Methadone is the most commonly used medication for the long-term treatment of narcotic-addicted individuals. Some people stay on the medication for months, years, or even the remainder of their lives in order to avoid abusing opioid drugs. But does methadone have long-term effects on the user, and can these effects be harmful?
Methadone Maintenance Treatment
According to Harvard Medical School, “Methadone can be continued indefinitely, or the dose can be gradually reduced in preparation for withdrawal.” Patients who choose the former option often do so because they cannot stay off narcotics unless they have the help of methadone. However, this can mean the individual continues to take methadone about once a day for a very long time.
Long-term treatment with the use of methadone, or methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), has been found to be extremely beneficial for many individuals in recovery from opioid addiction. As stated by the NIJ, this treatment program “helps opioid-addicted patients alleviate withdrawal symptoms, reduce opiate cravings, and bring about a biochemical balance in the body in order to reduce the illicit use of opioids.” But, like all drugs, methadone does have long-term side effects.
Long-term Side Effects of Methadone
According to CESAR, methadone can cause “lung and respiration problems” when taken over a long period of time. This is because, like other opioids, the drug causes respiratory depression. Although methadone is specifically designed to create as few issues as possible for those who take it in the correct dosage, this could be a potentially problematic side effect of taking the drug for months or years.
In addition, women who take the drug for a long time may experience “menstrual cycle changes or lapse[s] in cycles.” This is not usually dangerous, but it can be a difficult change to which female methadone users must adjust. It is important to speak to your doctor when experiencing any of these symptoms and to also be aware that they may occur.
Will These Side Effects Affect My Health?
In truth, these side effects likely won’t harm your health in an extreme way. Most of them can be managed or your dosage amount can be changed to help you avoid them. However, if they do become permanent or problematic, they will never be as harmful as the effects of continued opioid abuse.
The health risks of continuing to abuse drugs, especially injection drugs, are much higher than those associated with methadone use. Because the drug is not prescribed in large doses, it does not usually cause dangerous side effects when taken over a long period of time. Even if these issues do occur, the positives of methadone outweigh the negatives when it helps
- Reduce recovering individuals’ instances of drug abuse
- Reduce mortality rates
- Reduce the spread of transmittable diseases
- Reduce criminal activity
- Improve pregnancy outcomes
- Improve family stability
- Improve job stability
- Improve overall life satisfaction
Though the drug does have side effects just like every other medication, those associated with regular, long-term use are mild and should not harm your health irreparably.