Methadone Addiction Help-Line

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Methadone Overdose

A methadone overdose can occur when an individual accidentally or intentionally ingests too much of the drug.  Methadone is increasingly being abused by people for recreational use, and this has been the cause of an alarming rate of methadone overdoses across the country. Using methadone with other drugs or with alcohol can also lead to a deadly overdose.  A methadone overdose is a serious medical emergency and could be fatal.  Signs of a methadone overdose can vary from person to person, so it is important for people to be educated in regard to all of the various methadone overdose symptoms. Some of the most common methadone overdose symptoms include but are not limited to: loss of breath, pinpoint pupils, weak pulse, low blood pressure, muscle spasms, stomach pain, blue lips, dizziness, noticeable drowsiness, confusion, fainting, cold and clammy skin, seizures and coma. If the patient loses consciousness, call for medical assistance as soon as possible. Because of the rapid onset of central nervous system depression that can occur in the case of a methadone overdose, it is not wise to encourage the individual to vomit, as this could lead to them choking.  When an individual is treated at a hospital for a methadone overdose, they may be given a counteracting drug which is called a narcotic antagonist. Other possible care that may be administered as the medical care  process may include, monitoring of the vital signs, pumping the individual's stomach, administering laxatives, and activated charcoal or intravenous fluids. In order for the best possible outcome in treating an individual that is experiencing a methadone overdose, emergency medical personnel need to know, if at all possible, the amount of methadone that was ingested, if it was combined with any other drugs or with alcohol, and when the methadone was taken.  Being able to provide all or part of this information could be the difference between life and death in the case of a methadone overdose.

The number of methadone overdose deaths has tripled in the United States in the last several years, according to the latest statistics. Coroner Vernon McCarty in Reno, Nevada has seen a fourfold increase in methadone overdose deaths in the last year. McCarty was recently quoted as saying that "There are too many methadone deaths to keep track of, and I have given up trying to count them all."The amount of methadone overdoses nationwide has also risen dramatically according to an analysis of death certificates that was conducted by the National Vital Statistics System. There have been more deaths in one year from methadone overdoses than the U.S. military has suffered in Iraq during the same period. Medical examiners have reported that over 80% of the methadone overdose deaths have been ruled accidental. Methadone overdose victims are often characterized as drug addicts by the media or criminals who purchase the drug illicitly on the street. Until recently, methadone was mainly given to heroin addicts to suppress their cravings for the drug. Today, in the U.S., doctors are increasingly prescribing methadone as a painkiller. The fact is that a large number of methadone overdose victims were prescribed the drug to treat their legitimate pain. Some methadone overdose victims took the drug as directed to treat legitimate pain, and it resulted in their death.  Dosages of 50 milligrams a day or less have resulted in numerous deadly methadone overdoses, but the insert in the packaging that comes with the drug recommends "2.5 mg. to 10 mg. every three or four hours as necessary, " or up to 80 milligrams a day.

There are various causes that are related to the rise in the cases of deaths related to methadone. In the case of methadone maintenance treatment, patients that continue abusing alcohol and other drugs, methadone overdoses may occur. As a percentage of MMT patients abuse the drug or sell their supply of methadone on the street, safety conscious clinics will have to implement rigid and restrictive rules in regard to take-home doses of the drug. There are large numbers of addicts who purchase methadone on the street to get high. The individual then takes too much methadone or combines the drug with alcohol and eventually passes out, stops breathing and dies of a methadone overdose. It is a fact than many methadone overdose victims had numerous drugs in their systems at the time of death. Another cause of a methadone overdose in which a patient could die is from taking the recommended usual adult dose that is on the methadone's package insert-information that comes with the prescription. At one time, the primary use of Methadone was to alleviate heroin withdrawal symptoms; the drug is now liberally prescribed by physicians to treat pain. Insurance companies are in favor of methadone being prescribed because it is cheap and effective.

A review of overdose deaths involving opiods has shown that a disproportionate number of them are related to methadone use, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine research.  The review showed that over 30% of such deaths involved methadone, when only about 5% of opioid prescriptions in the United States are written for methadone. Researchers did note that the problems appeared to be evident in those individuals that were prescribed methadone for pain and not those receiving the drug for methadone maintenance treatment. Patients that are prescribed methadone by a physician for pain should be closely monitored for adverse reactions to the drug, and and/or possible accidental overdose. Methadone should not be prescribed for pain without a thorough current medical history as the drug can exacerbate certain medical conditions such as colitis, asthma or emphysema, enlarged prostate, liver disease, heart disease, kidney disease, seizures and underactive thyroid.

The only way to avoid a possibly fatal methadone overdose is to stop using the drug. In the case of a drug addiction, the best way to make that happen is to seek drug treatment. When choosing a drug rehab program, find a treatment center that has a high rate of success in treating methadone addiction.

Methadone Facts

  • With high doses of Methadone, the feeling of sedation dominates and users feel sleepy. Too much, and you can fall into a coma or stop breathing completely.
  • The noticeable effects of methadone can wear off long before the drug is out of a person's system, making excessive use very risky.
  • Opiates such as methadone are sedative drugs that depress the nervous system. They slow down body functioning and reduce physical and psychological pain.
  • Methadone doesn't deliver the same degree of buzz or high as heroin. It allows people to tackle their psychological addiction and stabilize their lifestyle when used as a substitute for heroin. Such treatment may be continued for a long period of time in some cases.
  • When used to treat narcotic addiction, Methadone maintenance suppresses withdrawal symptoms for 24 to 36 hours.
  • Many people go from being addicted to heroin to being addicted to Methadone, and continue with this "treatment" for years, fearing the Methadone withdrawal symptoms that will occur when they stop.
  • In the United States, methadone clinics prescribe and dose in liquid form only, per federal regulations.
  • If you are a woman using methadone you may not have regular periods – but you are still able to conceive.
  • There are inpatient programs to help those with a methadone dependency. This is a great way to still be able to visit the person, yet getting them out of the environment that could potentially hurt them more or kill them.
  • Russia is very different from the U.S. regarding methadone addiction treatment. Methadone treatment for addiction is not only illegal, just promoting it, just talking about methadone maintenance favorably, is prosecutable under the law. In Russia, narcotic addicts receive narcotic detox and rehab.
  • Methadone works on the pleasure centers in the brain and creates a feeling of well–being.
  • Today, methadone is primarily used for the treatment of narcotic addiction.
  • The effects of methadone last longer than those of morphine–based drugs. Methadone's effects can last up to 24 hours, thereby permitting administration only once a day in heroin detoxification and maintenance programs.