In this session, we will be discussing the consumer medication information for methadone.
What it’s for & How to take
Methadone is used to treat moderate to severe ongoing pain. Methadone is also prescribed for addiction as part of an approved drug treatment program to help prevent withdrawal symptoms from stopping other opiate drugs. This medication is an opiate, and it works in the brain to block how the body recognizes pain.
Methadone is usually prescribed by your doctor to be taken on a regular schedule, not as needed. Your dose may vary depending upon why your doctor is having you take this medication. Take your dose exactly as prescribed. Do not change your dose of methadone without your doctor’s approval. This medication may be taken with or without food.
If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is near the time of your next dose, skip it and continue with your normal dose time. Do not take a double dose to make up the missed dose.
Your doctor may prescribe a short-acting pain medication to be taken with your methadone. This medication is used for sudden or sharp pain that flares up during certain times of the day.
Tell your doctor if your pain is not getting better. Your dose is based on your current condition and may need to be changed as your condition changes. Do not stop taking this medication suddenly because you may feel uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as muscle aches, sweating, nausea, and vomiting. Your doctor may decrease your dose over a time to decrease the withdrawal symptoms.
Most Important Warnings
- Methadone is only to be used with patients who need long acting pain medication when alternatives are not effective or appropriate. Start at a low dose and slowly increase only as instructed by your doctor.
- If this medication is used on a patient not used to taking narcotics, they may stop breathing. Serious or fatal cases have happened even with the regular dose. Swallow the tablet whole, do not crush or chew the tablet.
- This medication has an increased risk of abuse, addiction, and theft. Tell your doctor if you or anyone in your family has a history of substance abuse. Store this medication in a safe place to prevent theft.
- If a child accidentally takes even one tablet, they may stop breathing and die.
- When pregnant mothers use this medication, the unborn child is at risk. The newborn may need prolonged withdrawal treatment.
- Methadone may cause your heart to beat fast and unsteady. If you feel any severe dizziness or feel like your heart is racing or beating too fast, get medical help right away.
- If you are prescribed this medication for withdrawal from opiates, the law requires that you be enrolled in a methadone detox clinic. Talk with your doctor about this.
- Combining this medication with anxiety medications, such as diazepam or alprazolam, may cause extreme sleepiness, significant breathing difficulties, and death.
Other Warnings & Cautions
- Rarely, this medication may cause a drug seeking or addictive behavior. This risk is increased if you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse. If you follow the directions on the label and stay in good communication with your doctor and pharmacist, then the chances for addiction are lower.
- The elderly may be more sensitive to the side effects of this medication, especially the drowsiness, dizziness, constipation and urinary problems.
- Do not drive or do any activity that requires focus and attention until you are sure you can do them safely. Avoid alcoholic beverages while using methadone.
- Infants born to mothers who are using this medication are at risk. This medication should only be used during pregnancy when the benefit to the mother is greater than the risk to the unborn baby.
- Methadone passes into breast milk. Breastfeeding is not recommended while using this medication.
Interactions & Side Effects
- Tell your pharmacist or doctor all your medication allergies so they may determine if methadone is safe for you to use.
- Avoid dangerous drug interactions. Tell your pharmacist or doctor all the other medication you are taking, including over the counter supplements, even if you don’t take them very often.
- Ask your doctor if this medication is safe to take with your current health conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any heart disease, a slow bowel, chronic constipation, seizures, trouble urinating, low blood pressure, a family history of substance abuse or any other disease you have a history of.
- While using methadone, you may feel some nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness or constipation. If these or any other unwanted side effects persist, contact your doctor or pharmacist to talk about it with them.
- Constipation may be a problem when this medication is used. Talk with your pharmacist about what would work best for you to keep your bowels moving.
- Call your doctor right away if you have any heartbeat changes, hallucinations, seizure, loss of coordination or any other significant side effects.
- Call emergency 911 if you have any difficulty breathing.
If you have any questions about what you have heard, contact your pharmacist or doctor. This session does not include all the potential interactions or side effects that this medication may cause. Ask your pharmacist how your medication should be stored and how you should dispose of it when you are done taking it. Do not share your medication with anyone, ever. Remember, this is not meant to replace your counseling session with your pharmacist. In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.