Methadone is a synthetic opioid commonly used in treating opioid use disorders and as a treatment for severe pain. Despite its effectiveness in helping people to cut down on illicit opioids when taken as prescribed, methadone still has a high potential for misuse on its own and is commonly used as a recreational substance.

Medical Use of Methadone

Methadone is typically used in the form of addiction treatment known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). People addicted to substances such as heroin, oxycodone, or morphine can attend an MAT clinic to receive methadone.

As a full opioid agonist, methadone targets the same regions in the brain that other opioids do.

MAT typically includes several therapies alongside treatment, intended to help people build the tools needed to maintain abstinence. This usually comes in the form of individual and group therapies and can help people learn to manage their cravings, learn healthy coping mechanisms, and build a higher quality of life.

Methadone may also be prescribed for pain. This was methadone’s original medical use, but it has generally fallen out of favor until recent years. Today, methadone is increasingly being used as an alternative to drugs like morphine in the treatment of cancer pain and other chronic pain disorders.

Methadone Dosage

Methadone comes in a variety of forms, such as a tablet, oral solution, lozenge or injection and the typical dosage varies significantly between individuals. When starting MAT, people are typically prescribed a dose of 20mg of methadone, though this will often increase to between 60-120mg.

Many MAT facilities administer their methadone on-site, and people in treatment may need to visit the facility each day for their prescribed dose. In some cases, methadone is given as take-home doses, though this is typically in smaller quantities than other pharmaceuticals.

Methadone Side Effects

Methadone comes with a host of side effects. The most common side effects include:

  • Slowed respiration
  • Weight gain
  • Restlessness
  • Upset stomach
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sleep changes
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
If you are experiencing uncomfortable side effects as a result of your methadone use, reach out to your prescribing physician to see if they can make changes to your treatment plan that can bring you relief.

Non-Medical Use of Methadone

As a synthetic opioid, methadone is a commonly misused and abused substance. All opioids have high addictive potential and can trigger feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and sedation. As such, the street value of methadone is relatively high.

People who use illicit opioids, such as heroin or fentanyl, will often seek out methadone if they can’t find their drug of choice. They do this because methadone can stave off the withdrawal effects of other opioids, bringing substantial relief to people experiencing opioid withdrawal.

Methadone Dangers

There are two primary dangers of methadone use, whether it is used as prescribed or for recreational or misuse purposes. These dangers include the risk of developing a substance use disorder and the possibility of experiencing a methadone overdose.

Methadone Addiction

The first and very real danger of methadone use is developing a substance use disorder. Even though methadone is used as a treatment for opioid use disorders, it still has a high potential for addiction on its own.

Like other opioids, methadone can produce feelings of euphoria and create lasting changes in the brain’s reward network. This effect makes it more likely for people to repeat methadone use and can make it difficult for people to enjoy activities outside of substance use. The symptoms of methadone addiction include:

  • Drug cravings for methadone
  • Withdrawal symptoms if methadone use is suddenly stopped
  • Tolerance, meaning more has to be used to achieve the desired effect
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities outside of methadone use
  • Repeated attempts to stop or cut down methadone use, without success
  • Spending lots of time using, searching for, or recovering from methadone use
  • Methadone use interferes with family, occupational, or academic responsibilities
  • Continued methadone use despite harmful consequences
The withdrawal symptoms from methadone are particularly severe. They closely parallel the withdrawal symptoms from opioid use but may persist for longer periods due to the longer half-life of methadone. Methadone withdrawal symptoms include:
  • Intense flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Powerful drug cravings
If you are experiencing symptoms of methadone addiction or withdrawal, you may need to seek help from professional addiction treatment services. You can find treatment options at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's website.

Methadone Overdose

A methadone overdose can occur when someone takes too much methadone or combine methadone with other opioids or central nervous system depressants. The signs of a methadone overdose include:

  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blue lips and fingers
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Disorientation or confusion
If you think somebody is experiencing a methadone overdose, call 911 right away. Emergency medical services may be able to save their lives as long as they are called in time.

If available, the opioid reversal medication Narcan (also known as naloxone) can stop a methadone overdose in its tracks. After calling 911, administer Narcan per its instructions until the person wakes up or you run out of medication.

Street Value of Methadone

The street price of methadone varies significantly between states. StreetRx collects anonymous user data to track the street price of methadone and has found that typical methadone prices are between $0.15 and $0.50 per milligram; however, some locations see methadone prices higher than that.

In the normal range, a 10mg pill of methadone can cost between $1.50 and $5.00. In certain states, this price can be as high as $10.00. Using the anonymous search function on StreetRx can help you understand methadone prices in your area and contributing the prices you found can also help others.

MedlinePlus: Methadone Information

SAMHSA: Methadone Information