is a synthetic analgesic that is prescribed to treat chronic pain and opiate addiction. Typically, methadone is administered to relieve withdrawal symptoms associated with drugs such as heroin, oxycontin and other prescription painkillers.
Methadone is generally considered a safe and effective method in the treatment of pain and addiction. However, there are several harmful risks associated with this drug. First of all, like with any narcotic, there is a risk of increased tolerance and dependency in methadone patients. Over time, patients may need more and more of this drug in order to receive the initial effects. This often leads to addiction, which is evidenced through strong cravings for the drug and other signs of physical dependence. Sudden discontinuation of methadone, especially at high doses, can produce intense withdrawal symptoms that include vomiting, diarrhea, severe aches and pains, insomnia and high blood pressure.
Secondly, methadone can be harmful, and even deadly, when mixed with certain drugs. For example, patients who mix methadone with anti-anxiety drugs like Valium run an extremely high risk of respiratory failure and death. Methadone may also be harmful if mixed with drugs like the following:
- St. John’s wort
- Certain types of antibiotics, including Cipro
- Anti-seizure medications
- Allergy, sinus and cold medicines
- Antivirals, such as those used in the treatment of HIV
- Painkillers, both prescription and over-the-counter.
- Sleeping pills
Because of issues like metabolism, methadone is often dangerous on its own. This is because different people metabolize the drug at different rates. For those with slower metabolisms, there is the risk of methadone building up in the system. This can cause overdose even when dosing recommendations are followed to a tee. And when dosage is increased without a doctor’s supervision, these risks are even greater. Because of this, methadone should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision, and patients should be monitored closely in regards to how quickly they metabolize the drug.
Not unlike other drugs, extended use of methadone may also cause devastating effects to the body, especially the liver, kidneys and digestive system. When it comes to the liver and kidneys, damage can occur as a result of these organs having to repeatedly process and metabolize this drug. For the digestive system, damage can occur due to ulcers, acid reflux and chronic constipation caused by extended use of methadone.
While, for some, methadone is an effective way to treat pain and opiate addiction. However, this drug has the potential to cause several harmful side effects and complications and should only be used under close supervision.
Lynn is a professional writer and drug rehabiliation advocate. Click here to view an infographic about Methadone from Delray Recovery Center.