Methadone, a prescribed medication, is used to relieve pain, particularly moderate to severe pain that has not been relieved by non-narcotic pain relievers. It can also be prescribed to avoid withdrawal symptoms in individuals who were addicted to opiate drugs. Methadone is in a class of medications known as opiate analgesics or narcotic analgesics. Methadone works to relieve pain by altering the way the nervous system and brain responds to pain. It has also been proved to work as a substitute for opiate drugs of abuse, such as heroin, by providing similar effects and preventing intense, sometimes fatal, withdrawal symptoms in people who have stopped the use of such drugs. Methadone comes as a tablet, a solution, and a concentration solution.
Your doctor should decide the dose of methadone necessary. It may be taken every 4 to 12 hours when used as a pain reliever. The medication can be habit-forming and patients are typically advised of this precaution. Other precautions include avoiding the use of alcohol or other depressants, alerting your doctor if you smoke cigarettes (e.g., tobacco has been shown to reduce the effectiveness), and being sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist of all other medications (including herbal treatments) that you are taking. Methadone has also been shown to cause a variety of side effects such as: drowsiness, weakness, headaches, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, constipation, weight gain, sweating, and swelling of the hands, arms, feet, and legs. As with any other medication, it is important to talk to your doctor about the risks of taking methadone for your condition. It is also important to follow the directions on your prescription label carefully.