Although indicated in the treatment of chronic pain and recovery from opioid addiction, methadone poses some risks to the body. This is because the prescription drug causes some side effects, which can be both short and long term.
The effects of methadone on the body vary in severity. Some of these can be mild and can be attended to by a doctor in due time. However, other side effects are very severe and need emergency medical attention. So, can methadone kill? It definitely can if you don’t seek the required professional medical intervention.
To prevent experiencing the methadone side effects, there are some precautions that a patient needs to adhere to. Read on to find out more about the methadone effects and how they can be avoided or treated.
Table of Contents
Short Term Side Effects
Even though the drug has some positive and beneficial uses, there are some methadone adverse effects when it is used. Some of the dangers of methadone can appear as soon as a person starts taking the medication, and they can last a short time.
These short term effects of methadone include:
- Stomach upsets
- Urinary retention; an inability to properly pass urine
- Dry mouth
- Skin lesions which is one of the signs of methadone use in syrup or liquid form
- A feeling of lightheadedness
- Slight tremors across the body
- Irregular heartbeat due to methadone qt prolongation
- Confusion and hallucinations
- Respiratory problems like shallow breathing
- Lethargy; a sense of being tired and lazy all the time
These methadone treatment side effects can be reported early to the doctor to get relief so that the patient can continue using the medication to get the benefits that it offers.
Long Term Side Effects
Some of the side effects of methadone treatment do not show up early when a patient is taking the medication. Instead, they build up over time and affect the person over a long time.
The long term side effects of methadone can be divided into what the drug does physically to the body and its impact on the mind of the patient.
Here is what the use of methadone 40 mg can do to the body in the long run.
Physical Long Term Side Effects
Some long term effects of methadone use affect the body physically. This means that they can be seen and felt by the person and detected by the doctor through physical examination.
These physical side effects of long term methadone use include:
- Damage to the liver. A study published in the Addiction & Health journal showed that the medication obstructed the liver.
- Sexual problems in men in the form of erectile dysfunction
- Women experience issues with their menstrual cycle
- Weight gain
- Edema; swelling of body parts
- Nerve damage
- Mild tooth decay
Psychological Long Term Effects
Apart from the physical effects that affect patients during the use of the drug, there are other long term effects of methadone that affect the psyche.
- Being an opioid drug, the medication increases impulsivity and risky behavior.
- Pregnant mothers on the drug can have babies born addicted to methadone.
- Addiction if the drug is abused
- Withdrawal symptoms when the medication is suddenly halted
How Methadone Affects The Brain
The drug similarly affects the brain, like the more potent opioid agents whose addiction a person is trying to recover from. What sets this drug apart from the addictive ones is the fact that it stays longer in the body. How long does methadone last in the system? It persists for about 1 to 2 days.
With this lengthy period, it causes less tolerance. Just like the addictive opioids, it binds to the mu receptors in the brain. This brings about the pain-killing effect as well as feelings of sedation, relaxation, and euphoria.
Because this medication is less potent than addictive drugs, patients might abuse it for long to elicit the same response as the addictive narcotics like morphine and heroin. This can cause long term effects of methadone on the brain.
Which Variables Determine The Emergence Of Side Effects?
The side effects of methadone vary according to some common factors. According to research findings published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, there are risk factors that can enhance the way adverse effects of the drug present in patients.
Examples of these variables include:
- Age. As someone ages, they experience side effects differently. In this case, the liver – which metabolizes this medication – might not function adequately in older patients, increasing adverse reactions.
- Dosage. Methadone 10 mg side effects might be less than those of 40 mg of the drug.
- Type of treatment the patient is undergoing. For example, those who receive the drug for pain management usually experience respiratory problems, whereas those undergoing maintenance therapy rarely do.
- Types of intake. The administration of liquid medication is more likely to result in skin lesions compared to taking the tablet.
- Individual tolerance. Some people are naturally capable of not experiencing any side effects of methadone or just a few.
- Electrolyte abnormalities. Patients with this condition are more likely to get methadone QTC prolongation – heart arrhythmia.
- Sex. A patient’s sex can determine the kind of adverse reactions experienced. For example, men experience erectile dysfunction, whereas women get menstrual problems.
Precautions To Prevent Side Effects
Before a patient asks for a prescription or takes this medication, they need to inform the doctor of their medical history.
This is beneficial in helping to steer clear of some short and longterm effects of methadone.
These are the special precautions that need to be taken to safely use the drug.
- The patient needs to inform the doctor of any drugs or supplements they are on to prevent interactions. For example, methadone and suboxone do the same thing and can, therefore, cause augmented side effects.
- Additionally, a patient needs to disclose any herbal products they are taking since they might also be methadone contraindications.
- The doctor also needs to know if a patient gets an allergic reaction to methadone.
- Patients should inform dentists that they are taking this medication.
- Doctors also need to be aware of patients’ prevailing medical conditions like seizures, trouble urinating, liver disease, kidney disease, and enlarged prostate glands, among others.
- Breastfeeding mothers need to alert doctors before taking the drug to prevent it from passing through the milk to the baby.
Getting Help To Cope With Methadone Side Effects
Patients need to get help for the side effects of methadone. This is so that they can continue to benefit from the positives the medication has to offer.
Since it is opioid, working-class patients might also worry about failing drug tests at work, increasing their anxiety. What does methadone show up as on a drug test? It doesn’t show up on a regular inspection that tests for addictive narcotics.
With that in mind, a patient can take methadone for their chronic pain or opioid addiction without any worries or aggravation of the anxiety.