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.

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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.

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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

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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:

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  • 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.

25 Comments

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  1. My daughter is 24 and was addicted to opiats she has been on the methadone program for two years now she is on a low dose of 12ml and has been down to 9ml but keeps going up to 12ml her tears are going black she gets very stressed and has anxiety sweats a lot and has a habit of picking herself face arms chest and legs, she is covered in sores and has two beautiful daughters one aged 3 and the other 6 weeks. I am very worried about if she will ever get of this methadone as it’s been a long time and she is still on it. She can’t funct properly with out it. Can you please give me some advice on how long she will be on this and wether she will ever get of it. I am very worried about her as it breaks my heart to see her like this. I think when she gets down to 9mls she see’s the doctor and tells him she can’t handle being on 9mls and needs to go back up to 12 mls. Please help.

    1. Hi Narelle. I suggest you call us and speak with our trusted treatment provider to learn more about the treatment options.

  2. I have chronic pancreatitis & I was prescribed at one point by pain management fentanyl, oxycontin, oxycodone. After several years and several operations my I Dr., spoke with a partner of his and was told the pain meds were working against me & making me worse. So recently he has pit me on methadone 20mg in the morning, 20 in the evening. To a point it works on the plain but the pain is still mainly intolerable. I was told Medicaid only prescribes 35mg but that isn’t quite doing the job. How do I explain this to my Dr., without him questioning me that I just want stronger meds? Actually I don’t but I need & want adequate relief.

  3. I’m 61 and have been dealing with some chronic pain issues; consequently, I decided to try methadone. It seems to help, but I still wake-up in the morning aching all over. Is this pain and aching related to “withdrawal” symptoms? That is, I take my 60mg oral (liquid) dose around 11am every day, and that is my only dose in a 24 hour period. If I wake-up at 9am hurting every day, is it due to withdrawal symptoms or just my arthritis?
    Thank you!

  4. A friend was addicted to cocaine. He went through treatment years ago and claims to be clean. I just found out he has been taking methodone for pain. it was not prescribed by his doctor. He is buying it off of someone. He claims that he has body pains that his regular doctor ignores. Should this be cause for alarm? Can he become addicted?

    1. Hi Ana. The risk for addiction is greater in individuals who have a personal or a family history with substance use disorders. Maybe your friend is really facing some chronic pains that he needs to manage. But, obtaining methadone illegally and using it without any doctor’s suggestions regarding dosage and frequency is first of all considered drug abuse and is illegal, and second of all can be dangerous.

      Maybe you can investigate a little more and dig deeper into the issue before you take matters into hands.

  5. My step daughters aged 23 and 33 are recovering (or not?) heroin addicts. They have been on methadone for almost 9 months now. My husband and I were told by their mother that we have to pay for them for just 6 months and then they would be off methadone treatment. Just prior to this we paid for suboxine for both of them. However, we are feeling continuously exploited as we are having to foot bills of 800$ a month as well as keeping them all in a house we have rented. They show no signs of wanting to take up any job and are living off us regularly for their day to day needs as well as drugs. We even pay for the elder daughters teenage son who lives with them.as well as a car for the younger one. Can you please tell us of a place where they can go to get free methadone and effective counselling for doing work? All their fellow addicts are paying for their habits. We have ended up trying to help but landing up with unending bills and a misplaced attitude of entitlement.

  6. Hello everyone, I have been on Methadone 10 mg., three times daily for just over five years for severe pain in lower back. I have discovered that it is at present the only pain medication that is relatively safe and does work for me, at the sugestion of my physician. I tried cymbalta and had a terrible experience, ended up in the emergency room, just from one cymbalta 30 mg, of course I stopped that medication right away. But continued to reduce my prescribed methadone and today I am now taking two 10mg, Methadone tablets per day, because it works for me, and I do not get high, or sick from it. However I am concern over Methadone and hear horror stories all the time, seriously is taking Methadone twice a day at 10 mg, per tab a danger to my health, memory, and teeth. I just want a clear answer, and I do not know of any pain medication, including grass, or aspirins being completly safe or will work for me, again Methadone is very affordable, it works, and it last, no highs, less pain, and I am able to function. Any suggestions as to an alternative pain medication that is notan opiate or narcotic for pain that is located in lower back from surgery many years ago, I am over sixty years old, with one of the first spinal fusions in the country, no rod and my spine is about 80% fused. Thank you and God Bless.

  7. Will Methadone eventually kill you,if you keep taking it for years.What type of conversation do I need to convey convince her that she is killing herself. She tells me she have got to have it.She is addicted and don’t want to stop.I Love her enough to get her some
    help.Please help me,so I can help her.

    1. Hello Michael. Although dependence to methadone is formed as a person continues to use it for some time, scientists say that long-term use of methadone is still long-term use of a potent opioid. However, if used for in maintenance treatment and as prescribed it’s not deadly. The side effect of long-term use of methadone can include some lung and respiratory problems, can interfere with menstrual cycles, may reduce libido and lead to sexual dysfunction. I hope these possible side-effects help you in convincing her. Maybe she’s afraid of the withdrawal symptoms which usually start in about 48 hours since the last dose was administered. So, you can go to a doctor’s office, and the doctor can explain the process of detox and gradual doses reduction. Be there to support her! Best of luck to the both of you.

  8. My boyfriend take liquid methadone everyday for pain but my thing is he spends $200 a month to go to clinic to get his outpatient doses, but what he use it for is a back injury he had 10 years ago and I have been with him for 4 if them years but if methadone is suppose to be for pain I don’t see any difference because he still complain about how bad his back is hurting. So I don’t get why he is taking it. It is also causing some different effects such as migraine headaches and a very low sex drive. If any one read this I would really like an opinion about this situation please. Is he addicted or just have a dependence for it? Is it just another way to be a pill head in a legal way? I know he use to pop lots of pills before he moved to the west coast, he comes from the east coast.
    Can anyone help me understand about methadone? Since I have never used and type of recreational drugs myself.
    Thank you

  9. My cousin is thinking of going to a dr. to help end his opiate addiction. The dr said he will taper him off methadone. I told him to wait bc I know methadone can cause sever withdrawl. My question is how many days of taking methadone would make u feel withdrawl symptoms when stopping?

  10. I agree with Luke.I was taking morphine for pain management but switched over to methadone but isn’t it just replacing one addiction for another? I always thought methadone was to get off of opiates but now Isee that when the time comes to stop methadone (Itake for pain by the way) it’s going to be just as hard as it would be with morphine. Fortunately for me I didn’t have the withdrawal from morphine because I went from it straiht to the methadone.

  11. I apologize for leaving out this little bit of information. There was no trading of one addiction for another. “Sometimes when people have surgery they require pain medication. ” So was the case for my daughter, after recent surgery to repair her tibia wth a steel rod and 9 screws. There is nothing Sweet about that.

  12. I recently posted a comment regarding the death of my daughter from an accidental overdose of oxycodone. I have to tell you on her path through pain mgmt, Methadone was by far the most debilitating of all the medicines prescribed for her to treat back pain. She went through withdrawal cold turkey and it ruined her teeth. She had a beautiful smile but you can’t regrow enamel. Hers was a long journey in the treatment of pain but it also shortened her life. If you take opiates for a long tlme you will have repercussions. They end up hurting you physically and psychologically. Life really is too short!

  13. Methadone should not be legal. People do and will always abuse this system! it’s ridiculous. If a patient in the UK can’t be prescribed marijuana (scientifically proven to have no physical addiction) as a medicinal drug then why recommend a drug that is addictive and far worse????

    Please someone answer me this because I feel this really makes no sense at all.

  14. hi ther im on the methadone programme here in new zealand its a hard area to breach and many disagree with it!! i personally thin that it is very addictive but i was a iv morphine user for 8years before i got onto the methadone programme and it saved my life!! i was on the streets (if you know what I mean), i was stealing to support me and my abbusive partner, i was robbed, luckily never raped or hurt phsycically but there had been 3 murders of working girls here since i started working and the night the last girl disappeared she was working on the corner up from me it so easily couldve been me that got taken and killed but it wasnt so yeah as i said methadone saved my life!! its hard at times and i know its gonna be very hard to come off but i wouldnt have my buetiful 2year old son if it wasnt for the methadone and id hate to think where i could have been now if not for it!! so for me it was a blessing as for alot of others, wher i live christchurch nz is apparently the opiate capital of austrilsia(i dont know about that) and i have alot of friends on the methadone they have sorted their lives out and even 2of them are coming off and 1 other has got down to 5mg a day so it can be done it helps alot of addicts get their lives back!!

  15. Hi Chris. Thanks for sharing about your experience with methadone. Congratulations on getting through detox. Did anything in particular help you manage the symptoms of methadone withdrawal?

  16. Methadone has run my life untll 60 days ago i was g on methadone for 7 yrs i was on 60mg and i detoxed with subutex for 8 days and jus stopped hardest thing by far i ever did and its day 60 my doc says im still going through withdrawl if yr not on itand yr on roxycodone or perc or hydro its a hell of alot to get off that then methadone xanax and methadone is the devil ive been on everything under the sun and xanax and methadone had a death grip on me

  17. This is probably one of the most controversial question amongst people in the recovery community. I recently started a linked in discussion with addiction professionals surrounding this specific topic, the responses were interesting (to say the least). I believe the proper use of methadone treatment is helpful perhaps to some, but it is addictive, requires detoxification to get off of and definitely pulls from the spiritual aspect of recovery. I definitely think that it should not be administered to young adults! Young adults shouldn’t be prescribed methadone.

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