Methadone is a powerful medication that is part of a group of drugs called opioids. Methadone is prescribed by a doctor to treat people who have been addicted to opioids. It has similar effects to heroin but doesn’t deliver the same degree of buzz or high as heroin. When methadone is sold or given to someone it is not prescribed for, it is very dangerous.
Methadone, the mainstay of treatment for heroin addiction, was originally synthesized by chemists in Germany after the United Nations cut of their supplies of Turkish opium that were interrupted during World War II. It was developed as a morphine substitute for analgesic purposes.
The main pharmacological properties of methadone are similar to morphine and the other narcotics (codeine, Demerol, dilaudid, etc.). Cross-tolerance occurs with all other opiates. That is, the administration of any opiate will eliminate or stem the withdrawal symptoms of any other opiates. One is not addicted to both heroin and methadone – one is addicted to the drug class Opiates.
This drug is not a cure for opiate addiction. It is a pharmacological tool which suppresses withdrawal symptoms, lessens the craving for narcotics, and, coupled with therapy, facilitates those interpersonal interactions involved in strengthening motivations, changing lifestyle, and breaking the cycle of life patterns and stress reactions underlying relapse.
Some people who are prescribed methadone are allowed to take their medication home. These doses are called “carries.” Street methadone may come from people who sell or give away their carries. People who sell their methadone often try to make more money by “cutting” (diluting) their methadone with water or juice. Diluting methadone makes it more dangerous. No matter what the label says, you never know how much you are taking. A person can overdose by taking a stronger dose or a dose that is less diluted than usual.
Individuals who abuse methadone risk becoming tolerant of and physically dependent on the drug. When these individuals stop using the drug they may experience withdrawal symptoms including muscle tremors, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
Overdosing on methadone poses an additional risk. In some instances, individuals who abuse other narcotics (such as heroin or OxyContin) turn to methadone because of its increasing availability. Methadone, however, does not produce the euphoric rush associated with those other drugs; thus, these users often consume dangerously large quantities of methadone in a vain attempt to attain the desired effect.