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It is important that you understand the medicine that you will be taking if you choose to be admitted to our program. Methadone is a very successful drug used in the treatment of opiate addiction.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a synthetic (made in a lab) opiate which is administered daily to treat opiate withdrawal syndrome. It works by "occupying" the brain receptor sites affected by heroin and other opiates.

  • Blocks the euphoric and sedating effects of opiates
  • Relieves the craving for opiates that is a major factor in relapse
  • Relieves symptoms associated with withdrawal from opiates
  • Does not cause euphoria or intoxication itself (with stable dosing), thus allowing a person to work and participate normally in society
  • Is excreted slowly so it can be taken only once a day

Unlike heroin, methadone is long acting, usually preventing the beginning of withdrawal symptoms for 24-36 hours, once on the proper oral dose. It usually takes up to two weeks to find the right dose and feel comfortable. It can sometimes take longer. In order to benefit from methadone treatment, the patient must allow him/herself time to stabilize on the dose given. This includes, not using heroin or other drugs, including alcohol.

As helpful as methadone will be in your treatment, methadone alone is NOT enough. ARI patients are expected to participate in all parts of their treatment program.

Drug interactions with methadone

As with any medication, there are drugs that, when combined with methadone, can produce potentially fatal results. If you are taking any type of medication, to include over the counter medicines, you must notify the doctor at the time of intake. If you receive a prescription for any new drug or you need to take over the counter medication, you must bring in the prescription prior to your taking the drug. This will allow us to register the medication and educate you as to any potential issues.

As with heroin and other narcotics, it is NEVER safe to drink alcohol when using methadone. Excessive use of alcohol combined with methadone can cause breathing to stop, resulting in coma or death. ARI will not give you your medicine if there is proof (breathalyzer) that you have been drinking or if you refuse to be tested when nursing requests it.

Side Effects

Methadone’s side effects are usually minimal and short-lived. They most often occur in the early stages of treatment. Most patients do not experience severe side effects. Please notify the medical staff if you experience any of the following symptoms: light headedness, dizziness, extreme tiredness, nausea and vomiting, sweating, ankle swelling or skin rash.

Other side effects may include: restlessness, weakness, headache, insomnia, agitation, disorientation, visual disturbance, constipation, dry mouth, flushing of the face, low heart rate, fainting, problems urinating, changes in sexual drive, irregular menstruation, joint pain, joint swelling, and numbness.

Keep the medical staff informed by letting the nurse know if you experience any new or unusual symptom(s).

If you have any questions about medications, please talk with the doctor, nurse or your counselor.


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