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Methadone long term effects on the brain (INFOGRAPHIC)

Methadone long term effects on the brain (INFOGRAPHIC)

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What is methadone?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid medication that has been used in the treatment of heroin addicts worldwide since the mid-1960s. However, long-term methadone treatment has been found to cause changes in the brain by affecting nerve cells in the brain. As a result, scientists have observed changes in cognitive functioning, learning ability and memory capacity in individuals who abused the medication.

How methadone affects the brain?

Methadone acts on the same brain structures  and processes as addictive opioid drugs do. This helps people who’ve struggled with addiction stop their harmful habits and stay off opioid drugs, however it should never be viewed as a cure for addiction. Methadone should always be used in conjunction with appropriate psycho-social treatments and therapies. The end goal is individuals to eventually be slowly and gradually taken off methadone and continue to live substance free.

Methadone’s effects on the brain include:

  • changes in cognitive functioning
  • learning difficulties
  • memory problems
  • mood and behavior changes
  • affected nerve cells and neurotransmitters
  • …another one  of methadone’s effects is addiction to the medication, although it’s prescribed in the treatment of narcotic addiction and dependence along with treatment of withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid drugs use.

Methadone brain effects questions

Methadone treatment is very useful for opioid drug addicts that have an uncontrolled, compulsive, and harmful behavior associated with narcotics addiction. However, the possible side effects of long-term methadone abuse should not be ignored.

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13 Responses to “Methadone long term effects on the brain (INFOGRAPHIC)
5:53 am November 25th, 2015

Hi my name is Gina and I just want people to know to really think about getting on this,I was on this for a few years ,I was on 150MG of methadone and one day I didn’t have a income to pay so they made me go down 10 mg a day ,and I felt like I was dying ,I lost 50 pounds in one month and stayed sick for months so please think really hard before deciding to get on methadone ,I recommend suboxone good luck

2:27 pm December 2nd, 2015

Thanks for sharing Regina. I hope our readers will consider your advice.

Jeff MD PhD
6:13 pm December 10th, 2015

All medications have side effects, and in general, the most deadly diseases justify medications with greater side effects. Drugs used to treat cancer, for example, are linked to dementia, sterility, and other cancers. We accept those side effects given the morbidity and mortality associated with most cancers.

Given that opioid overdose is now a leading cause of death, the side effects of medications used to treat opioid dependence, including methadone and buprenorphine, are a tremendous bargain. This article’s comment– that ‘the possible side-effects of long-term methadone abuse should not be ignored’, shows how the stigma of addiction affects the discussions about treatment options.

Can you imagine an article stressing the ‘long term side effects’ of treating breast cancer– implying that patients with cancer have a choice whether or not to accept treatment? What’s the difference? Does the author mean to imply that addicts have more ‘choice’ about being sick, than people with other diseases?

1:39 pm December 15th, 2015

Hello Jeff. Thank you for sharing a great point. However, when you are under medical treatment for cancer you are made aware of the possible consequences and side effects, while in many cases it is not talked about the adverse effects methadone might have on people. Of course, when the positive outcomes outweigh the negative it should be end of discussion, but many doctors keep prescribing even when there may not be real need of the medication. Also many people keep taking methadone (even obtain it online or on the streets) and are not aware of the consequences, which include overdoses – as you mentioned.

The author is only informing about the negative side effects methadone can have on the brain after long-term use or abuse of this medication. We have read many people’s testimonies who frequently include “I had no idea…” and “my doctor never told me…”

11:33 am August 12th, 2016

This is for REGINA: I think it’s unethical to take a person who’s been on 150 mg daily for a few years and then, because of financial difficulties, to subject that person to forced withdrawal by reducing their dose 10 MG A DAY!? That is not only unethical, it’s dangerous for the addict’s health. By the way, Regina, Suboxone will not be that different from the effects of Methadone. Reducing the dose of EITHER of those 2 drugs must be done gradually. A 10 mg. per day reduction is TOO MUCH, TOO QUICKLY. The withdrawal will be unpleasant.

5:40 pm August 12th, 2016

This is for Kevin !! yes I agree making someone go down 10 mg a day is mentally and physically draining ,i felt like I was dying and my multiple sclerosis was the worst I have ever experience,but I had no choice and when someone other than yourself tells you games over depression kicks in and that’s why people go out and get on heroin ,i was that person that would never touch drugs ,I couldn’t take cold medication it would put me to sleep ,but I found out I have multiple sclerosis and Dr’s put you on this and if I want control of my pain stay on top with my pain medication,then emergency c-sections for the birth of my twins ,a partial and full hysterectomy and being in mentally and physically abusing relationship doesn’t help but don’t get me wrong I take 100% responsible for my actions but at the same time I followed my Dr’s orders that let to my addiction, what I am trying to day is everyone starts out the same way following the Dr’s orders and when Dr’s take you off something after so many years your body will never be the same and that’s what leads to heroin methadone ect and I believe there alot that needs to be changed when it comes to all of this

6:19 pm August 24th, 2016

Im on methadone….. In Dec it will be a year….. I hate being on it but I hate taking pills and then going through withdrawals….. I’m dammed if I do dammed if I don’t. I need help with treatment. I have state insurance. I need to know what other options are out there for me.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
2:49 pm September 7th, 2016

Hi Amymarie.I suggest you call the helpline number displayed on our site to get in touch with our trusted treatment consultants who can help you access adequate treatment program.

12:38 am September 21st, 2016

Hi, I was on methedone for 6yrs for addiction to opiates. MY plan was to do a 3-6 month in and out. But they convinced me that I needed to keep going up and I wasn’t ready to come off. I peeked at 165mg. A year and half ago I started tapering down because I was tired of what it was doing to my life and my body. I took my last dose 1 week ago… I have felt HORRIBLE. I’ve been out of work, had no sleep, hot/cold, everything I eat goes thru me, anxiety, skin crawls….that stuff is the devil. I wish I could have video taped this week and sent it to every methedone patient or every person wanting to get on it. Wish I had NEVER done this to myself.

5:31 pm November 28th, 2016

I’ve been trying to get my boyfriend off of Methadone for years…He psycho babbles..gets violent when my dog barks he pokes my dogs with sticks while they are in cages we get into huge fights behind this.. I love my dogs…he said he’s not addicted but I know better…He knods all over..drops his food & breaks everything because he falls asleep standing up…He smokes like a chimney & was diagnosed with Emphysema in NY…He keeps me awake..He lost his drivers license & keeps losing jobs…He keeps taking my stuff & pawning & selling it..He doesn’t let me sleep..I’m so stressed at my wuts end..He has no medical coverage..He’s gone to VA 3 times & he must fall asleep cause he just tells me lies… My boyfriend is 57 yrs old..Used to be so clean but since he’s been on Methadone..He doesn’t even shower..sits on toilets nodding all day..stands in front of open fridge or stands in front of sink nodding with water running..I live in a Retired 55 + Comm..& my neighbors have to rescue him from falling in the street..just resently his friend which I thought had stopped Methadone overdose taking other pills…like he does…I went & gave Hell to his counselor…because they wouldn’t lower him when he so called asked…so they are lowering him but he still nods all over..So tired of this… PLEASE HELP ME..HE HAS NO MEDICAL COVERAGE & THE METHADONE DOESN’T HELP HIM THINK TO GO GET HELP

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
1:40 pm December 23rd, 2016

Hi Sylvia. You may look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help:
Also, call the helpline you see on the website to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant.

4:02 am December 24th, 2016

This is for SYLVIA; Hello. I am telling you this for 2 reasons:
1) At the rate things are going, your relationship with your present boyfriend is doomed anyway because it’s obvious to me that he’s either lying by omission of certain facts or else
2) He is lying outright about what he is REALLY doing.
If he has been on Methadone for years, there is no way he should be exhibiting the symptoms and actions he is displaying. I can assure you that he is supplementing his clinical dosage with either additional Methadone beyond his stated dose or else supplementing his Methadone dosage with Benzodiazepines (possibly Xanax) which can be fatal. All I can actually say for sure is that there is a LOT of additional drug usage going on that he won’t admit to.

4:12 am December 24th, 2016

This is for REGINA: do NOT convince yourself that you have NO choice, because you do. The first thing would be to file a grievance against the Methadone program that is forcing you to take such drastic reductions in your dosage, based on financial difficulty. I have already told you: “THIS IS COMPLETELY UNETHICAL”. It also violates the conditions stated in the Patient’s Bill of Rights. If what you are saying is completely accurate and true, then there are some MAJOR unethical things being committed by your program and you should seek a second opinion as well as getting into a different Methadone program.

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