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As a narcotic, opioid medication, methadone binds to opioid receptors in the body and produces several different effects. For example, methadone can help reduce cravings for other opioids, reduce withdrawal symptoms from opioids, and reduce the sedation effects of other opioids. Although most people tolerate this medication well, side effects of methadone are possible, such as nausea, dizziness, and sweating.

Medical Effects of Methadone

Methadone hydrochloride (Diskets®, Dolophine®, Methadose®) is a narcotic, opioid medication. It is used to treat addiction to heroin or other opioids and to treat pain. It binds to opioid receptors throughout the body and produces numerous different effects. In addition to relieving pain, methadone effects include:
  • Reduced cravings for other opioids
  • Relief and prevention of opioid withdrawal symptoms
  • Reduced euphoria and sedation seen with other opioids
  • Greater stability (fewer highs and lows), compared with other opioids, due to slow elimination of methadone from the body.
Methadone does not have any effect on addiction to non-opioid substances, such as alcohol.
(See What Is Methadone Used For? for more information.)

Recreational Methadone Effects

Because methadone is an opioid narcotic, it is sometimes abused for non-medical purposes. The drug works more slowly (and with less of a "high") compared with other opioids, so it is assumed that many people abuse methadone to prevent withdrawal symptoms when they cannot find or afford their usual opioid of choice, such as heroin or OxyContin®.
Although the practice of using methadone to replace other opioids is perfectly legal for people enrolled in methadone clinics, it is illegal for all other situations.
Methadone does not usually produce a fast or strong high, so people sometimes increase the dose to try to get a better high or combine it with alcohol or other drugs. These practices can be especially dangerous and are responsible for many of the deaths due to methadone abuse.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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