hydrochloride) is available as 5 mg, 10 mg,
and 40 mg tablets and as an oral solution.
Methadone acts upon
specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord
to decrease the feeling of pain and to reduce
the emotional response to pain. The action of
methadone is similar to other synthetic
(man-made) medications in the morphine category
(opioids). Substances that are derived directly
from the opium plant (such as heroin, morphine,
and codeine) are known as opiates.
Methadone is used to
or chronic pain not caused by cancer when
other opioids, such as morphine, have not been
Methadone also is
commonly used to treat addiction to opiates
(such as heroin). Taken once a day, methadone
eases opiate withdrawal for 24 to 36 hours,
decreasing the chance of relapse.
controls cancer pain and other chronic pain not
cause by cancer. It may be a good option for
someone who has not had a good pain response to
other opioids, such as morphine.
As a treatment for
opiate addiction, methadone reduces the cravings
and withdrawal symptoms caused by opiate use by
blocking the "high" and preventing the intense
euphoric rush of these drugs. This allows people
to avoid the physical and psychological highs
and lows caused by changing levels of opiates in
the blood, decreasing the chance of relapse. In
some cases of opiate addiction, methadone
treatment may be needed for several years or
Methadone causes many side
which may be severe.
Talk with your
health professional about
use to prevent constipation.
constipation at home.
Make sure you drink enough fluids.
Most adults should drink between 8
and 10 glasses of water,
noncaffeinated beverages, or fruit
juice each day. Include fruits,
vegetables, and fiber in your diet
such as irritation, itching, or hives.
What To Think About
Methadone is a long-acting
medication and each dose stays in the body for a
long time. For this reason dosages should be
adjusted with caution, ideally by a pain
specialist. It may take a couple of days after
the medication is started before the dose of
methadone is fully effective.
In some people
methadone impairs balance, coordination, or the
ability to think. Do not drive or operate any
type of equipment if your are taking methadone.
Do not drink alcohol or
use other drugs while you are taking methadone.
Methadone can interact
with many other medications. Make sure that your
health professional is aware of all of the
medications that you are taking.
Methadone should be
used during pregnancy only if the benefits to
the mother outweigh the risks to the fetus. Talk
with your health professional before using
methadone if you are or may be pregnant. This
medication can pass through your body in breast
milk and should be avoided while you are
originally developed as a substitute for
morphine to relieve pain. Its effectiveness and
long duration of action led to its use in
maintenance programs for the treatment of heroin
addiction. For this reason many people are
reluctant to use methadone for cancer pain even
though it is very effective.