Like morphine, methadone is a narcotic, or opioid pain reliever, and is widely used in detoxification programs to treat withdrawal symptoms, as well as to alleviate pain. It is available either as a liquid, or in the form of a small pill. Methadone can be addictive and the recommended dosage should never be exceeded; in addition, anyone suffering from an asthma attack, as well as those with allergies to narcotics, low blood pressure or liver or kidney disease should not take it. As with all drugs, methadone can be beneficial when used correctly, although it is also easy to abuse the drug and take too much of it, in search of the elusive ‘high’ feeling that tends to diminish as the drug is taken over time.
A methadone abuse problem does not necessarily mean an addiction, and it can often be difficult to determine the difference between the two. An addict is usually unable to stop his or her behavior, while a drug abuser is aware of what they are doing and chooses not to stop the destructive pattern of use. Many people do not even realize that they have a methadone problem, despite the fact that their work and relationships can be suffering as a result, and it often takes someone else to point out the problem to them. In addition, someone suffering from methadone abuse is more likely to be able to deal with the problem if they have the support and understanding of family and close friends.
There are some signs of methadone abuse that you should look for if you suspect that someone is abusing the drug. Often, the first sign is simply that a person is not behaving as they normally do; something is not quite right. Someone may be abusing methadone if they start to get anxious when their supply of the drug is almost exhausted, or they make a point of stating they really need to have it in order to function, or to get through the day. Often, these remarks are made jokingly, making it difficult to accurately determine if these are signs of methadone abuse.
Many drug abusers engage in behavior that they would not normally practice, such as reckless driving or other dangerous or unlawful things; such out of character behavior can be an indication that something is wrong. It is not uncommon for those with a methadone abuse problem to have trouble sleeping, to disregard their appearance and ignore personal hygiene and to either lose or gain weight. An unusual sleeping pattern or difficulty sleeping are also common.
Methadone abuse can cause various side effects, and one way of determining if someone has a problem is to look for some of these physical signs as well as the behavioral changes described above. An irregular heartbeat and slow or shallow breathing are warning signs, both of someone who is abusing the drug, as well as someone who cannot tolerate it well. Flushing or sweating is common signs, and some methadone abusers can develop a rash.
Dry mouth, itchiness and headaches are all common symptoms, and a feeling of faintness or disorientation can also occur. In extreme cases, a person can have extreme mood swings, be extremely confused and can actually faint. Long term use can lead to menstrual irregularity in women, abdominal pain and constipation. The symptoms of methadone abuse are often seen in a baby if the mother is breastfeeding and is abusing the drug.
For many methadone abusers, a detox treatment program may be recommended, and if the problem is severe, this may be in a secure hospital or other facility for an extended length of time. The treatment includes helping addicts cope with the often unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, as well as educating and supporting them so that they remain clean.
Withdrawal symptoms often last between four and six weeks and can include diarrhea, depression, difficulty falling asleep and goose bumps, although not all users are affected the same way or to the same extent. One important aspect of most recovery programs is to identify the causes that led to the methadone abuse to begin with, and to make sure that the person is removed from that environment if possible.