If used properly following under strict supervision methadone is an effective medication for severe pain. As a long-lasting drug, experts use it for Methadone Maintenance Treatment or MMT. For users who have been addicted to opiates such as heroin, MMT can ease the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms. The medication also helps the user’s chance of recovery in preventing relapses, a common occurrence during rehab.
Even during this MMT, health care providers need to meticulously monitor administering the drug to prevent overdose and further withdrawal symptoms. Methadone contains a long-lasting drug life which stays in the system for as long as 56 hours. If another dose is taken too soon, it can lead to a fatal drug overdose.
Quick facts about Methadone
- Between the year 2001 to 2007, methadone abuse drastically increased seven-fold when doctors begun prescribing it as a pain reliever.
- In a report about drug overdose in Florida that spans over five years, methadone ranks as the second cause of death. Cocaine still tops the list for drug overdoses fatalities.
- In the US, methadone overdose fatalities increased about 400% from the year 2001 until 2004.
- The most common effects of methadone are addiction, drug overdose and death.
- Users typically combine methadone with other drugs and alcohol which lead to drug overdose.
- Any substance that contains the following can increase the dangerous effects of methadone, these are:
o anti-anxiety medications
Prolonged use of methadone can result in tolerance to the drug. Once tolerance develops, addiction sets making the situation even more dangerous for users. In controlled condition, methadone is relatively safe but in other instances, it can provide a long list of health hazards as long as users abusing the drug.
Methadone Side Effects
- Weight gain
- Intolerance to heat
- Low blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of sexual interest
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty urinating
- Swelling of hands and arms, feet and legs
A separate study conducted in New Zealand added health hazards which include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Dental problems
- Hay fever
Several symptoms of methadone users
- People who abuse methadone suffers from poorer health condition than the other group of population.
- 42% of methadone users also suffer psychological problems like depression.
- Users tend to have the poor diets, skipping meals for days and have cravings for sweet foods.
- Methadone users also have difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep because of nightmares.
Effects of Methadone in Pregnancy
When a woman takes methadone during her pregnancy, her newborn suffers. The baby may suffer withdrawal symptoms that of adults after birth. However, the mother may not suffer from the withdrawal symptoms.
Some of the withdrawal symptoms include:
- weight gain or weight loss
- over activeness
If a mother who used methadone during pregnancy and breastfed her baby, the drug can make its way into her milk feeding it to her baby. Babies may show these symptoms:
- poor appetite
- trouble sleeping
The increasing number of drug abuse factors in for overdose cases in the country. Watch out for these methadone overdose symptoms:
- Stomach or intestinal spasm
- Small pinpoint pupils
- Blue lips and fingernails
- Muscle twitches
- Limp muscles
- Cold, clammy skin
- Difficulty breathing
- Stopped breathing
- Shallow breathing
- Slow breathing
- Sudden death
In a suspected drug overdose, bringing the user to an emergency room is the safest thing to do. Ignoring to do so could lead to more fatal results and possibly death of the user. Upon arriving at the emergency room, doctors may administer several things such as:
- Activated charcoal medication
- Fluids via intravenous
- Breathing tube
- An antidote to reverse the effects of the drug
- A tube inserted through the mouth into the stomach to wash it out (gastric lavage)
- Induced vomiting
Doctors may also treat other methadone overdose symptoms as they arise. For severe cases, they administer appropriate medication for heart or kidney problems.
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