Methadone addiction

Methadone is something of a conundrum in that it is intended to help people overcome opioid addiction, but can, itself, be incredibly addictive. The idea is to slowly wean people off of opioids by using methadone as a substitute but some people end up becoming dependent on methadone instead. When this happens, it can be just as hard to overcome as the original addiction and cause all the same physical, emotional and mental health issues. At Recovery Lighthouse, we understand the complexity of methadone addiction and are here to help you break free from it.

Methadone addiction

What is methadone?

Methadone is a medication used to treat opioid addiction and sometimes as a painkiller. It works by binding to the same receptors in the brain that drugs like heroin, oxycodone and morphine would usually bind to. This blocks the signals of reward and pleasure that usually lead to abuse of these drugs and also helps reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms which can increase the chance of relapse for those in recovery.

How does methadone addiction develop?

There are various ways that you can become addicted to methadone but the two most common are as an unintended result of methadone replacement therapy and by taking the drug recreationally.

During methadone replacement therapy, you take methadone instead of your usual opioid and slowly reduce the dose over time. The idea is that this will help break the cycle of addiction so that you can eventually become completely drug-free. However, some people never get to the point where they can stop taking methadone and become addicted to it instead. This often follows the same three-step process as the original addiction:

  • Tolerance: This is when your body becomes used to methadone and needs more of it to get the same effect.
  • Dependence: As you take more and more methadone due to increased tolerance, you can then become dependent on it where you need it just to feel ‘normal’.
  • Addiction: Once you become dependent on methadone, you may then fall into addiction, where you compulsively take the drug despite the negative consequences it is causing.

The other way you can become addicted to methadone is by taking it recreationally. While methadone does not produce the same “high” as other opioids, it can still produce a feeling of relaxation and well-being. When people take methadone to experience these feelings, the risk of tolerance, dependence and addiction are always present.

What are the risks of methadone abuse and addiction?

Using methadone can be incredibly dangerous, with the potential for serious health problems such as:

  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Suppressed breathing
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Seizures or coma
  • Menstrual issues
  • Death (methadone is second only to heroin in opioid-related fatalities with 663 methadone-caused deaths in 2021 alone – the highest ever and an increase of 28.5% from 2020).
  • Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts

Methadone addiction - woman struggling mentally

In addition to these health consequences, methadone addiction can affect every other area of your life including:

  • Problems at work or with unemployment
  • Financial issues due to the cost of methadone
  • Legal problems if you are caught with methadone or turn to crime to fund your use
  • The breakdown of relationships
  • Homelessness
  • Social isolation

Am I addicted to methadone?

Recognising and admitting to methadone addiction can be difficult as your addiction will do everything in its power to keep you in its grip. Here are some questions to ask yourself which could point to the signs of methadone addiction:

  • Do I feel like I need to take methadone just to feel normal?
  • Do I take more methadone than prescribed or than is recommended to me?
  • Am I unable to reduce my intake of methadone even if I want to?
  • Do I experience withdrawal symptoms when I don’t take methadone?
  • Do I take methadone without a prescription?
  • Have I turned to crime or nefarious means like doctor shopping to fund or obtain methadone?
  • Do I continue to use methadone despite the harm it is causing to me or my loved ones?

If you answered yes to these questions then it is likely that you are addicted to methadone. It is vital to seek help as soon as possible to avoid the potentially deadly consequences.

Lies your methadone addiction will tell you

It is very important to understand that methadone addiction does not want you to get better and it will try to manipulate you and those around you into believing you don’t need any help. Here are some of the lies your methadone addiction will tell you:

“You don’t really have a problem”…

Your methadone addiction will try to tell you that you need methadone or that you are in control but if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned on this page then you are already putting yourself in danger. It is crucial to recognise that you have a problem and seek help before it’s too late.

“At least you aren’t addicted to heroin or other opioids anymore”…

Your methadone addiction will try to convince you that you have made a positive change by switching from other drugs to methadone. This is not true. Despite the fact that methadone may be safer in some ways, it is still just as addictive and can carry the same lethal risks as other opioids (as noted above, methadone is second only to heroin for opioid-related deaths in the UK).

“You can overcome methadone addiction on your own”…

This is another common lie intended to stop you from seeking treatment. Methadone addiction can be incredibly powerful and hard to overcome without professional help. It is important to remember that you don’t have to do this alone and that there are experienced professionals who can provide the help and support you need to overcome the condition.

What does methadone addiction treatment involve?

The treatment of methadone addiction consists of three stages:

  • 1. Methadone detox – This is the removal of all methadone from your system. This breaks the physical dependence on the drug so that you can begin to focus on addressing the psychological aspects of addiction.
  • 2. Methadone rehab – This involves undergoing a range of therapies and holistic treatment activities designed to help you understand the root cause of your addiction and learn new coping strategies so that you don’t relapse into using methadone again.
  • 3. Aftercare – This stage is essential to ensure that you remain drug-free in the future. It involves ongoing support after you leave treatment so that you can stay on track and follow your recovery plan.

Methadone addiction - rehab therapy

Methadone addiction treatment at Recovery Lighthouse

At Recovery Lighthouse, we provide methadone detox and rehab as inpatient services. This means you will stay in our residential clinic while receiving treatment. Most experts agree that inpatient treatment is the most effective for addiction recovery because it provides an immersive recovery environment with 24/7 support and no access to methadone. We offer a comprehensive range of evidence-based therapies to address every aspect of your methadone addiction and ensure that you have the best possible chance of long-term recovery.

Our aftercare programme consists of one year’s free weekly group therapy sessions. This helps to keep you motivated and accountable in your recovery journey and provides much-needed support during difficult moments which could otherwise result in relapse.

How to support a loved one who is addicted to methadone

If you are worried about a loved one who is struggling with methadone addiction, the most important thing to do is to encourage them to seek help. This can be difficult for family members and friends but it is essential if the person is to recover from their addiction.

Sit down with them and discuss the signs and symptoms of methadone addiction that you have seen. Explain to them why it is important to seek professional help and express your concern for their well-being in a nonjudgmental way.

It is also crucial that you don’t do anything which enables their methadone addiction. This includes:

  • Giving them money or methadone
  • Paying their bills or rent
  • Not holding them accountable for their actions
  • Making excuses for their behaviour

Finally, remember to take care of yourself as well. Watching a loved one struggle with methadone addiction can be extremely difficult and it is important to get support for yourself too. Consider joining a support group or talking to a counsellor to give yourself the strength you need to help your loved one.

How to get help for methadone addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with methadone addiction, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. Recovery Lighthouse has specialist methadone addiction professionals who can provide the help and support you need to overcome this life-threatening condition. We understand how hard it can be to reach out for help, but we are here to make sure that you are never alone in your recovery journey.

Frequently asked questions

What if you are addicted to methadone but you need it for heroin recovery?
It is possible to manage methadone addiction while still taking it as part of opioid replacement therapy. This usually involves reducing the dose gradually over time and ensuring that your other treatment needs are met. However, all this needs to be done in consultation with your addiction and medical caregivers who will be able to devise the best recovery plan for both dependencies.
What are the warning signs of methadone overdose?
The main warning signs of methadone overdose are slow or shallow breathing, weak pulse, confusion, dizziness and loss of consciousness. If you suspect an overdose, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Tell the emergency responders or medical professionals exactly what you or the other person has taken so they can give the best possible treatment right away.
Is there a cure for methadone addiction?
There is no magic “cure” for methadone addiction. Recovery requires a holistic approach to treatment, a strong will and the willingness to work at sobriety every day. However, with the right attitude and professional treatment and support, it is very possible to overcome methadone addiction once and for all.