Adverse effects of methadone (INFOGRAPHIC)

An infographic explaining the behavioral, physical, psychological, sexual, reproductive and other side effects of methadone abuse.

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Methadone affects the whole organism

The major adverse effect of methadone is respiratory depression and other most commonly observed side effects include lightheadedness, dizziness, sedation, nausea, vomiting and sweating. But, methadone also affects how the brain functions, thus changes the way people behave and feel.

Adverse methadone effects on health and life

Through habitual and progressive use, methadone takes a toll on the physical, mental and emotional health, including relationships.

Adverse effects of methadone (INFOGRAPHIC)

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Behavioral effects:

  • loss of enjoyment for the simple things in life
  • indifference towards family, friends and loved ones
  • loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
  • diminished ambitions and professional drive

Physical effects:

  • loss of appetite
  • loss of restful sleep and sleep disturbances
  • impaired libido
  • menstrual cycle changes
  • difficulty in breathing
  • skin turning cold or clammy
  • urinary retention
  • constipation
  • extremely dry mouth
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • liver toxicity

Psychological effects:

  • irritability
  • anger
  • self-criticism
  • feelings of sadness and emptiness
  • depressions
  • mood alterations or mood swings
  • confusion
  • restlessness
  • nervousness

Serious adverse effects and questions

In the case of overdose, emergency medical help should be sought immediately. If people who’ve OD-d are left untreated  they can fall in coma, and experience hallucinations that can lead to self harm or physical harming of other people. In the worst case scenario, death is also possible. Please comment below and share your thoughts or questions, and we’ll try to respond personally and promptly.

We also welcome you to share this infographic if you found the information contained in it useful.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. Bill, my heart literally goes out to you. Bruce is talking sense mate. Me down below was just having a huge rant at the drug workers and how they’d be more than happy for you to be stuck at a high dose. How did you end up on the higher end? I suppose everyone’s different right enough. I’ve found 40mls has always been fine for me, but like you “hated the feelings of being a slave to the drug” I’m a great believer in that there’s always someone worse off than yourself, at the minute I feel that’s me, but stay with me. That’s in no way whatsoever said in a condescending way to you. I totally understand you. I also feel you’re like us all, and we seem to be told this time and time again “you just want the quick fix treatment” That’s kind of true, as once you’ve been an addict for quite a long time, well getting your “fix” usually is a quick working thing, like I injected. Well inject. So it’s like you evolve into the “quick fix thing for everything” if you’re say homeless, you want the flat keys there and then, you could relate that to almost anything. I’ve Beaten This Bloody Thing 17 Times, And That’s legaly, As there were some spells In Prison back In The 90’S In Scotland when I don’t think they even knew what a substitute was, the screw would just open you up to be faced with you over a basin like something out of the Exorcist! Both ends!
    So I get the “miserable’ part. Though as Bruce very wisely says, do not, and I mean it as much as he does, do Not just think “ah to hell with it, I’ll not bother going back to the chemist” You see Bill, if you think you feel ‘Miserable’ now, that feeling is backed up, at least you are stable in your ‘Mysery’ Now think of waking up in the morning, I know they say methadone has a “half life” as in you should have 30ml left in your system from the day before 60mls. I don’t believe that, I’ve always felt crappy in the morning, and I see you’ve gained weight. I’m not on a programme yet, but I’m naturally ‘skinny’ folk say I’m just thin boned/framed, but it makes me feel self concious. So don’t let a few extra pounds worry you, please. So, if you were to just Stop Dead at 60mls, I can guarantee that you’ll be back at your Community Addiction Team within a few days, but the thing is, say you managed to stay away for four or even five days, they have it in their heads that you’ll “overdose” if they were to just start you back on your 60mls, and would (in Glasgow they do) most likely start you back on 30ml, then after about 4-5 days increase you by 5mls, maybe 10mls, but you’d maybe have had some time to get some of it out your system, and you’d find that the 30ml they’ve started you on is actually holding you, but my guess is your ‘CAT’ Team would be trying to get you back up to a higher dose, that’s me saying that they’ve got their handcuffs on you for longer. What would these folk/workers be doing if they got everyone clean? I’m not being cynical, it’s just plainly the truth, they need us to get their wage, I do not care what anyone says.
    I got arrested in mine in 2014, and if you look at one of the side effects on this site, it says “Agitation” I’d had enough of them playing God, having me sitting waiting, I’d never once been late, as who’d want to be late to get their script, so I just ended up cracking up, leaving, shouting abuse, went to Greggs (bakery) and tried to calm down, got a chicken bake and a medium latte (£2 deal) ate the bake, and then walked back up to the CAT Team and tossed the latte over their window, that was it, a Friday, and the cop shop is next door basically, and I was taken in for the weekend, one 10mg diazepam 3x a day for the weekend, not nice. I got out on the Monday and now had to go to a special clinic, I was now seeing their “we can be nasty too” side. Just remember Bill, methadone isn’t compulsory, if you’re giving in clean samples, well it’s your right to ask for a reduction, but do not just rush it. I’ve done it lots of different ways.
    As I’ve said in my rant below, 17 methadone programmes, so 17 detoxes. None have been easy. The last one, well I’d managed to get down to 20mls, my landlord was selling up the private let I was in, and I eventually became homeless,
    I was smoking that “legal high” Red Exodus was it’s name, and it was cheap, it would make me pass out, so I forgot basically what day was what, and one day (I thought only three had passed roughly) I went to my chemist to pick up my daily 20mls, and was told that I’d have to go back to my CAT team, I asked why, and was told I’d not been there/ the chemist, in over a week, 9 days if I recall. I was shocked, but felt okay, so I never bothered even going back to see the CAT team. This time I’ve self refered, as it’s taking up all my money, but only going for the first week, to get my act together, take their 30ml, and then just use the stuff I’ve got put by for a rainy day, and cut it down slowly. I’ve a ton of camping equipment, including an inflatable kayak, and I know a place out by my old town of Cumbernauld in Scotland that has a loch, and I’ll camp there, take my tablet, this Samsung one, my chargers, and just stick out for hopefully a fortnight.
    This is meant to be about you! Sorry. Where are you Bill? If you’re in England, well I hear that they’re more gentle than up here, up here they expect you to get on with it, if only eh?
    How long did it take you, and how large were the amounts that you dropped off each time you came down a few mls? Time. You’ve got that on your side, one thing that most who have done it like Bruce below, myself will say “take your time” If this is your first time coming off methadone, well you won’t know what to expect. I won’t lie.
    Insomnia is the worst thing for me. I once came straight off 40mls, lived with my landlord and his wife, and I never slept for 6 weeks, folk say that’s impossible, but your brain just doesn’t get tired, and he’d two Golden Retrievers and we’d be out walking them for 2 x 2 hour walks a day. Of course I felt exhausted, I could hardly walk, putting one boot in front of the other was just a struggle, it never really got better. Then my appetite became like nothing I’d experienced before, I was starving all the time. I wasn’t paying ‘digs’ so I was saying “don’t cook Christine” I’ll order out the Indian/Chinese, as I was on top rate dla and my fortnightly money was just building up, but they were wanting to eat small meals, they’d just moved into this house, so there was not a cooker, so they’d a big camping stove/grill in the kitchen, and they did their best, but I was ravenous! So they’d all want me to get takeaway after I’d explained that my appetite was coming back, but with a vengeance. I’m still only a light guy, if I get to 11th stone I’m over the moon but it’ll drop off fast. So we ate takeaways most nights!
    Do as Bruce suggests, as I’d do it this way too. Take away small amounts, let your body adjust, then another couple of mls, believe us you’ll be thankful once you get down to 20mls and feel you can continue, as I say, you’ve got all the time. You’re also in charge, just don’t mess up your urine. Have you heard of Gabbapentin? 300mg yellow capsules? Some will say “don’t replace a drug with another” I’m not advocating this here either, but when you’ve got ‘irritable legs’ Well a couple of these take it away, not just help, takes that feeling completely away, and you’d only be using these few and far between, not as if you’ll get off the methadone and be stuck taking these, they don’t do anything, except help you when you’re coming down from methadone. Sometimes you won’t feel the need to take any, but good to have a few put by. Don’t take Diazepam. As you may know, the 10mg ones are basically gone, and the 5mls ones are still around, it’s mainly 2mg ones, it’s okay, in fact it would be great if your GP would prescribe you a few, as they calm the effects also, but don’t buy the street ones, you don’t know what’s in these, but I’ve heard they’re putting in Rohipnol (spelling, sorry) the “date rape drug” plus putting in Amyltriptaline, this is an ‘antipsychotic’ I think, not a nice drug, and not for coming off Methadone when you’ll not be feeling too good anyway. Try and get some type of Benzodiazepine from your GP. If these are prescribed to you, well your CAT Team can’t say anything, but if you take them illegally they might halt your reduction.
    So just try and bite the bullet. I’ve given it up there for you to contact me to let me know how things are going, and for questions that you don’t want a ton of folk to see. I won’t ever judge you either. I’ll just try and keep you talking. Opiate addiction is the worst thing that’s happened to me in my life, apart from my childhood stuff, I’m learning to deal with this now, and it’s just going to be having to take the bull by the horns as they say. This is what you must do here Bill. I imagine that the higher the dose, the faster at the beginning you can reduce, but once you get down to where you are just now, and 50mls, this is the time to start to take it easy, just try and not Dirty your Samples, this is what will put your workers back in control, of course they can afford to lose a couple of clients, and make themselves look good, but if they all got clean, they’d be looking for another job. I do wish you all the Best Bill, and maybe that one thing that is going to hopefully work in your favour, as it can, and it’s not knowing what the withdrawal is going to feel like. Yes it’s unpleasant, it’s not say like Heroin, where you just rush through 7-10 days of hell and come out the other end. Methadone kind of starts to leave the body slowly, and it reaches/peaks at about say 5-6 days, then it just carries on in that straight line for a few weeks, but it’s bearable, please believe me, it is. Ibuprofen, maybe ask your GP about Gabbapentin, and if they’re sympathetic, plead with them for a course of Diazepam. If you’ve got none ilegally in your urine, well he or she might just say “okay, but I’ll only give you them for a month or so, and only 2mg ones” That’s better than the GP telling you “No” I think they’re only licenced to be given out for either 4 weeks, or 3 months now, as they don’t want to create another dependency. Okay Bill, if I’ve been of any help, thanks, if not, well look up videos on You Tube as there are plenty, plenty of one’s about what you’ll need to buy in. A few of the one’s I watched suggested getting in ‘Weed’ for me, years ago I tried it, never again. Just heightened my withdrawal feeling, made me feel worse, so did alcohol, but these were just daft things you do when you’ve not had any experience. I used to smoke hash all the time, still do now and again, but never while reducing or after taking that last small dose of methadone, cut these two right out.
    All The Best Bill…Sincerely…Paul.

  2. Hi, Yes I wholeheartedly agree with everything said here regarding methadone. I’m from Glasgow Scotland, and we have an area called “Possil Park” This was, I believe, an ‘afluent’ place to live in our city at one point, that is until the “Explosion of Heroin” in Glasgow in the early 1980’s. Then this area became known, ‘as a Fact’ “The Drugs Capital of Europe” (Now it’s the Knive Crime Capital) Possil has one ‘Main Street’ running through it called “Saracen Street” takes you 5 minutes to walk it’s length, so that tells you how big it is. You can drive by on your bus route and just happen to look out the window, and you’ll see the familiar faces doing their ‘Trade’ Normalised here.
    I’ll now give a “Small” share of my life. I placed myself into “Care” when I had just started Secondary School, so I was maybe 12 years old. My father was a very violent man, not all the time, but if you/I stepped out of line I’d be thrashed with canes/belts/slippers, bare hand, punched, and once beaten with a foot long metal pole. I made a complaint to the Police around 2015, he was arrested, my brother made admissions, but wants nothing to do with it, though could be called as a witness regarding his admissions, my sister then made an allegation, this resulted in him being arrested again, I’m not sure what the allegation is, but can only assume it’s of a ‘sexual nature’ He is on what we call here “A Petition” Which means he can go to the highest court in the land, complete with “Sheriff and Jury’
    I got my “Opiate Addiction” through my Dr, prescribing me from May 1992 till March 1996. She had me on 2 x 60mg tabs of “DHC Continue daily, and 30ml”s of Temazepam Elixir at bedtime, and I just stuck to this routine. Not Once was I told that what she was giving me was addictive, as I’d have stopped taking the medication. Since she took me off them all those years ago (21) I have completed 17 methadone programmes, well more like me being placed back on it after a relapse, then just coming down and off. I’ve never, well tell a lie, been above 40mls, I was once on 75mls. I have been in 7 “Rahabs” The last one in 2010 when I heard from a friend at my local pharmacy that this place was looking for 50 volunteers to go and live there for three to four weeks depending, and you were to trial this “N.E.T. Box” The size of a deck of cards this box was roughly, and had a wire that split in two, and on the end of each wire was a small electrode pad, and they shaved a tiny section of your scalp, and then place these little rubber pads that were attached to these two wires behind your ears. Feel behind your ear at the very top on your Scalp, you’ll find a little indent, and this is where they’d place the pad. You could then turn up “The Volume” as I called it, but it was the intensity of the feelings of small electronic vibrations that were buzzing behind your ear, it wasn’t painful, unless you went from zero to full instantly, then you’d get like a small prickly sensation, but it was nothing.
    I completed my “four weeks” as I asked for this extention to my stay, said I wasn’t ready to go home. I wasn’t going to ever be ready. Though I didn’t know this at the time.
    When I was on the bus travelling back from Cambletown, in the north of Scotland, well I “felt strange” different to the other folk on the bus, and when I reached my stop in Glasgow, I got up, the driver got out, opened the side of the coach up, and gave me my bag, I said thankyou and for him to have a nice day, but for some reason I felt “naked” This is how different I now felt towards other people, I felt that they were all staring at me, that they somehow knew I’d been to this rehab, I felt dirty, yet none of this was happening, as I say, it’s very difficult to explain. Well it’s now June 2017 and this feeling has “Evolved” as things do in life, you get cancer, it spreads. This has spread right through my brain, this “Feeling” I don’t think that my upbringing helped me here either. One weekend I was allowed a weekend away from being locked up, this wasn’t un-usual as I’d built up a great trust in here. Well on this “leave” my Dad said “Paul I’ve got something to tell you, go up to your room, and I’ll be up in a minute” So up I went, wondering what this could be. Well he was up in his minute as he said. He sat on the end of my single bed and said “Paul, I’ve been told by the staff, the Social Workers and other people involved in your life that it’s best that I tell you this” “hurry the fxck up I’m thinking” so he said “I’ve to tell you that I’m not your real father” He then just sort of patted me on my right shoulder, and got up and walked out my bedroom. I just sat there, hands clasped in front of me, staring straight ahead, had I heard him rightly there, did he just say he want my real Dad? Yes he said that, so I’m thinking “well if he’s not, who is?” I still don’t know. How cruel I thought. As you can imagine I absolutely despise this guy, battering me, not that a biological father has the right to do this, but who the hell is this clown, I’ve been arrested for things I’ve done to him, jailed, made to pay the scumbag comensation aswell. So now it’s my turn.
    Let the shit squirm. Of course I’d rather the judge just hand me the gun and let me take him into the bowels of the court and “Bang” end of.
    Yes my Dr started me off on my Opiate journey, but I firmly believe that this man has contributed to me not being able to handle life, so I kept on relapsing. You’ll hear of the sddict of today being put on methadone, and then going upwards in their dosage, and now there are very few rehabs left, so they’re “Parked on Methadone” while these “Workers” many of whom are ex addicts themselves, write out what you’ve just told them in your “file” (oh how important!)
    They may urine screen you, but if not, we’ll they then hand you your script. Piss off! You lot are just the “Middle Men” now, you are now just playing “Catch-Up” in your life, using our suffering, not cutting us down when we ask, even though our urine is “CLEAN” You get your wage, you pay your mortgage (Death) and it’s all for your benefit. You wonder why addicts, sorry “Clients” as you now “label” us who once could have a friendly relationship with you when you worked in rehabs” To now just being saw once a fortnight, talked a lot of crap too then handed the prescription, to “See you in two weeks”
    You work b 9-5pm, you have the easiest of jobs, the weekends off, yet there’s “ME” the screwed up child who has developed into the Fxcked up Adult that you want back on your books again as a “MEAL TICKET” One week you’ll get me, one week on the starting dose of 30ml, then I just won’t come back, oh yes you greedy fxck’s, you’ll phone me, you’ll try and “PERSUADE” me, but all to no avail, METHADONE IS NOT COMPULSORY! Voluntary it is. I seek you. Oh yes, for you folk out there Nobody forced a needle into my arm, (Nobody listened to me as a child either) but if you knew and have lived my life, well believe me, I’ve known a lot stronger folk, Men, than me to have said “fxck this, I’m off” and jumped in front of trains, one jumped from the top landing in our prison in Glasgow’s top level, four up. Some have deliberately put more Heroin in their syringe and put themselves down, so before the scum amongst you suggest anything. Take your shoes off, go on, now put mine on! “What? You want yours back already? No I think not, I like yours, please you say? How old are you? Oh, just 35 years old! Catch me then!, as I can run damm fine for a 51 year old! Your shoes are gone pal”
    How many people on a Methadone Programme “Top-Up?’ probably 75%, maybe more, do these “Workers care?” “Nope” I’ve just noticed now that in the Chemists “Needle Exchange’s” When you go in to give your old needles back (“Sin Bin” What kind of name is that? Why not just call it (“Your Dirty Scumbag Box” and be dome with it!) They now say “Are you on a Methadone programme?” “What? What difference is it to you?, does it make my page, with my “code” look any different? No. You’re here to provide me with my “Scumbag Box” and clean needles. So get on with it please, or I drop the Mr Nice guy. The thing is, even the hardest, meanest looking, fat, ugly, no make up on, sweaty looking dispensers in Glasgow, I break down quite quickly, as I do have a natural nice pleasant nature, and when I see these ‘types’ I shudder, and feel like saying “I can see right through you, but oh, wait, you have a white top on that has your Pharmacies Name printed on it (incase I’ve walked into your shop rather than Tesco next door), you’re ‘Important’ as of this white top, you have “Power” Sheera!! Growl! One wrong word from me, and “Zap” you have just barred me, and to think, there’s me standing laughing at you now, yeah, you’ve just realised that there’s a “Loyds Chemist” four doors down, does a better service I hear too, so why I came I here, rather than Loyds? Just so as you could stick those shoulder pads out, and pout, but do me a favour ‘Tessy’ lose the Skin Tight Black Leggings you’ve painted on “OH! NO! Not right now, I’m still here, my goodness woman, we have “Naloxone” for overdoses, but that, that I almost saw would bring anyone round! Up and away like Usain Bolt aswell!
    I’m away now. Sincerely…Paul.
    PS. Been a pleasure, and a heartbreak into the bargain. As for “Tessy” just a made up person (lol) though as there are literally thousands of you, well you know who you all are. Cheer Up! You get a wage from us too.

  3. Bill, I would strongly advise against cold turkey stopping at your high dosage. If you want to detox you should reduce 5 mg every 3 to 5 days until you get down to around 20 mg. Then you should taper more gradually with the final taper taking you fro 5 to 4 to 3 to 2 to 1 mg over a 2 to 4 week period. This 2 to 4 week final taper will be uncomfortable, but not unbearable. I know, as I have done it before when my pain abated for a few years before returning.

  4. I have been on methadone treatment for about 8 months to kick an opiod addiction. I went up to 90mgs but at that dose, I was constantly drowsy. I have started tapering down because I didn’t want to trade one addiction for another. I’m now down to 60mgs per day for the last month. I seem to be having a terrible time with the side effects. I’ve had insomnia pretty much from day 1 of treatment. I’m constantly fatigued. I can never sleep more than an hour without waking and have gained quite a few pounds. To sum it up, I’m just miserable. I previously was on suboxone and had no trouble at all with that particular medication. However, I was kicked out of the program for failing a drug test. In my current methadone program, I have been absolutely clean for 8 months and haven’t failed one drug test. I can honestly say my mental desire to use opiates is under control. It’s getting my body to let go of the dependence that I’m trying to overcome now. I hate the methadone so much, I’d almost consider quitting cold turkey but I’m terrified of ever experiencing withdrawal symptoms again. Does anyone know if going even lower with my dose would help with the side effects? Or what would happen if I stopped completely at this dose with withdrawal symptoms. Perhaps I should try to find another suboxone program. I’m at my wits end. I know I can’t continue with my current quality of life, which is zero quality. I’m also tired of being as much of a slave to the methadone dose as I was previously to pain pills. I just want to put this all behind me but I absolutely don’t want to get sick again. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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