Tips for Managing Methadone Side Effects

Methadone is a synthetic opiate prescribed to treat chronic pain and to suppress the cravings and withdrawals in detox and treatment of opiate addictions. It is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the DEA and has a high potential for abuse and dependence.

Methadone works differently in everyone who takes it and although most of the unwanted side effects of methadone will go away after getting used to the drug, many others can be disturbing or even dangerous. Methadone should always be used under the careful supervision of a qualified provider who can frequently assess your conditions and symptoms, making appropriate dose adjustment whenever needed.

Methadone Effects

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Methadone, like most opioid-class drugs, caused what were considered minimal side effects, and research indicated that methadone was medically safe and nontoxic.”

Methadone is metabolized slowly and at varying rates in individuals. In the treatment of opiate addictions, it has a long duration of action that helps the addict manage their cravings and withdrawals for periods of 24 to 36 hours. In the treatment of pain, the analgesic effects are much shorter.

Managing Doses

Methadone should always be used under the careful supervision of a qualified provider who can frequently assess the individual’s conditions and symptoms, making appropriate dose adjustments whenever needed.

For symptoms that are unmanageable, dosage adjustments may help, but, should only be made under the knowledge and advice of the prescribing physician who may also have other recommendations to the individual based on their medical profiles and current states of health or treatment needs.

Managing Common Methadone Side Effects

Some of the adverse effects of methadone are common in the beginning of use and will dissipate once the person reaches a steady state of dosing, usually within 5-7 days, and develops a tolerance to the methadone side effects of euphoria, sedation, dizziness, and drowsiness.

Other common side effects, although not requiring medical attention, can usually be managed by proper diet, exercise, rest, and the reduction of emotional stress. Methadone can adversely interact with certain medications and before taking over the counter remedies, it is advised to check with a physician.

Common methadone side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Appetite Loss
  • Digestive system problems
  • Decreased sex drive

Dangerous Methadone Side Effects

Dangerous methadone side effects require emergency medical attention. Contact your physician immediately and do not try to manage any of the following methadone side effects on your own:

  • Difficulty breathing or shallow breathing
  • Confusion, incoherence, or hallucinations
  • Chest pain, elevated heart rate or blood pressure
  • Dizziness, fainting, seizure
  • Allergic reactions, rashes or swelling
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