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Long term effects of methadone on the body (INFOGRAPHIC)

Long term effects of methadone on the body (INFOGRAPHIC)

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How does methadone work?

Methadone, an opiate analgesic medication, works in the brain to change how the body feels and reacts to pain. Because of this property, methadone is usually prescribed to people who suffer from chronic and strong pain. Its other use may be even more well know: for the treatment of opioid addicted individuals during withdrawal or as a maintenance therapy.

Consequences of methadone abuse on the body

Many patient’s lives have been changed or became functional again thanks to methadone therapy. The efficacy of methadone has been well documented. However, because it is an opiate, many people abuse it to get high and feel relaxed. The risks and dangers are increased when methadone is taken illegally or purchased on the streets. Here are the possible side-effects from taking methadone without being prescribed, more than prescribed or more frequently:

  • coma (in case of overdose)
  • constipation
  • death (in case of overdose)
  • difficulty urinating
  • headaches
  • low blood pressure
  • nausea
  • respiratory depression
  • sexual dysfunction
  • skin problems
  • sleep irregularities
  • sweating
  • vomiting
  • weight gain

Are methadone’s effects on the body reversible?

As mentioned above, street methadone is very dangerous. Firstly because it can be a concentrated amount that is more potent that what is expected, and not only do high doses bring adverse effects, but they can cause permanent damages, coma or death as a result of extreme respiratory depression.

Moreover, if high doses of methadone are used for a prolonged period of time and are taken chronically, the damage caused to the kidneys, heart, brain, and lungs can be permanent.

Adverse effect of methadone on the body questions

If you or someone you love are abusing methadone, suddenly stopping will take you through withdrawal. You need to keep in mind that a thorough detox is important before a person can start a drug rehab program. If you have any questions about the long term effects of methadone addiction treatment, feel free to post them in the comments section below and we’ll gladly reply to all legitimate inquiries.

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45 Responses to “Long term effects of methadone on the body (INFOGRAPHIC)
6:41 pm February 16th, 2016

My brother is 40 years old and has been on methadone for 9 years. He weighs over 350 lbs and is going through abrupt detox. How long should it take for his system to get rid of the drug and is there any herbal relief I can get for him while he is going through this hell??? He is aware of the risks, however, since my mother passed away, he no longer can afford the treatment doses from the clinic!!! Help!!!

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:54 pm February 19th, 2016

Hi, Debbie. I’m really sorry for your loss… I suggest you call the helpline displayed on our site, and contact our trusted treatment providers.

8:59 pm July 15th, 2016

I’m on 30 milligrams of methadone for about 4 months. Started detoxing 2milligrams every 2 weeks.on 26 milligrams now. I want off as quickly as possible, and without much withdraw,for I get anxiety should I do this detox properly?thank you.Desperate Shelly

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
6:07 pm July 26th, 2016

Hi Shelly. I suggest you speak with your doctor to help you create an individualized tapering schedule. Also, consult with a pharmacist to recommend some over-the-counter medication that can ease withdrawal symptoms.

5:48 am July 25th, 2016

am so sorry for u debbie,i live in mauritius,i have been on methadone for almost 4 years.and i had various other health problems as is free in my country but the new government is planning to eradicate has really affected my life in the sense that i no longer take heroin no longer have to go to work for that.but im so ill.i cough blood i have ulcer…my mother already treats me badly so i dnt eat,,and now + this therapy,,,i feel sick and low and my feet r swollen holding water,my heart is diseased,sometimes i wish i had died of a drug overdose instead of coming on methadone coz i did everything right but did not get a stable someone in my life,and am nothaving my menses..

6:15 am July 28th, 2016

My 50 year old daughter died on Xmas day 2015. The coroner could not determine the cause of death and an autopsy was performed. The result was determined to be accidental cocaine overdose. The report states that the amount of cocaine in her system was 110ng/ml. The amount of methadone in her system was 1200 ng/ml. which to me is an obvious overdose of methadone. My daughter was on a methadone program since 1988. They raised her mg. at will. She was on 180 mg when she died.. She never used illegal methadone . i begged her to make them wean her off . I believe she was given meth too long. her dose was so high she was like avegetable.. I had to take care of her like she was an invalid. Why would a coroner say cocaine was the cause of death when such a large amount of methadone was in her system. She was on the program 28 years off and on. Is that normal?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
1:07 pm August 10th, 2016

Hi Carmen. I’m really sorry for your loss… May your heart and soul find peace and comfort. I’d suggest that you speak with a toxicologist or another medical professional about your concerns. We’re not able to provide you with a qualified response.

5:12 pm August 5th, 2016

ive been on methadone for 16 years and have never relapsed on pain pills. i consider myself a life-er. i have no desire to stop. ive heard of a treatment that they put you to sleep strip all methadone from your system and when you wake up your clean and dont want it anymore. how does that cover thye mental addiction? that is my problem with all systems of getting clean due to the shear horrific things my brain has been thru which cause my addiction to start with. self medicating

5:19 pm August 22nd, 2016

Hi Jen. I believe you’ve heard of quick detox processes that are performed under strict medical care. They are not recommended unless you need to be immediately taken off methadone for some reason. Otherwise, tapering off and slowly lowering your tolerance is always the recommended way to do it. Regarding the part that you juts wake up and no longer have the substance in your system – that is true. However, the part about not needing/wanting it anymore is far from real. Just because your body is clean from all traces of methadone, it doesn’t mean your brain hasn’t gotten used to the presence of it. That is why people who use opiates for a long time experience cravings even when they haven’t taken any for months.

My suggestion is that you speak with a doctor, get a tapering plan in place and follow it, be prepared with over-the-counter medications and other remedies for when symptoms start to appear. Of course, you can keep in touch with your doctor and seek any additional medical help should the need arise. I also suggest you get a psychologist’s or a counselor’s help and support.

6:16 pm August 23rd, 2016

I’m decreasing from methadone down to55mgs.want to switch to suboxone or subutex how far down do u have to come f own?

1:16 pm August 24th, 2016

Hi Tina. I suggest it’s best to consult your doctor about the tapering dose and switching time.

6:33 pm September 2nd, 2016

Hi. I was a heroin addict for two years then went on subutex and did really well. Unfortunately I got on it again and have been on a methadone programme for 3 years. How long would it take to feel normal and have the methadone out of my system? I’m on 40 ml a day and want to get off it. Is it dangerous to just stop?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:35 pm September 9th, 2016

Hi Lisa. I suggest that you speak with your doctor to help you plan an individualized tapering schedule.

7:02 am September 17th, 2016

I have been in a methadone clinic about an hr. Away from my house (even though there is one 5min away) for 6 years. I don’t go to any clinic that i might know someone so i don’t get stuck in a difficult situation , which seems very unlikly anymore. After being successful in receiving all my take homes for numerous years now. I have been in this clinic for 6 years so I have 6 years of clean drug screens, attendance, groups, 1on1’s ect.. So I have been slowly tapering off of metadone for almost 2 years. I am now just sick of this “groundhogs day” affect it has on my life and mu families lives. I had 2 children on methadone and feel like my life is aimed in a completely different direction now and for awhile. I don’t talk or see anyone I know does drugs or did them with me,So no more people (even my children’s father was never an opiate user). I stay away from any places that are bad and since i have children that helps plus i have no need to go to bad area’s I don’t talk ore know anyone. Lastly the things part sort of went away with the friends and once being a parent became my #1 job. So after knowing this much I wanted to ask your opinion on how fast I can detox off of the last 75ish mg. I was @ a whopping 235mg a day for a few years. I have been coming down 5mg 3 weeks ago, 2 weeks ago i put in for 3 mg decrease, and this week I put in a request for 5mg decrease which will come into affect this week. I started to have stomach cramping this morning but it went away by noon. So if anyone could give me advice on how other people came off or what is recommended or if something should be given to help with some of the withdraw symptoms. I asked everyone who works at my clinic and no one has any answers or how others were successful. Thank you for your help it will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you, Rachel
The 29 year old who is sick of the repetitious 1 day a week, its got to be over before I’m 30 next year.

8:38 am October 14th, 2016

What is the standard decrease of methadone in miligrams when tapering or detoxing a patient on a stable dose of 140 mg. of “Roxanne Methadone. ?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
1:04 pm October 21st, 2016

Hi Roger. I suggest that you consult with your doctor to help you plan an individualized tapering schedule. Generally, the tapering schedule for methadone is:
– first decrease dose by 20-50% per day until you reach 30 mg/day
– then decrease by 5 mg/day every three to five days to 10 mg/day
– then decrease by 2.5 mg/day every three to five days

This not a strict schedule, so you may taper methadone more slowly if it’s hard for you. Here’s the reference source:

4:40 pm October 31st, 2016

I have been on methadone continuously since 1981.I was 24 years old when I started and am now 59 . That’s, what, 35 years? I also used other opiates until 10 years ago. Methadone doesn’t seem to have caused any damage to me, other than to take away my body’s ability to produce its own endorphins. I should have said “physical” damage to me. I have been an absolute slave to this substance for all these years and don’t recommend that to anyone. Thankfully, I am on a dose of only 30mg. per day. My husband, who died of cancer three months ago, had a daily dose of 180 mg. This had nothing to do with the cancer, as he’d taken this amount for many years. This huge amount of methadone did, however, cause problems for him with pain management during the cancer for reasons too long to explain here. I now have chronic pain problems, but, were this not the case I would try to detox very, very slowly in order to finally free myself from this lifelong addiction. By the way, I live in Italy, where the clinics are government run and totally free. The doctors, nurses, and other staff are truly interested in the well-being of the people they serve, which is exactly the opposite of my long experience in the United States.

8:19 pm December 26th, 2016

I am on a methadone maintenance program, and have been so for the last 18-20 years. Also I consume about 6-10 16oz cans of malt liqueur beer.
I have never felt any ill effects on experienced any difficulties am I just lucky or can your data be faulty.

4:52 pm December 27th, 2016

I was going thru the comments,when I came across my last one. I have been tapering from methadone for around 6,7 months now. Been going down 2 mlgs every 2 weeks, a total of 4 mlgs a month. My last post I was at 26mlgs in July. I’m now at 12 mlgs. So a total of 14 mlgs in 5 months. I’m feeling it now,so I’m holding for now. I don’t want to stop,but it’s better to level out physically for me with the mental aspect and high anxiety I’m experiencing. I don’t want to relapse by self medicating the way I feel. How long will it take to level out? I heard when get to halfway mark,to go very slow. I forgot to mention I have hepatitis c. Heard methadone is hard on you’re liver

4:14 am January 14th, 2017

Lost a friend on methadone

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
6:28 pm January 16th, 2017

Hi Victor. I’m really sorry for your loss…

3:31 am February 8th, 2017

My daughter died in 2015. The amount of Methadone (legal from a program) in her system was 1200 mg. I have been trying to find out if that amount was /is lethal. Nobody seems to want to give me that answer. C an you help me with that information?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
5:22 pm February 10th, 2017

Hi Carmen. I’m really sorry for your loss. I suggest that you speak with a coroner or another professional about your concerns. We are not able to provide with a suitable answer.

10:27 pm March 16th, 2017

How long should you wait to take suboxone after stopping methadone treatment?

1:15 pm April 11th, 2017

Hi. I’m currently on 35mg & was thinking of recruiting(for lack of words) a group of methadone people of all ages around ballarat. Because I feel my doctor/chemist really can’t or don’t know how to help me prepare to go down to 5mg for 1month and jump of. In preparation. I have magnesium tablets. We’ll save 20 Valiums. & over the counter hot flushes tablets. I need to know what vitamins to start taking on that final month. I look forward to hearing from you thanks. Gail

9:04 am April 24th, 2017

I agree with alot of the methadone long term effects on the body except people who purchase methadone on the streets..there’s no way they could have those effects due to they would have to be very wealthy to get there hands on it everyday as in my case. I’ve been on methadone high dose program for 14 years and just in the past 5 of those years have I began to develop those effects..good call on effects though. Thank you

9:49 pm May 9th, 2017

I was on methadone for eleven years at a local clinic, I was sick and tired of being a slave to this place and the drug. I was at 180mg and came down to 3 Mgs in about three months. Went through the worst withdrawal you could ever imagine. That was 11months ago and I still have some major symptoms . Have you ever heard of withdrawal lasting this long? And could I have permanently damaged my body? I feel helpless but let me say I made it this far with the help of god.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
6:20 pm May 10th, 2017

Hi Jeremie. Yes, we heard about withdrawal lasting even longer. It’s know as post acute withdrawal syndrome aka PAWS. It’s really hard and painstaking. You are one of the bravest to end with methadone addiction for good. Congratulations on that! Stay strong.

7:21 am May 17th, 2017

If someone had been on methadone(high dose) for at least 4 yrs, 200 lbs of weight gain, then started only taking his full dose on day at clinic once a week and then only taking small doses or none at all during the other days. What does this do to the body, can this cause death? Will it cause vomiting on a daily basis?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:45 pm May 26th, 2017

Hi Deborah. It seems to me that that person is experiencing withdrawal symptoms due to reducing the dose. Vomiting is one of methadone withdrawal symptoms.

9:05 pm June 5th, 2017

I was put on Methadone by the VA for chronic pain. After taking it for 8 years I realized that it was not really helping any more. I asked to be taken off of it. It took 3 months but I have been off of it for 8 months .I am noticing that I am having memory problems I cannot focus on anything and have become house bound. Is this associated with my long term use of Methadone and will it ever get better.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
1:59 pm June 7th, 2017

Hi Gary. Brain fog and memory problems can be post-acute withdrawal symptoms from methadone. Your body just needs more time to recover.

1:18 pm June 20th, 2017

Ivana @ Addiction Blog, actually you don’t wake up the next day and the methadone isnt in your system. Methadone has a 24 hour half life, which means half of the dose is still in your system. I have been in Methadone Maintence for 3 1/2 years and I have been tapering for months, I am blind dosing right now so I don’t even know what mg I am at. The last I knew was 57 mg and that was 6 weeks ago…. I am taking it slowly and doing it the right way. The highest mg I went to was 108 mg and that was right after my husband passed away. He was also in Methadone Maintence and at 80mg when he passed away it showed his level at 800ng/L and that makes no sense to me. People keep saying well he had to of taken more that day and he did not…. I have also been accused of slipping him extra methadone which is crazy…. We were best friends and husband and wife with 5 children. He didn’t have life insurance or anything, I still cry about him dying, my poor children are suffering. But he also had an enlarged heart, a 50% blockage in his main artery, Hardening of his arteries, and enlarged liver and spleen, plus Edema…. so I don’t understand how I cause all of that but people are cruel. But if people use the program the right way it does work, I am proof of that. Now my husband’s death has me baffeled, he did have 2 hernia surgeries in a year’s time and did have physicals done, I don’t know how the doctors didn’t catch the heart problems and the liver and spleen…. but I also learned that if at autopsy you have an enlarged liver and spleen it’s the sign of a major Heart attack. But of course it was the Methadone that was blamed…. Your body’s chemistry changes when you die, so I think the reading they got was a false reading, but that’s my opinion. He was with me all day and I know for a fact that he did not take extra methadone, plus where did this extra methadone come from?? Who knows, like I said people are cruel….

2:44 pm June 20th, 2017

Hi Amanda. I’m very sorry for your loss!

I am also happy that you are doing the tapering process slowly and gradually. That is the best and most commonly recommended way to get off of most illicit and prescription drugs. I also appreciate your feedback regarding methadone’s half-life and duration in your system…what you are saying is absolutely right.

However, my response above that you are referring to was in regards to Jen’s question about a treatment she’d heard of where doctors can put you to sleep and when you wake up all traces of methadone are out of your system. I was talking about rapid detox therapy – a procedure that may help people who are eligible to undergo this type of detox – where you are sedated during the detoxification process and almost “sleep through” withdrawal from opiates. In normal circumstances methadone does stay a lot longer in your body. In fact, it’s long acting potential is what makes it such an effective maintenance medication.

9:35 pm July 18th, 2017

methadone if taken as prescribed by MD. , over a long term is it harmful

9:55 pm July 18th, 2017

i got on meth because my ortho dr and i agreed once my 100% disability goes through with VA i will have 100% free health care , anyway YIKES sounds great however I’m still on meth that i only took so i wpuld not go through severe withdrawl from 80 mg of oxycontin 2 times daily and 30 mg of oxycodone every 6 hours for break thru pain, needless to say the meth ran its course of being for pain two years ago VA has me on 150mg of meth i hate it even taking this dose i have a hard time doing the simpliest of chores com 3 pm at times i can’t even hold the upper part of my body ,i really feel like a loser first time in my live things areok mentally spirirtually financially & I’m alone I’m 59 always been very independent divorced with two adult kids wow , in my heart soul & mind i still feel i have a lot of life to live i wanna travel ,I’m having a difficult time traveling to shoprite HELP GODSPEED

2:38 am August 20th, 2017

cold turkey not insurance no medicare or medicade icant get accepted into rehab what can i do been taking it for 8 yrs

11:01 pm August 30th, 2017

I would like some current information on being on Methadone maintenance long term and having intestinal/bowel problems and eventually surgery. Thank you.

11:13 pm August 30th, 2017

I have been on methadone maintenance for 15 years, what is my risk for having intestinal/bowel surgery ? I am disabled, and am now bloated with possible bowel ubstruction and bad constipation. Im poverty level income and on government insurance, where I live there is no quality medical care. I’ve been prescribed mild laxatives and sent home from primary care with no referral to a specialist.
Going to try emergency room, however I am terrified of emergency surgery. Please help ? What should I do ?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:48 pm September 1st, 2017

Hi Lori. Consult with your doctor about your concerns.

7:29 pm October 17th, 2017

I believe that my methadone dr. Well i know he just doesn’t listen when i speak He had me coming in weekly to pee test me and ask his favourite question Do you want to go up, week after week same thing finally after giving him my same answer NO it is already making me sleep 18 plus hours a day i asked if i can come once a month YES BUT WHY he asks when you live so close OH maybe because i think your just having me in to urine weekly so you can bill my government insurance more and money is all you can see or hear and you don’t want me to ever get off this crap because when your patient tells you it’s making them usless and sleeping 18 hrs a day and you just ask do i want to go up WOW i guess when i told him my legs are swelling badly asking him is this a side effect that’s why he asked if i wanted a higher dose

6:14 pm October 23rd, 2017

I have been on methadone for 20 years i am finally on my way to getting off this.I am on 2.5 milligrams now and was ok to this point.I have very bad ringing in my ears hard time sleeping and fast pulse for the last month.are these side affects going to stop. I plan on going totally off in one more week but having second thoughts.Any help would be apreciated

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
5:22 pm October 25th, 2017

Hi Andre. It seem to me that the symptoms that you’ve listed are effects of methadone cessation. I suggest that you consult with your doctor to help you plan an individualized tapering schedule. Also, download our free e-book ‘the Definitive Guide To Withdrawal’ to learn more:

1:26 am October 26th, 2017

Hi guys I’ve been on methadone for 10 years. I am taking it as a result of becoming addicted to Oxyconti0n after having back surgery that went terribly wrong. My question is… does methadone have a terrible effect on the body. I’ve told my doctor that I need it for not only my addiction but also for back pain. So far my doctor has agreed with me so I’m at a dose of 120mg and other then sweating I feel great and so happy I’m not on the streets now or suffering withdrawal so that’s good as long as it’s not hurting me physically and damage my organs any help to answers these question is appreciated thanks

6:46 pm November 11th, 2017

After doing some reading on this site I’ve learned what I figured,20 yrs on methadone has caused my health to suffer greatly.When I was on the clinic liquid methadone,I was off the streets,quit crime the day I started there.I was able to work,had no side effects.5 yrs ago I went on Dr prescribed pills.Didnt work as well and was in pain every day from back and leg injuries after motorcycle wreck.When price of pills doubled I had to go to another pharmacy that offered cheaper pills.Since then I feel like I overdose daily on aspirin! What additives are in those pills???? Is there anywhere to have them tested That a 67 yr old living on $260 a month can afford? I tried to quit cold turkey cos didn’t think pills had any methadone in them but found out quick they did have something addictive in them.Im on 90 mg day down from 150. Any of you thinking methadone is a good high,you’re signing your own death certificate.I tell every person that knows someone playing with opiates to find a state that sells NARCAN spray and buy some cos chances are,you will save a life if you do.Its easy to use.

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