Long term effects of methadone on the brain (INFOGRAPHIC)

By affecting the way the brain works, long-term methadone use can change one’s behavior, mood, emotions and psychological health. Check out the details in this infographic.

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Methadone abuse has adverse effects on the brain

Methadone is a useful medication when prescribed to people detoxing and recovering from opioid drug addiction and helps lower the harmful and risky consequences. However, due to it’s price and easy availability, methadone is also a common drug of abuse for many people who have not been prescribed or need it for therapeutic reasons.

What are methadone’s effects on the brain?

Methadone in most people produces feelings of sedation and contentment as a result of its action on the opioid receptors of the brain. When methadone is abused, one of the main reason for the abuse are the feelings of high and lethargy. However, in those who abuse methadone continuously for a longer period of time, more serious side effects can be observed. Those adverse effects include:

Long term effects of methadone on the brain (INFOGRAPHIC)

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  • confusion
  • depression
  • disorientation
  • hallucinations
  • mania
  • mental clouding
  • mood changes
  • restlessness
  • sleep problems

Methadone dependence and addiction

Methadone is an extremely physically addictive drug, and the risk of addiction is higher when it is not used under the supervision of a doctor or addiction treatment provider. Dependence to methadone is developed in both, therapeutic users and abusers. It is simply the result of our organism getting adapted to the presence of the medication, so when doses are lowered or abruptly stopped, withdrawal symptoms occur.

Methadone effects on the brain questions

Now it’s your turn! Send us your comments and questions by posting them in the section at the end of the page and we’ll try to provide a personal and prompt response. Also, if you like our infographic and find the information useful, feel free to SHARE it.

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. I want to give a little hope to those that may feel as though they are caught by the liquid handcuffs (Methadone) it was 15yrs ago and I was just a very awkward 25yr woman trying to find my place in this ever changing world, when I met a group of music hipsters that appeared to be so cool and laid back. Never in my life had I smoked a cigarette or even head an alcoholic beverage. I guess you could say I was green and naive. Fast forward and I’m now 40yrs of age and I’m on 3 of that group oh hipsters let alive today. After being on heroin and any other drug I could get I literally just decided enough it’s enough, let me try methadone to break this cycle of hell I’m perpetually spinning around in. So out go the drugs and in comes the lesser of two evils, methadone. I’m placed on 60mg and given 6 take aways so have 1 at the pharmacy and take 6 home with me. I thought to myself I can get off this in no time, boy was i wrong. I’ve been stuck with the liquid handcuffs for almost 3 yrs which in comparison to some people it may not seem all that long, but to me it’s long damn enough. I decided to start reducing, Dr wrote on my script, can reduce upto 2.5mls a week so I did exactly that until I reached 27.5ml. Stay with me cause this is where it starts to get good. After doing some of my own research I found a few medications that take methadone withdrawal away, completely. So you see, my last dose of Methadone 27.5 ml was on Monday 7am it is now Saturdayand I feel absolutely amazing. No kicks, no sneezing, no diarrhea, no nausea, no migraine, no creepy-crawlies under my skin, no body aches. I just stopped my dosing and used the medications I found that are proven to work. You will need a script for them but just tell you Dr you are coming of methadone, heroin etc and they’ll write a script. So here are the medications you need – Ativan 2.5mg twice daily + clonadine x 4 take 2 clonadine with 1 Ativan or do what I do and take 2 Ativan and 3 clonadine together. The clonadine gets rid of any leg spasms or pains in your body and the Ativan works wonders to quiet everything down. You’ll get passed or all day, certainly do not drive any vehicle. Best top just lay around the house and wait for the methadone to no longer be in your system. Get enough ativans and clonadine to last at least 10. Hope that helps some of you

  2. Hey everyone..I went cold turkey on June 1 2018…13 years on Methadone..Shared husbands script.. I did 20-30mgs a day..he had 50mgs plus morphine..He had physical issues since 1990…ANYWAY..I lost him on May 9th, 2018…just 3 months ago…He developed Alzimers in 2016 and became severe quickly in 2018..pnemonia..ulcers and septis set in..He died at home with Hospice Care.. .So you could say I have dealt with a double whammy..I am 41 days clean and I am just at a good point..Im fatigued alot..grieving still..I made it..never going back..I am 62 same as hubby..If I can do it ..I have hope you all can to..Talking helps but I cannot find any chats that are realistic…

  3. I am currently on 25 mL of methadone, I am slowly tapering down 5 mL a week from 35 mL. I was on methadone for two years but got off of it four years ago. I had a slip up and starting taking perks again a year ago and some slowly worked my way back up to using heroin again. I started the methadone program 4 months ago starting at 25 mL (that’s all try would start me on due to fentinyl in my system, and the dr was worried about OD.)
    So, like I said I am tapering down and am at 25mL, going down 5 mL a week for the time being, until I get to 20mL and then I will probably go down 2 or 3 mL a week to reduce feelings of withdrawal (which I am feeling mildly right now from last Thursday’s drop from 30 to 25 mL.
    Wish me luck, if I did it once I know I can do it again. I don’t want to be a methadone user for life,

  4. I’ve been taking methadone for 20 years (not prescribed) I’m 60 years old not in good health I. was taking 40 mg but tapered down to 20mg after a long year(sick every day) is stopped taking methadone and went on Subutex it’s been 4 months and I feel like I’m more sick everyday will I ever feel ok?

  5. So glad I found you. Feeling down about my constant dizziness. Last dose of methadone March 24 2017. Will celebrate my year at NA soon. Am 63. Was addicted to codeine for 25 yrs. Went on methadone 12 yrs ago. 30 mg. Very successful for me. Humbling yes. But followed program to the letter. Went to 7 week detox and rehab . Have been sick every day since then but am getting better all the time. Exercise 2 hrs a day. Belong to NA Al-anon church have addiction counsellor do positive readings daily. Feel wonderful being opiate free. But this constant dizziness is hard. My husband of 30 yrs has been relapsing on crack for past year. My brain can’t take any stress. So am coping well due to my programs. Can someone please give me hope that I will recover from the dizziness? Thank you so much for listening


  6. I have taken my niece in as no one else could handle her actions and behaviors. From what I understand she was kept on methadone for 11 years. She talks erratically every waking moment is confused and goes into rage quite often as if she is having an argument with someone and evreybody but no one is there but her. I want to see her have peace of mind what can I do to help or get her help

    1. Hi Max. Call the helpline you see on the website to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant who can help you find the best rehab program for your niece.

  7. If you plan to taper off methadone, plan on it being a lifestyle change if you want to experience as little withdrawal symptoms as possible. You need to do everything possible to get your body producing endorphins. I’m talking about Christmas lights, music, exercise (especially swimming), supplements (take nutridone or create your own cocktail), B12 & Vit C for absorption, sunlight, smile, laugh, say positive things out loud, and the list goes on. Trust me when I say that half-measures don’t work and if your current environment isn’t conducive to you getting better, do whatever it takes to find one that is and work on a new environment to go back to when you’re done with the detoxing. I don’t have money, but I have a lot of things I could sell and a job provides money and accountability. Find someone or something to hold yourself accountable to. I hadn’t gone 1 day without a cigarette in 26 years and I met someone who hated it and I had wanted to quit for a long time but I knew I’d fail if I didn’t have the right motivation and for me, it was this person. I quit and never thought twice about it. I’m thankful that this person came into my life and even though they aren’t anymore, I know now that given the right motivation, I can succeed. I’m not saying it’s gotta be a person or that I should sit around and wait for the right thing to come along, I am saying, I didn’t know how I was ever going to quit smoking even though I hated it and wanted to quit. Thanks for listening and I hope it helps someone.

  8. Recovering addict with severe chronic pain…went to the clinic a few years but the crowds there are bad influences and I’d start back on my old ways….the last clinic I was at wanted everyone at 300-400mg so they would refrain from all drug use and they’d have you hooked for life. I was prescribed 500mg+ of oxycodone a day by several doctors….then when that went away,switched to illicit pills,then heroin and finally the methadone clinic for 3 years where I got up as high as 150mg….I kept testing positive for cannibis and they threatened me with expulsion if I didn’t up my dose….testing positive formheroin was no problem and was again met with a dose increase.

    1) a high dose of methadone is just as bad for you as any high dose of opiates,probably worse long term than any!! You people on 60mg+ are just fooling yourself that you are stone cold sober. Mark my words,when you cut your dose back,it’s like a fog blowing away from your brain. Please don’t think I’m belittling your sobriety,I’m not. You don’t even realize it yourself to you start cutting back on your dose. Before you tell me I’m wrong,try weening down over a period of time 1-2mg at a time. A long steady WD,not what a clinic forces you into 5-10mg at a time.

    2)of course methadone works as a mood stabilizer like all narcotics,that’s why it’s called “self medicating”. No offense to you but every addiction counselor should know that,it’s the basics…..suboxone/bupenorphine has actually been going on clinical trials as an anti depressant/mood elevator for while….so is ketamine if that says anything about big pharma

    3) methadone is the worlds hardest to get off!! I left the clinic almost 2 years ago and managed to ween myself off to 4mg daily and it’s like I’m stuck there. I can stretch dosing to 36-40 hours but I feel really run down and my legs hurt for days. I have major trauma to both legs

    4) methadone is the gold standard for neuropathic pain,even at very,very small doses

    5)some people have teeth problems on methadone. I know myself and many others who did……don’t believe them when they tell you it’s just an urban legend.

    6) for many people,methadone causes them to crave sweets(could be another reasons for tooth problems)

    7) many people put on weight after being on methadone. Myself I dropped 45lbs after weening myself down. I’ve always weighed 165-175 since I was a teen and I weighed as much 220lbs when I was at the clinic. I’m back to 175 now.

    And most importantly?

    Most pain/addiction problems could be solved with marijuana instead of opiates!! But big company’s don’t get rich doing that….or by getting you off drugs,you just have a different dealer….

    Don’t get me wrong,I’m glad there is a methadone clinic. At the time,it truly saved my life and I am greatful for that……but they try there damndest to make you a slave to it!!! There’s big profits from our suffering!

    The people at the clinic I went on 300mg+ were usually lortab addicts!! I was shooting fentanyl and 70mg kept me from having WDs and most cravings.

    Good luck! Just believe in Jesus and resist the temptation so you don’t wind up a statistic! And keep good company! God bless you all.

  9. Note to all. You should never take dosages higher than prescribed by your doctor or clinic, and medical supervision is advisable when discontinuing.

  10. If quiting methadone cold turkey how long does it take to get out of my system. I’ve been at a clinic for about 4years. I was up to 100mg and decreased to 70mg and just decided I couldn’t afford it anymore. So it’s been a week so far and I don’t feel any withdraws. That’s my main concern.

  11. My husband has been on methadone since November 2016 he was on hospice. He is off hospice now and we are trying to get him off the drug. He was on 45mg a day, and over the past few weeks we have gotten him down to 30mg. Is that to fast? He complains of stomach pains is that normal for withdraw? He is moody as well. I give him ativan to help with the anxiety and moods. I guess our goal is to get him off of this medicine.

    1. Hi Leigh. Abdominal pain is very common withdrawal symptom from methadone. I suggest that you speak with his doctor that can help you create an individualized tapering schedule. Also, you may consult with a pharmacist to recommend some over-the-counter aid, home remedies, teas, vitamins and supplements that can ease withdrawal.

  12. Yes after 12 years being on methadone ,I have experienced all of this. Fortunately I have enough financial resources at 68 to look after myself, but barely now as my food intolerances have become a major issue. I am well educated and I have a very strong mind . I seem “bullet proof” to all the measures I have taken through mainstream and complimentary/alternative medicine. I have spent a small fortune on this.

    I am not suicidal since I have strong feelings about that having lost a family member plus friends and clients to the type of “inverted homicide” . I have recently come to have noticed that the alcohol abuse… which helps tremendously with the neuropatic pain …in my view, is a forum of slow suicide. I need help with my burning neuropathies ,which the opioids and ,benzos (to sleep) drugs only minorly mask…and come with many unwanted side effects…. and I need a way out of this place.

    When I compare my high functioning healthy self at 50 to 55 to my now desperate state at 68, I can hardly believe it some days. I am willing to try almost anything to reduce the NP and then sobriety is easy since I would have not need to drink and have proved that by being C & S for 32 years from 25 to 57. I now feel like I am in a “no exit hell”

    Although I am totally against suicide, however,I wonder why the ‘Higher Power” does not just take me home? I am a deeply spiritual person but not a religious fanatic having been raised in the old United Church by loving and involved parents and then finding some practical insights through the various forms of “North American Buddhism”

    I gather with all the suffering in the world(it is the children that bothers me the most having raised two find boys and now have grandchildren) has a purpose ,however ,so far ,I have only deepened my compassion for all those who suffer. Is that the message? When is enough…enough?

    Kindest Regards


    “One day I walk in flowers
    one day I walk on stones
    Today I walk in hours
    One day I shall be home
    One day I shall be home”

    Bruce Cockburn

  13. Hey everyone I can tell you this with a great deal of experience . I have been on opiates for about 20-21yrs now because of chronic pain syndrome first starting with dihydrocodiene,hydrocodone,tramadol,darvacet,oxycodone,Demerol,morphine sulfate and maybe more I can’t remember but started on the methadone probably 11yrs now the morph.sulfate 24hr wasn’t lasting 24hr. So the dr. Started 15mg.of methadone with the MS for 24 hrs pain relief then decided to go strictly methadone 15mg 4xday=60mg a day and been ever sinse dec.2016 the V.A.decised to cut all chronic pain patients meds due to new DEA restrictions so the VA sent me to a civilian painclinic amd I had to stop taking methadone and they prescribed MS Contin 30mg.2xday and first oxycodone 10mg.4xdaybut now switched the oxycodone to opana 10mg.4xday but let me tell you I have never in my life been in so much pain and completely totally miserable I can’t sleep can’t hardly eat have loose bowels and just feel like pretty much like dying it’s been 14days now and still physically sick.

  14. I have come with a open heart to share and also testify my path with my kind.The CLINIC 5 years ago dor me with 3 kids stay home mom was a immediate Saviour for such a time as this I did well for couple years.Went thru alot Marital issues which lead to using xans the last 3 years.So total of 4 years on max cause i wasnt using right max bout 300 mg a day and 5 of the xan bars a day…I lost my mind and my family.x3 occurances where I know I dont know why im still here today I am.3 times I can recall at the end when I lost everything i passed out in That Sweet medicated peaceful Moment something woke me lifted my body up and over bed I was dying Vomiting all alone in hotel room..Theres no way once I passed out i would sleep at lest for good 10 hours once i mixed both… I was 2 hours in slumber I know who lifted me up my goodness..that was x1 2nd occurance 2 nights later I passed out with cigg and woke up to matress flaming.3rd time I had ran my bath woke up with my nose and body out of water just enough had been couple hours so water was freezing I was shivering..I Am so blessed and thankful for good it brought me and bad and to My God I medically detoxed out clinic cause I had lost everything I did it He’ll I font know how I went down 5mg day ..Once fully off My mind was like a fuzz ball I couldn’t think or see my emotions and feelings were in full force again .Cravings for whatever full force ..I can say I started on suboxone after about few months of chasing spped to just make me feel normal concentrate …I’m still noti ing a lot of after effects in mind …I wasted so much time and family moments I should have went suboxone I didn’t.Shoulda coulda woulda.I’m glad I was taken thru that it plays huge part in my Redeeming Story…I’m still picking up pieces ..With every fiber of my being In thankful for air I’m breathing…I pray for All my Kind in Heart and Good Vibes to each of you..

  15. I have a question. I work in a MMT and also have worked in mental health settings for years. In working with folks that have untreated Bipolar Disorder and are prescribed methadone, I noticed something interesting. Methadone seems to act like a mood stabilizer to varying degrees with these individuals. Not as well as traditional mood stabilizers but fairly well. Other folks working in other clinics including some doctors have noticed this as well. I found some literature that supports this but very little. What is your thoughts on this matter and are you aware of any research in this area?

  16. I wad on 90 mg of methadone for 11 years. It took me 10 months before I felt normal. The first 3 months was pure hell.Even with suboxone

  17. I’ve been on 140mg of meth for two years. It has completely made my opiate cravings dissappear. I’ve been told that just as diabetes patients need insulin, addicts need methadone to heal themselves from resorting to harder drugs. I believe it has saved my life although some of my addiction counselors wish that I would get off of it. I however feel that I know what’s best between staying on or getting off when it comes to myself. I can’t speak for other people.

  18. I been on meth for 25 years . i stopped using all drugs. My urines been clean for years. Im on 160 mg. Of meth. I know its a high dose. Ive been afraid the meth has done something to.my brain at that high dose but being the addict that i am. I dont want to get off cause i. Think of the meth as my drug. I been reading about meth and what it does to your body. I wish there was a. Way to get off of it with out any withdraw.

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