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Sometimes, even medications designed to help us in our darkest hours can have risks of addiction. Methadone may be a treatment to help prevent withdrawal symptoms in individuals dependent on opioids, but since they are also an opioid, they still have significant risks of dependence. In addition to addiction treatment, methadone is a common treatment for chronic pain.

Using methadone as a treatment for heroin addiction has been around since the 1970s. This popular and effective treatment helps heroin addicts avoid severe and intense withdrawal symptoms. Getting through the withdrawals more easily can help reduce the chances of a relapse.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a fool-proof method. The  reported that methadone alone was responsible for ⅓ of all prescription painkiller deaths. Between people accidentally taking too large of a dose of their pain meds and intentionally abusing their methadone prescription, addiction, overdose, and death can all happen. The good news is that if you or a loved one are facing an addiction to liquid methadone, there are options available so you can get the help you deserve to get clean.

What is Liquid Methadone?

Methadone is a prescription medication for pain management and for those struggling to overcome an addiction to opioids. This medication can help patients who cannot take non-narcotic pain medications to help deal with moderate to severe pain. It also helps to block the symptoms of withdrawals from other opioids.

Patients can be given methadone in pill or liquid form, depending on their needs. There is also an injectable version that only a doctor can administer. Methadone itself is very addicting and can lead to uncomfortable to severe side effects, including abuse and addiction.

Liquid methadone is sold by the brand name Methadose and is a cherry-flavored red liquid. It is also available in an unflavored, clear liquid called Methadose Sugar-Free. These are intended to be taken orally, and injection can lead to complications and risk of infection.

When someone gets prescribed methadone, the dosage amount must be right, as giving someone too much can be harmful. Because liquid methadone is sometimes abused, it is possible to get it on the streets, but getting liquid methadone from a clinic is the way to go, as they take into account their general condition, medical status, age, and weight when determining the proper dosage for each patient.

For those taking methadone to get off of other opioids, 10 mg to 30 mg is a common starting dose. For maintenance, 60 mg to 120 mg is common. It’s also important to consult your doctor before you stop taking methadone, as that can come with its side effects.

How Does Liquid Methadone Work?

Methadone is a long-acting synthetic opioid used to help manage the withdrawal symptoms of individuals addicted to more dangerous opioids. Unfortunately, even though it is prescription only and is incredibly useful in addiction treatment, it is addictive as well. 

Liquid methadone works on the brain by binding to and activating the same pain receptors that other opioids like heroin do, but it can stay active in the body for much longer. Liquid methadone can keep the receptors busy for an average of 1-3 days. However, the long-acting nature of liquid methadone also makes it very easy to develop a tolerance, even a dependency, and eventually a potential overdose.

This helps block other opioids from acting on designated receptors and also reduces the uncomfortable and painful symptoms of the opioid withdrawal process. This means that while an individual is using liquid methadone, they will find it difficult, if not impossible, to get any effect from other opioids. 

One of the benefits of using liquid methadone instead of other opioids is that methadone will not give the user the euphoric effect they are often craving. This helps to break the use & reward cycle that so often drives the early use of opioids. In addition, it is often only dispensed in a clinical setting, leading to a lower occurrence of abuse issues, though it is still possible, particularly with take-home doses.

Side Effects Of Using Liquid Methadone

The side effects of liquid methadone are similar to the side effect lists of other far more popular opiates like heroin, fentanyl, and OxyContin. Just as with many other drugs, opioids, in particular, the side effects will often depend greatly on the individual potentially experiencing them. One of the first side effects that should be noticed is that any withdrawal symptoms present should begin to subside immediately. 

Another nearly immediate side effect is the loss of appetite. Once the individual has taken liquid methadone, they will generally lose any desire to eat. This can frequently evolve into a chronic condition since liquid methadone users will begin to eat less frequently and lose body mass. This can be exacerbated by receiving too large of a dose or taking a normal dose after missing doses of the liquid methadone, causing the individual to vomit.

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Eventually, long-term users of liquid methadone will begin to build a tolerance to the drug, so more of it will be needed to receive the same effect. Sometimes, this can cause individuals who have been in recovery for a long time to relapse to harder opioids so they can feel the effects again. 

The Potential For Overdosing on Methadone

This can also become an overdose if other drugs are used, especially with alcohol and benzodiazepines, which can cause many potential medical complications. Alcohol and benzodiazepines can significantly affect the central nervous system, just as opioids like liquid methadone and others do.

For those on a liquid methadone prescription, using other opioids or central nervous system depressants can have a devastating effect and even lead to seizures and death. Since liquid methadone blocks the effects and function of other opioids, this can likely cause an overdose if an individual takes other drugs before the methadone wears off. 

While the liquid methadone is active in the individual’s system, it will block out other opioids. Still, when it wears off, the body may suddenly be facing a flood of other opioids into the now empty receptors. This can cause a very large dose of potentially deadly opioids to suddenly kick in, slowing the user’s heart rate, dropping their blood pressure and respiration rate, and potentially overwhelming the body, putting it into a coma and eventually death.

Another possible overdose scenario can happen with only the liquid methadone without needing other drugs to help catalyze it. Since liquid methadone can stay active in the user for 1-3 days, new users may find that the liquid methadone builds up incredibly rapidly in their body. This build-up can happen over a few days and result in a possibly fatal overdose.

Recognizing a Methadone Overdose

Liquid methadone is a very powerful synthetic opioid, so even with careful dosing and vigilance, it can become a possibly dangerous substance. While overdoses are not incredibly common, they can still occur, especially in those who use without a prescription or potentially mix it with other medication. 

If you or someone you know has had a problem with opioids or methadone in the past, knowing how to spot a potential overdose can save a life. It may even be more likely to see it in someone with a history of opioid dependency. If someone is experiencing an overdose situation as a result of liquid methadone use, it is incredibly serious and requires emergency medical attention to prevent negative outcomes. 

Some common signs of an overdose on liquid methadone include:

  • Darkening or discoloration of the fingertips and nail beds
  • Dizziness
  • Constricted, minimally responsive pupils
  • Hypertension
  • Passing out
  • Nausea & Vomiting
  • Potentially fatal respiratory depression

Liquid Methadone Addiction Treatment Options

The unfortunate truth is that physical addiction to methadone can develop fairly quickly, and those ready to quit are likely to face powerful withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawals generally begin to set in within the first 24 hours following their last dose, while other people report withdrawal symptoms beginning several days after stopping.

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The most intense and painful withdrawals will happen within the first week to 10 days, with the entire process lasting between 3 and 6 weeks. Those taking a higher dose than 40 milligrams or those with a severe addiction could see a longer timeline.

In the first 24 hours, you can expect:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle aches
  • Rapid heartbeat

During days 2-10:

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Strong cravings for liquid methadone
  • Paranoia and hallucinations
  • Continued flu-like symptoms

From days 11-21:

  • Physical symptoms subside
  • Strong cravings
  • No feelings of pleasure or motivation
  • Depression

If you or a loved one have been dealing with a methadone addiction and are ready to get help today, reach out to our treatment center so you can start the next chapter of your life. You deserve to live the life you’ve always wanted, free from the bondage of drug addiction. 

Sources:

Infinite Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial guidelines and medical review policy.

  1. Jaslow R. Methadone to blame for one-third of U.S. prescription painkiller deaths, CDC says. Published July 4, 2012. Accessed June 29, 2022. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/methadone-to-blame-for-one-third-of-us-prescription-painkiller-deaths-cdc-says/
Amanda Stevens, BS

Medical Content Writer

Amanda Stevens, BS

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean Recovery, Ascendant NY, The Heights Treatment, Epiphany Wellness, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed June 29, 2022

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