Methadone is an opioid or analgesic that acts on the opioid receptors present in the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract, and has antitussive or cough suppressing properties. It has effects similar to those of other opiate drugs, such as heroin and morphine. Moreover, at monitored doses it aids addicts to get rid of their morphine or heroin addiction, and helps counter their withdrawal signs. Methadone can also be used as a painkiller for relieving severe chronic pain, and its effect lasts for a relatively long time.
Some of the common names of these medicines are Methadose, Physeptone, Symoron, Dolophine, and Amidone. The most common method of methadone administration is oral, in the solution form. It is also available as tablets, and is taken after mixing it with water. Some of the side effects while taking this drug, include, difficulty in breathing, constipation, and constriction of the pupils. Long-term use of methadone could lead to dependency, and when stopped the patient may exhibit from mild to severe withdrawal problems.
Symptoms of Methadone Withdrawal
A large number of opiate de-addiction and drug rehabs use methadone, to wean heroin and morphine addicts off their respective drug addictions, as the withdrawal symptoms of this medicine are believed to be less severe when compared to heroin or morphine. However, this may not hold true, if the medicine is given in high and uncontrolled doses. It may lead to the patient developing a methadone dependency, which is worse than morphine or heroin habituation.
There are a number of physical and psychological symptoms of its withdrawal.
- Physical Symptoms: The physical symptoms consist of dizziness, excessive watering of the eyes, runny nose, yawning, and sneezing. Digestive system complications cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other symptoms that can manifest, include, sweaty fevers with chills and body tremors. Heart rate and blood pressure usually increases. Excessive pain, sensitivity, and joint and muscle aches are noted. Insomnia and depressed adrenal functions are also observed in some cases.
- Psychological Symptoms: These occur mainly due to the effect of the medication on the opioid receptors of the central nervous system. The psychological effects of this drug could range from visual and auditory hallucinations, breeding of suicidal thoughts, hyperactivity, delusions, paranoia, anxiety, agitation, and depression.
How Long Do the Symptoms Last
The symptoms may last from a few weeks to several months depending on the degree of dependency of the person on the drug. If the drug had been taken in controlled doses to counter dependency on other opiates, it could take about only a few weeks. However, if it was taken in high doses, then there is a chance of the withdrawal symptoms stretching up to months. The best way to speed up the process of recovery, and to ease withdrawal problems, includes, use of a high-fiber diet or use of dietary supplements rich in fiber.
Withdrawal Symptoms in Babies
Methadone dependency can develop in newborns and infants through the mother, who may be using the drug at the time of pregnancy or while breastfeeding. The symptoms in infants and newborns can include hyperbilirubinemia, hyaline membrane disease, jaundice, and thrombocytosis. The withdrawal may have severe effects like, increased infant mortality rate or may eventually lead to sudden infant death syndrome. The symptoms could appear within 48 hours of the delivery to a year after the baby's birth.
Methadone may be a great way to help addicts to slowly and legally get rid of their addiction without the risk of a relapse. However, it can also have a number of side effects, and can itself be a cause of dependency with worse withdrawal problems, if dosage is not carefully supervised.