Is methadone addictive?

YES. Methadone is highly addictive. This is even the case when methadone is prescribed by a doctor. We review what methadone is made of, and how you get addicted to methadone here.

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YES. Methadone is addictive.

But how methadone works for opiate addiction doesn’t necessarily make methadone addictive. Basically, if you seek a methadone high, methadone addiction is possible. If you take methadone as prescribed, you’re not likely to become a methadone “addict”. We’ll review more here and we invite your questions about the addictive potential of methadone (or any relevant question about methadone) at the end.

What is methadone used for?

A narcotic painkiller, methadone is used to help manage pain that is moderate to severe in nature. However, methadone is primarily used in the detoxification and maintenance of opiate dependence, particularly heroin. Methadone alters the body’s perception of pain by binding to opiate receptors in the brain. Methadone also lessens the symptoms of opiate withdrawal and can block the effects of opiate drugs. While a methadone dose for addiction can occasionally cause feelings of euphoria, along with dizziness, lightheadedness, and even mood changes, euphoric effect is less frequently experienced by people who take methadone as prescribed.

What is methadone made of?

Methadone, or 6-dimethylamino-4.4-diphenyl-3-heptanone, is a synthetic opioid that blocks the effects of heroin and other prescription drugs containing opiates.   In other words, methadone is a synthetic, man-made version of opiates that is created in laboratories.

How addictive is methadone?

While methadone can cause physical dependence, it is not as addictive as other opiate and opioid substances. However, methadone’s strong effects on the central nervous system can cause it to be frequently abused in an attempt to “get high”. While methadone has been used for decades to treat individuals who suffer from addiction and dependence on heroin and narcotic pain medicines, when taken as prescribed, methadone is safe and effective. Still, methadone is available only with a doctor’s prescription.

Methadone dependence vs. addiction

Methadone dependence is not necessarily the same as methadone addiction. Using methadone responsibly and for legitimate medical reasons can still lead to a dependence on the medication. A dependence simply means that person is unable to stop taking methadone without side effects.

An addiction is more complicated than a simple dependence. An addict will experience the same withdrawal effects, combined with strong cravings for the drug, and compulsive use of the drug, despite negative consequences.

How do you get addicted to methadone?

If you’re taking methadone as directed by your doctor, you probably don’t have a problem with methadone even if you’re dependent. But if you’re taking larger doses than prescribed to try to achieve psychoactive effects, you’re misusing the drug. You’re also much more likely to become addicted this way. You’re at a higher risk of methadone addiction if you’ve been addicted to other drugs or alcohol in the past.

If you make a conscious decision to misuse methadone, it’s very likely you’ll become addicted. Some ways that people misuse and abuse methadone are:

chewing, snorting or injecting methadone pills

taking methadone without a prescription

Signs of methadone addiction

It’s true that methadone dependence and addiction can be hard to tell apart. But methadone addiction involves a psychological craving for the drug. You may be addicted to methadone if you need to take it to deal with daily stress. Other signs of methadone addiction include:

  • Continued use and abuse of methadone despite negative life consequences
  • Craving methadone and using methadone compulsively
  • Seeking methadone in order to stimulate the “reward center” of the brain

Methadone addiction potential questions

Do you still have questions about methadone addiction potential? Please leave them here. We are happy to help answer your questions personally and promptly. If we do not know the answer to your particular question, we will refer you to someone who does.

Reference sources: CDC Vital Signs Prescription Painkiller Overdoses: Use and Abuse of Methadone as a Painkiller
NIDA International Program Methadone Research Web Guide: Can methadone and buprenorphine be abused?
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: How to Use Methadone Safely
ToxNet: Methadone
Medline Plus: Methadone Oral
PubChem: Methadone
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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