous impact on a person, and addiction to methadone is no different. Long-term methadone use can cause severe damage and can make withdrawal even more difficult. Being under the supervision of a trusted and caring staff can make all the difference in recovery. Any continual use of a drug comes with risks, but the risks of methadone use are often greater than the benefits it may provide.

Fatal Respiratory Effects of Methadone

Other methadone side effects are more prolonged. For instance, the slowed breathing that many users initially experience can persist to a dangerous point. For this reason, the drug isn't recommended for people who have asthma or other respiratory ailments that might produce fatal breath stoppages.

Methadone fatalities are also a point of concern. In 2009, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that deaths related to the drug were seven times higher than they had been less than a decade earlier.

Sexual and Reproductive Health

Women who take methadone might discover that it throws their menstrual cycles off of their normal schedules or makes them stop menstruating completely. Both men and women may experience sexual performance issues or potentially permanent fertility reductions.

Many sources, such as the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, advise methadone treatment for pregnant women as an alternative to subjecting their babies to harsh withdrawals. Such practices aren't without risks. It's critical to undergo consistent monitoring and adjust the doses carefully as the pregnancy progresses.

Blood Toxicity

One of the unique risks of methadone-based opioid treatment is that even though it's one of the oldest and best-studied options, there are still uncertainties. For instance, methadone is toxic enough to cause death if your body doesn't metabolize, or break down, the drug quickly. As a result, some people can unexpectedly overdose due to having high concentrations of methadone in their blood after taking it for a while.

Researchers haven't quite figured out what determines how fast this process occurs. They have, however, identified certain genetic factors. African-Americans, for instance, tend to have higher blood concentrations of methadone even after receiving the same dosages as people of Caucasian descent.

Methadone and Your Addiction Future

Is methadone a good option for your addiction treatment? The key takeaway to remember is that each patient has a unique background, medical status, and drug history to consider. Although methadone has its uses, it's not a cure-all, and it's critical to be informed. An important part of recovery from methadone is a safe detox. Being under the supervision of professional staff at Springboard Recovery can prevent life-threatening risks of withdrawal symptoms. 

Alternatives like community support and behavioral therapy may make it easier to face withdrawal without resorting to more opioids. Learn more about whether this treatment tool might be safe for you or someone you love by talking to a compassionate addiction specialist at Springboard Recovery today.