Methadone is a medication prescribed for severe pain. It is also given to individuals recovering from heroin and prescription drug addiction.1 People who abuse these substances often change their brain chemistry. Drugs such as heroin and prescription painkillers attach to opiate receptors in the brain and intestinal system. Over time, the receptors become less and less responsive until they can no longer detect natural pleasure-producing chemicals on their own.2
Methadone is an acceptable substitute medication that helps individuals break addiction to heroin and painkillers while avoiding painful withdrawal symptoms. It attaches to opiate receptors to normalize body functions and bring relief without producing an addictive high. Doctors typically administer methadone through the withdrawal phase then decrease the dosage over time; however, some people stay on methadone for many years.3
- It is a long-acting medicine, and each dose stays in the body for a long time.
- It can take several days to become fully effective.
- Some individuals must continue methadone treatment for their entire lives.
Memory and Methadone
Methadone is a lifesaver for people breaking heroin and painkiller addiction, but it does have several negative side effects. It disrupts the way the brain handles cognitive processes which subsequently results in slower reactions and diminished alertness. Additionally, it can impair attention, learning ability and memory functions, including the following:
- Working memory – Short-term storage of numbers, words, names and other items
- Verbal memory – The ability to remember words and abstract concepts related to language
Once opioids start affecting brain chemistry and function, it is important to seek help in order to prevent damage from becoming permanent.
Like other narcotic medicines, methadone also slows down breathing. Respiration can remain slowed even after the pain-relieving effects of the medication have worn off. Other guidelines to follow in order to take methadone safely include the following:
- Never stop taking methadone suddenly.
- Call your doctor if you miss doses for more than three days in a row.
- Call your doctor immediately if you feel the medicine is not working.
- Do not combine with alcohol.
- Avoid driving or operating machinery until you know how methadone affects you.
Healing from Addiction
When taken under the supervision of a medical professional, methadone can be an important part of treating the physical consequences of opiate addiction. In addition to the provision of the drug itself, methadone maintenance should include ongoing psychological and medical support. Nutritional counseling can also be a component of recovery.
- Vitamin B-5
Recovery from addiction is not easy, but it is possible with courage, commitment and the right tools and support.
Recovery Help For Methadone
If you or someone you love struggles with addiction and other issues surrounding methadone, you are not alone. Addiction coordinators at our toll-free, 24-hour helpline, 760-548-4032, can help you begin your journey to a healthier you. You never have to go back to a life of addiction. Please call the number on this page to start your recovery today.
1 “Methadone.” Medline Plus. 15 March 2018.
2 “Prescription Opioids.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. June 2018.
3 “Opiate and opioid withdrawal.” Medline Plus. 20 April 2018.