Methadone is a synthetic opiate narcotic which is used to treat individuals who are addicted to heroin or other opiates. Methadone can be used in theses instances to suppress cravings and withdrawal symptoms. However, individuals soon become as physically dependent on methadone as they were to heroin or other opiates (such as OxyContin or Vicodin). Therefore, methadone maintenance is not a cure for opiate addiction as the individual is simply replacing one drug addiction for another.
Methadone side effects vary and can include a wide range of symptoms. Side effects most commonly experienced include: constipation, drowsiness, dry mouth, euphoria, lightheadedness, slow or troubled breathing, urinary retention, and weakness. Other more uncommon methadone side effects include: allergic reactions, blurred or double vision, confusion, depression, dizziness, facial flushing, headache, heart palpitation, hives, impaired concentration, itching, nausea, sensation of drunkenness, skin rash, sweating, and vomiting. Additional but less likely methadone side effects may include: anaphylactic reactions, disorientation, hallucination, hypotension causing weakness and fainting, kidney failure, muscle twitching, myasthenia gravis, seizures, tremor, and an unstable gait.
When used during pregnancy, methadone can cross the placenta to the unborn child and cause side effects. It is common for babies born to methadone-dependent mothers go through withdrawal at birth. Additionally, small amounts of methadone can passed into the mother's breast milk. This is why mothers that are on methadone maintenance programs are often encouraged to breastfeed in order to help ease the baby's withdrawal from methadone.
There have been many fatalities over the past several years as a result of methadone side effects and overdose. For instance, the number of deaths attributed to methadone overdose in 1999 was 786. By 2005 however, methadone-related overdose deaths had risen to 4,462. Because methadone is one of the strongest opiates, it is not a harmless drug as some may think. One person's dose may be fatal for another. Methadone has a slow onset of action and a long half-life. Severe methadone side effects can cause respiratory depression which is usually the cause of death in most cases. This is why it is so dangerous to use illicitly, and even poses danger to those who use it legitimately.
Some of the most common methadone side effects can include but are not limited to: