What Is Methadone?
Methadone is part of a category of drugs called opioids. German doctors created it during World War II. When it came to the United States, doctors used it to treat people with extreme pain. Today, you might also get it as part of a treatment program for an addiction to heroin or narcotic painkillers.
Even though it’s safer than some other narcotics, your doctor should keep a close watch while you take methadone. Taking it can lead to addiction or abuse.
What Does Methadone Do?
Methadone changes the way your brain and nervous system respond to pain so that you feel relief. Its effects are slower than those of other strong painkillers like morphine. Your doctor may prescribe methadone if you’re in a lot of pain from an injury, surgery, or long-term illness.
It also blocks the high from drugs like codeine, heroin, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone. It can give a similar feeling and keep you from having withdrawal symptoms and cravings. You may hear this called replacement therapy.
It’s usually just one part of your treatment plan. It isn’t a cure for addiction.
How Is It Used?
If you need methadone for pain, your doctor will write a prescription for it. For an addiction, you’ll get it from a special treatment program. You can find programs through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association treatment locator (https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/) or by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Methadone comes in tablet, powder, and liquid forms. You have to have a prescription to get it. Your providers will give you the dose that should work best for you. They also might change your dose during treatment. Tell your doctor how you feel when you use it. Don’t stop taking methadone without talking to them.
Follow the dosage instructions exactly. If your doctor prescribes tablets that are “dispersible,” dissolve all or part of the tablet in liquid (usually water or citrus-flavored drinks) and drink it all.
Experts say people who take methadone to treat an addiction should use it for at least a year while they work on recovery. When it’s time to stop, your doctor will help you do so slowly to prevent withdrawal.
Some people take methadone illegally, without a prescription. Most of them inject it, which can expose them to diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.