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Does Methadone Cause Heart Problems?

Does Methadone Cause Heart Problems

Does Methadone Cause Heart Problems? Signs Of Heart Problems While Taking Methadone.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is prescribed to relieve severe pain in individuals who are expected to need pain medication around the clock for a long time and who cannot be treated with other medicines [1]. It is also prescribed to prevent opioid withdrawal symptoms in people struggling with addiction who are enrolled in opioid use disorder treatment programs to stop taking or continue not taking the drugs. Methadone is in a class of medications called opiate (narcotic) analgesics. It works to treat pain by changing how the brain and nervous system respond to pain. In addition, it works to treat people who were addicted to opioid drugs by producing similar effects and preventing withdrawal symptoms in people who have stopped using these drugs.

Also known as Methadose or Dolophine, methadone is a synthetic opioid that is classed as a Schedule II substance. When used repeatedly, the body will become dependent on this drug, so users who try and quit cold turkey will experience opioid withdrawal symptoms until the drug is fully eliminated from the body. In methadone detox, patients are treated for withdrawal and allowed to slowly put an end to their dependence.

Does Methadone Cause Heart Problems
Methadone per se, does not damage the heart, however, long-term use of methadone does slightly increase the mortality from heart disease.

Can you snort methadone? Some drug users crush and snort or inject this drug to get high. These individuals may also get addicted to the drug and suffer methadone withdrawal until the drug is eliminated from the system. Snorting methadone is a quick route of administration of the drug, sending it straight across the blood-brain barrier for a near-instantaneous high. The risk for opioid overdose when taking methadone in this manner is much higher than it is when taking it orally. Less of the drug is needed for fatal results as well.

Methadone Side Effects 

Methadone may cause some unwanted side effects, along with its needed effects. Although not all of these side effects may happen, if they do happen, they may need medical attention [2].

Side Effects Needing Immediate Medical Attention

Check with your physician immediately if any of the following side effects arise while taking methadone:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Blurred vision
  • Blood in the urine or stools
  • Bulging soft spot on the head of an infant
  • Change in the ability to see colors, especially blue or yellow
  • Changes in skin color
  • Cough
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Confusion
  • Coughing that sometimes produces a frothy pink sputum
  • Diarrhea
  • Darkening of the skin
  • Decreased urine output
  • Dizziness
  • Difficult, fast, noisy breathing
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • Dilated neck veins
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Hives, itching, or skin rash
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased sweating
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irregular, fast or slow, or shallow breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mental depression
  • Muscle pain or cramps
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, or lips
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain
  • Pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin
  • Pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • Puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • Sweating
  • Seizures
  • Swelling of the face, fingers, feet, or lower legs
  • Tenderness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble urinating
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Weight gain

Get emergency help immediately if any of the following symptoms of overdose happen while taking methadone:

Symptoms of overdose

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Change in consciousness
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Coughing that sometimes produces a pink frothy sputum
  • Constricted, pinpoint, or small pupils (black part of the eye)
  • Decreased awareness or responsiveness
  • Irregular, fast, slow, or shallow breathing
  • Increased sweating
  • Loss of consciousness
  • No muscle tone or movement
  • Pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin
  • Slow or irregular heartbeat
  • Sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles

Side Effects Not Requiring Immediate Medical Attention

Some methadone side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may disappear during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects.

Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

  • Anxiety
  • Absent, missed, or irregular menstrual periods
  • Blurred or loss of vision
  • Confusion about identity, place, and time
  • Constipation
  • Decreased interest in sexual intercourse
  • Disturbed color perception
  • Double vision
  • False or unusual sense of well-being
  • Halos around lights
  • Irritability
  • Inability to have or keep an erection
  • Lack or loss of strength
  • Loss in sexual ability, desire, drive, or performance
  • Night blindness
  • The overbright appearance of lights
  • Redness, swelling, or soreness of the tongue
  • Restlessness
  • Stopping menstrual bleeding
  • Tunnel vision
  • Welts
  • Weight changes

Side Effects on Heart

Methadone may cause a life-threatening heart rhythm disorder. Call your doctor at once if you have a headache with chest pain and severe dizziness, and fast or pounding heartbeats. Your heart function may need to be checked during treatment. 

Side Effects on Stomach

Methadone can cause various side effects associated with an upset stomach such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain. Many similar symptoms are associated with opiate withdrawal but while taking methadone, these symptoms are generally less severe and will subside on their own in time. If you experience any side effects that prevent you from holding down fluids for a prolonged period, you should seek prompt medical attention as this could lead to dehydration and other serious complications.

Does Methadone Cause Heart Problems
Methadone may cause a life-threatening heart rhythm disorder. Your heart function may need to be checked during treatment. 

Side Effects on Skin

Feeling itchy after taking methadone isn’t usually a major cause for concern. This is common, and the sensation may subside shortly. A methadone allergy or adverse reaction to methadone, however, is worth discussing with your doctor. Together, you can both determine whether continuing to take methadone is right for you.

Methadone Side Effects on Teeth

Methadone side effects on teeth aren’t often as pronounced as what’s seen with methamphetamines, but it can contribute to some tooth decay. The reason methadone’s side effects on teeth are present is that it can cause dry mouth, which increases the presence of bacteria and plaque in the mouth.

How To Take Methadone

Methadone comes as a tablet, a dispersible (can be dissolved in liquid) tablet, a solution (liquid), and a concentrated solution to take by mouth. When this drug is used to relieve pain, it may be taken every 8 to 12 hours. If you take this drug as part of a treatment program, your doctor will prescribe the dosing schedule that is best for you. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take methadone exactly as directed.

If you are using the dispersible tablets, do not chew or swallow before mixing the tablet in a liquid. If your doctor has told you to take only part of a tablet, break the tablet carefully along the lines that have been scored into it. Place the tablet or piece of the tablet in at least 120 mL (4 ounces) of water, orange juice, or a citrus fruit drink to dissolve. Drink the entire mixture right away. If some tablet residue remains in the cup after you drink the mixture, add a small amount of liquid to the cup and drink it all.

Your doctor may change your dose of methadone during your treatment. Your doctor may decrease your dose or tell you to take this drug less often as your treatment continues. If you experience pain during your treatment, your doctor may increase your dose or may prescribe an additional medication to control your pain. Talk to your doctor about how you are feeling during your treatment with methadone. Do not take extra doses of this drug or take doses of methadone earlier than they are scheduled even if you experience pain.

Do not stop taking this drug without talking to your doctor. Your doctor will probably want to decrease your dose gradually. If you suddenly stop taking methadone, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, teary eyes, runny nose, yawning, sweating, chills, muscle pain, widened pupils (black circles in the middle of the eyes), irritability, anxiety, backache, joint pain, weakness, stomach cramps, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, nausea, decreased appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Methadone Warnings

Before taking methadone,

  • Tell your doctor if you are allergic to methadone, any other medications, or any of the ingredients in the methadone product you plan to take. 
  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, and nutritional supplements you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention the medications listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING section. Many other medications may also interact with methadone, so be sure to tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking, even those that do not appear on this list. Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
  • Tell your doctor what herbal products you are taking, especially St. John’s wort and tryptophan.
  • Tell your doctor if you have any of the conditions mentioned in the IMPORTANT WARNING section or have ever had a blockage in your intestine or paralytic ileus (a condition in which digested food does not move through the intestines). Your doctor may tell you that you should not take this drug.
  • Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had difficulty urinating; an enlarged prostate (a male reproductive gland); Addison’s disease (a condition in which the adrenal gland does not make enough of certain natural substances); seizures; or thyroid, pancreas, gallbladder, liver, or kidney disease.
  • Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding. If you breastfeed during your treatment with this medication, your baby may receive some methadone in breastmilk. Watch your baby closely for any changes in behavior or breathing, especially when you start taking this drug. If your baby develops any of these symptoms, call your baby’s doctor immediately or get emergency medical help: unusual sleepiness, difficulty breastfeeding, difficulty breathing, or limpness. 
  • Talk to your baby’s doctor when you are ready to wean your baby. You will need to wean your baby gradually so that your baby will not develop withdrawal symptoms when he or she stops receiving methadone in breastmilk.
  • You should know that this medication may decrease fertility in men and women. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking this medication.
  • If you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking this drug.
  • You should know that this medication may make you drowsy. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you.
  • You should know that this medication may cause dizziness when you get up too quickly from a lying position. This is more common when you first start taking methadone. To avoid this problem, get out of bed slowly, resting your feet on the floor for a few minutes before standing up.
  • You should know that this medication may cause constipation. Talk to your doctor about changing your diet or using other medications to prevent or treat constipation while you are taking this drug.

Methadone and Heart Problems

Methadone is an opioid drug that alters activity in the nervous system and brain. It binds to opioid receptors that help to regulate different bodily systems.

One of the bodily systems affected by this prescription drug is the cardiovascular system, which consists of the heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries.

Opioid drugs, such as methadone, can affect the heart muscle and its general function, which can—in serious cases—lead to cardiac problems.

This medication can affect the heart muscle in a number of ways. When used as prescribed by a doctor, serious heart problems are unlikely but do happen in a small portion of individuals.

Potential heart problems while taking methadone can include:

  • Very fast or slow heart rate
  • QT prolongation
  • Heart rhythm disorder (i.e. cardiac arrhythmia)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Torsades de pointes (French for “twisting of the points”)
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Cardiac failure

The severity of methadone’s effects on the heart can vary. Severe heart problems, including cardiac arrest, can be lethal. For this, emergency medical treatment may be needed.

Risk Factors For Heart Problems While Taking Methadone

Not everyone who takes this medication for opioid addiction treatment or chronic pain will experience heart problems. A number of factors can increase this risk in some individuals.

Risk factors for heart problems might include:

  • Genetics
  • Chronic drug abuse
  • Advanced age
  • Taking excessively high doses
  • Heart disease
  • History of illicit drug use
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Poor overall health

People with chronic health issues and elderly patients may be at greater risk for experiencing heart problems while taking this drug.

Signs Of Heart Problems While Taking Methadone

Some heart problems can be identified by certain warning signs and symptoms. If you experience signs of a heart issue while taking methadone, contact your doctor right away.

Signs and symptoms of a heart problem might include:

  • Unusually fast or slow heartbeat
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Discomfort in the upper body
  • Collapsing

If someone you know collapses, is unable to wake up, or is unresponsive after taking this drug, call 911 for emergency medical assistance.

Methadone Abuse

Methadone works on the brain in the same way that many other opioids do. It changes the way the body reacts to pain, specifically causing the nervous system to respond in a way that causes the user to feel less pain. Methadone has a sedative effect, which means it can make the person feel sleepy or calm. When taken in high doses, that sedative effect can turn into the euphoric high associated with other opioids.

Does Methadone Cause Heart Problems
You can become dependent on methadone. Your brain may begin to rely on the pain relief it brings.

One of the most significant behavioral signs of methadone abuse is that the person has become physically dependent on the drug, and their actions are indicative of that dependence. They may have an increased tolerance, which means they need more methadone to achieve the same results — whether that’s pain relief or a high. They may also take uncharacteristic actions to gain possession of more of the drug, including lying, stealing, cheating, or committing risky behavior.

Other signs that a person may be struggling with methadone abuse include sudden and otherwise unexplained changes in behavior, sleeping and eating habits, mood, and overall health. A person who is addicted will also experience withdrawal symptoms, which can range from anxiety and depression to digestive issues and muscle cramps.

Methadone Interactions

Many individuals taking prescribed methadone also take other medications. People may not always be aware that combining or mixing this drug with other medications (including prescribed and non-prescribed drugs) can alter the effects of the drugs or result in adverse drug events. Combining methadone and benzodiazepines may be especially dangerous.

Patients taking methadone and any other medicine should talk with their doctor or pharmacist about their medications. Patients should know that not all people will experience adverse events when taking other medications with methadone and that there may be times when their doctor will need to prescribe other medicines along with methadone.

Mixing Methadone and Alcohol

Methadone and alcohol can both cause a range of profound effects and both substances have the potential to cause addiction. Combining these two substances can be even more devastating and may lead to death.

Taking alcohol and methadone together is particularly dangerous because of the interactions between the two substances. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), when taken at the same time, alcohol can increase the risk of experiencing serious and life-threatening side effects from methadone.

Using methadone and alcohol together can create health concerns that are more severe based on the combined use of these two substances. People who combine methadone and alcohol may be more likely to experience:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Drowsiness
  • Coma

Addiction to Methadone

Addiction to Methadone can be a bit of a taboo topic, as many people in the medical community see the drug as a necessary aid in helping Heroin addicts recover. But as with any opioid, addiction is an all-too-common side effect. Methadone addiction can come about because the drug eases a user’s pain. As time goes on and tolerance builds, more of the drug is needed for the same effect.

Like all narcotics, methadone can lead to addiction and overdose. It can be misused in a manner similar to other opioids. It must be taken exactly as directed by a certified Opioid Treatment Program provider. This certification is to be obtained from SAMHSA. It is also important to note that a history of alcohol use, heart or respiratory problems, or mental health issues can cause adverse side effects when taking methadone.

Once physical dependency happens, it is very likely that a person will experience withdrawal symptoms upon no longer taking methadone. The amount of time it takes for withdrawal symptoms to set in is about two to three days post-use, and symptoms can last up to 10 days. It is important to consult a health care provider before stopping the drug due to the withdrawal symptoms and side effects that can occur.

Methadone Addiction Treatment

There is a strong link between mental health and substance abuse. Individuals who struggle with mood disorders like depression, ADHD, and anxiety are more susceptible to developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol, often to self-medicate symptoms of their underlying mental health condition. These co-occurring disorders can make each other worse without proper treatment.

If you’re asking the question, “does methadone cause heart problems?”, then you should also be aware of the risks of abuse and addiction in misusing this drug. If you are experiencing methadone withdrawal, it’s crucial to first get an accurate assessment of all the symptoms. When the symptoms have been evaluated by a mental health professional, it may be determined that another form of mental condition is present and needs a particular type of treatment. Very often, some combination of psychotherapy, medication, and/or lifestyle changes are effective for coping with functional.

Medically-Assisted Detox

Detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of methadone withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete methadone detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of methadone withdrawals.

Psychotherapy 

Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of mental health disorders along with addiction, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Solution Focused Therapy – is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Prescription drug abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for alcohol use disorder and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

 If you or a loved one are struggling with long-term prescription drug abuse and a co-occurring mental health condition such as ADHD, contact one of our helpful treatment specialists today. We Level Up can provide information on dual diagnosis and detox programs that may fit your specific needs.

Does Methadone Cause Heart Problems
Like any other opiate, methadone can lead to severe complications if used long-term and should be adequately and safely detoxed.
Sources:

[1] NIH – https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682134.html

[2] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526012/

[3] SAMHSA – https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/methadone