Though often thought of as the standard treatment for heroin addiction, methadone unfortunately has several significant dangers of its own. To understand the dangers of methadone, we have to look at the way it works.
Used as prescribed, methadone eliminates physical withdrawal symptoms, blocks cravings, and blocks the euphoric effect of opioid abuse in the case of illicit opiate abuse. Methadone is able to do this because it is an opiate and full-agonist, similar to heroin and morphine, and it works by occupying the brain’s opioid receptors. Like all opiates, it is similarly tolerance building, addictive, and it also causes a high-level of dependence. As such, methadone addiction is a consequence of methadone rehabilitation.
Potential Risks of Methadone
Methadone deaths are often related to taking methadone with other drugs such as alcohol.
As methadone withdrawal is notoriously difficult due to the extreme physical dependence it can cause, some individuals on methadone maintenance programs remain on them for an indefinite amount of time out of fear of withdrawal, preventing them from ever weaning off the treatment.
Methadone does pose a risk for abuse; some individuals supplement their prescribed medication with methadone procured from other sources. There is also a risk of psychological dependence which greatly contributes to abuse.
By far, one of the most dangerous aspects of methadone, as with any opiate, is how users build up a tolerance to the drug. Tolerance is a factor that is particularly dangerous for individuals who abuse the medication. In order to achieve the same effects, users must consume higher and higher doses, but it’s difficult, if not impossible, for an individual to know which dose might be fatal.