Methadone Hydrochloride is an opioid (a synthetic opiate) that was originally synthesised by German pharmaceutical companies during the Second World War. Methadone was first marketed as ‘Dolophine’ and was used as an analgesic (a painkiller) for the treatment of severe pain. It is still occasionally used for pain relief.Methadone is now primarily used today for the treatment of narcotic addiction. The effects of methadone are longer-lasting than those of morphine-based drugs. Methadone’s effects can last up to 24 hours, thereby permitting administration only once a day in heroin detoxification and maintenance programs.
Methadone addiction is a bigger problem than ever, as many former heroin users turned to methadone treatment to help prevent heroin withdrawal symptoms in detox. While methadone does help to manage these physical symptoms to make it easier to get off heroin, it has many disadvantages of its own.Methadone is usually available as a liquid – linctus or methadone mixture – which should be swallowed. Tablets and injectable ampoules are sometimes prescribed, and like many other medicines some of these prescribed drugs are diverted and become available illegally.
Deaths occur more frequently at the beginning of treatment in methadone programs; they are usually a cause of excessive doses (i.e. erroneously estimated tolerance) and they are affected by concomitant diseases (hepatitis, pneumonia). Methadone generally entails the entire spectrum of opioid side effects, including the development of tolerance and physical and psychological dependence. Respiratory depressions are dangerous. The released histamines can cause hypotension or bronchospasms. Other symptoms are: constipation, nausea or vomiting, sedation, vertigo, edema.