Methadone is a medication used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to treat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). Methadone is a long-acting mu-opioid receptor full agonist, a schedule II controlled medication.
What Is Methadone?
Methadone has been used for decades to treat people who are addicted to heroin and narcotic pain medicines. When taken as prescribed, it is safe and effective. It allows people to recover from their addiction and to reclaim active and meaningful lives. For optimal results, patients should also participate in a comprehensive medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program that includes counseling and social support.
Methadone reduces opioid craving and withdrawal and blunts or blocks the effects of illicit opioids.
Methadone is offered in liquid, powder and wafer forms and is taken once a day. Methadone is effective in higher doses, particularly for heroin users, helping them stay in treatment programs longer.
As with all medications used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT), methadone is to be prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and participation in social support programs.
How Can a Patient Receive Methadone?
Patients taking methadone to treat opioid addiction must receive the medication under the supervision of a physician. After a period of stability (based on progress and proven, consistent compliance with the medication dosage), patients may be allowed to take methadone at home between program visits.
Methadone can be addictive, so it must be used exactly as prescribed. This is particularly important for patients who are allowed to take methadone at home and aren’t required to take medication under supervision at an OTP. Methadone medication is specifically tailored for the individual patient (as doses are often adjusted and readjusted) and is never to be shared with or given to others. Patients should share their complete health history with health providers to ensure the safe use of the medication.
Side Effects of Methadone
Side effects should be taken seriously, as some of them may indicate an emergency. Patients should stop taking methadone and contact a doctor or emergency services right away if they:
- Experience difficulty breathing or shallow breathing
- Feel lightheaded or faint
- Experience hives or a rash; swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Feel chest pain
- Experience a fast or pounding heartbeat
- Experience hallucinations or confusion