Frequently Asked Questions
Am I just trading one addiction for another?
Methadone does create physical dependency, but there are a number of significant differences between methadone and opioids:
- Methadone is a pure synthetic medication made by a licensed pharmaceutical company that meets federal DEA standards and must be prescribed by a licensed physician; when using street drugs, you cannot be sure of the content.
- Methadone does not produce a high; opioids produce an intense high.
- When the dose of methadone reaches a therapeutic level, the patient will no longer have drug urges or withdrawal symptoms and methadone blocks the high of any subsequent opioid use.
- Methadone lasts 24-36 hours in your system and therefore is taken only one time per day; opioids last only 4-5 hours and are usually used three or more times per day.
- Methadone can be taken orally, whereas opioids are most often used intravenously or intra-nasally snorted.
How much methadone will I receive?
PIDARC intends to have every patient on the correct dosage of methadone. We recognize that too low a dose produces unnecessary withdrawal discomfort and invites the risk of opioid use. We also know that too high a dose may produce undesirable side effects, especially sedation, and provides no additional benefit to the patient. Achieving and maintaining the correct dosage requires cooperation between the patient and the staff. All patients will be informed of their dosage upon request.
How will I feel on methadone?
After you reach a stable maintenance dose, usually with the first few weeks of treatment, you cannot be distinguished from a drug-free person. Methadone patients feel “normal” and doses generally do not need to increase over time.
Is methadone all I need?
Methadone substitution for opiates is the foundation of treatment; individual and group counseling, addiction and recovery education, individual treatment planning, and case management services are also vital to your recovery.
Does methadone have side effects?
Methadone’s side effects are infrequent, usually minimal, and short-lived. Side effects most often show up in the early stages of treatment. Most patients experience no severe side effects. Please inform the nursing staff or your primary counselor if you experience any of the following:
- Constipation (as with all narcotics)
- Water retention (edema)
- Much less often, negative effects may include:
- Malaise (a vague feeling of discomfort)
As with all narcotics, abruptly stopping use of the medication will cause withdrawal symptoms within 2-3 days. Relapse then follows.
What are the drug interactions with methadone?
Methadone is a powerful medication and has a number of interactions and side effects that you should understand. Methadone must be used with caution. All take-home medications must be kept in a locked box and safe from children. As with opioid use, it is never safe to drink alcohol when using methadone. Excessive use of alcohol combined with methadone can cause breathing to stop, resulting in coma or death.
Note: If you are taking any medication, you must notify the PIDARC physician at the time you enter the program and also tell your primary counselor and nursing staff.
Will methadone weaken my bones and my teeth?
This statement is a “street myth”. Methadone does not “get into the bones” or in any other way cause harm to the teeth or skeletal system. Although some methadone patients report having aches in their arms and legs, symptoms may be eased by adjusting the dose of methadone.
Do women sometimes stop getting their periods when they begin taking methadone?
Yes, but there are many other reasons why women’s periods become irregular or stop, including pregnancy, stress, poor diet, weight gain and loss, menopause, other medical problems or medications. Remember, you can still get pregnant even if you don’t get your period. You can conceive and have normal pregnancies and normal deliveries while you are receiving methadone.
What about pregnancy and methadone?
Federal Treatment Improvement Protocols state the following: Methadone is the treatment of choice during pregnancy for heroin and opioid dependency. Pregnant women users who are in treatment with methadone deliver healthier babies than women who are actually using. It is true that babies born to women on methadone sometimes experience some withdrawal symptoms during the first several days after birth. The symptoms are routinely treated by the baby’s pediatrician and do not result in any long-term damage. Studies that have compared babies born to mothers in methadone treatment with babies born to mothers who use opioids have demonstrated the tremendous benefits of methadone.
Methadone treatment allows the mother to be followed in prenatal care, to receive nutritional supplements and information and to participate in parenting classes. The vast weight of evidence supports the use of methadone with opioid-addicted women to reduce the risk of miscarriage, increase birth weight, reduce infection and HIV risk to the fetus, and produce a much healthier baby. Breast feeding is encouraged.