Most people have heard of methadone clinics. Many people have heard of narcotics. Some people know that methadone clinics are used to help patients detoxify from heroin with the narcotic methadone. But fewer people know how methadone can lead to addiction itself. Let’s dig deeper into the topics of: what methadone does to the body, how addiction can take hold, and the steps you can take to help your family heal from the ravages of methadone addiction.

What is Methadone?

Methadone Hydrochloride is a synthetic opiate medication created by German pharmaceutical companies during World War II for pain relief, and is commonly referred to as a narcotic. Methadone was originally advertised as ‘Dolophine’ to be used as a painkiller for those with severe pain. It is sometimes used for the alleviation of pain today.

At the time when this drug was created, it was thought to be less-addictive than other painkillers that were on the market–these assumptions were later found to be false as Methadone is highly addictive much like other opioids.

Methadone can be used as a chronic pain reliever and plays an integral role in detoxification and maintenance programs that seek to help people struggling with heroin addiction. This medication is typically used to decrease withdrawal symptoms in people with a heroin addiction without giving the “high” accompanying normal drug dependence.

It may take weeks or even months of methadone rehab before a proper dose is found that provides the patient with enough medication to remain in control of his or her life, without providing enough to create euphoria or other similar effects of opiate highs. Methadone can be taken orally, in liquid or tablet form, or through an injection. Its effects can last up to 24 hours, allowing for a once a day administration at methadone clinics.

Dangers of Methadone Addiction

Methadone has a very high risk of overdose that can lead to death, and administration should be closely monitored by a medical professional. Methadone can slow or cease a person’s breathing, the highest risk periods being at the beginning of use and when the dosage is adjusted.

Regarding methadone maintenance for heroin withdrawal, fatalities that do occur most often happen at the beginning of treatment due to the mistaken assessment of the patient’s tolerance level. Typically, when a person has been using heroin for a long time, their tolerance level for narcotics is very high, leading to the administration of higher doses of methadone to combat withdrawal symptoms. Other factors in methadone-related deaths include diseases such as pneumonia or hepatitis that already compromise a person’s immune system and respiratory tract, leaving the person more vulnerable to the adverse effects of the drug.

Methadone may cause a severe heart rhythm disorder and can also have a devastating interaction with other medications, resulting in life-threatening breathing issues, unconsciousness or coma.

Signs of an overdose can include:

  • shallow, staggered breathing
  • disorientation
  • drowsiness
  • cold, clammy or blue tinted skin, fingernails or lips
  • loss of consciousness
  • loss of muscle tension
  • muscle spasms/convulsions
  • constipation or stomach spasms
  • low pulse rate
  • weak blood pressure
  • coma

What are the Problems Surrounding Methadone?

Methadone has been a source of debate among medical professionals for many years now for use in heroin withdrawal management, due to methadone’s high propensity towards becoming an addictive substance itself. Methadone maintenance is a form of harm-reduction in which a person is detoxified from heroin.

The goal is to get a person who had been using a drug that is primarily used through injection, with the added hazard of contaminated needles, to instead use a substance that is, at least in theory, less destructive.  Studies have proven that MMT programs reduce drug seeking behavior, and minimize the use of dirty needles on the streets thus reducing the spread of harmful diseases such as HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis.

As a narcotic, methadone itself naturally creates dependence through the increased tolerance for the same therapeutic effects. The side effects of methadone use include:

  • urinary difficulties
  • dry mouth
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • painful tongue or thrush
  • flushing
  • stomach pain
  • weight increase
  • mood swings
  • vision issues
  • sleep interruptions

Some of the more serious side effects of methadone use include:

  • hives
  • rash
  • seizures
  • itching
  • inflammation of the face, mouth, eyes, tongue or throat
  • severe drowsiness
  • difficulty swallowing
  • hallucinations
  • nausea

Why is Methadone Addictive?

Methadone is physically and psychologically addictive. Although methadone does not deliver the same high as heroin, its status as a narcotic still leads the body to crave a higher dosage due to an elevation in tolerance, as the body becomes accustomed to the level of methadone in the blood stream and demands more in order to maintain a state of “normalcy.” Psychologically, the methadone becomes a crutch with which to avoid the withdrawal from heroin, pain or uncomfortable emotions.

What are the Best Methadone Rehab Options?

As with most other addictions, the best course of action for methadone addiction is an initial detoxification in a medically supervised facility, followed by a 30-90 day residential stay in a structured drug rehab environment. This stable atmosphere allows the patient to begin building skills to live a life of sobriety through group therapy, as well as addressing personal or trauma issues that may arise as the emotional numbness wears off through individual therapy.

Family therapy and education is highly recommended for any addiction in order to help the family see that addiction is a disease that hijacks the patient’s brain, and consequently the patient’s life. Following an inpatient stay in a drug rehab, an outpatient or Sober Living program can be very helpful as for a step-down approach.

Who can Help Me Find Methadone Rehab?

If you or a loved one is looking for support in healing from addiction, we at are here for you. With our free national helpline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you can speak directly to our licensed counselors and other mental health professionals to find out where to go from here.

We can help you navigate the overwhelming amount of treatment facilities to help you find the treatment that fits your needs. Let us help you and your family on the way to recovery with just one call!