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Methadone Addiction & Pain

A History Of Methadone

Originally marketed as a pain reliever, methadone was considered dangerous and not as effective as drugs like morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone, which led to its lack of success. In the 1960’s, a new market was found for methadone. Make no mistake, drugs are marketed and it was decided that the way to make money from methadone was to promote its use as a substitute for heroin.

This was perfect for drug companies. The addiction created by methadone is so strong that if the addict does not take a dose of the drug each day, they can experience very painful withdrawal symptoms. It is also great for the drug company because once they get someone addicted to methadone, it is very likely that the user will be on methadone the rest of their lives, or at least for many years, without help. Since the drug companies are only interested in profits, what could be better?

Of course, they have condemned these poor addicted people to a horrible life, but the drug companies don’t care. So what if the person is chained to the methadone clinic every day? So what if the person has many physical and mental problems because of the methadone? Profit is what counts, not actually treating the addiction. If you treat the addiction effectively, you lose a life-long customer. That makes no sense to a drug company executive. If you want to understand the horrible life of a methadone addict, read The Methadone Prison.

Methadone For Pain — More Drug Company Greed

Not content with only being able to sell their addictive poison to the approximately 250,000 addicts that get their methadone at methadone clinics, the drug companies are eagerly promoting the use of methadone to doctors for the treatment of pain.

People experiencing pain eventually go to a doctor. Instead of treating the cause of the pain, too often the patient is given dangerous narcotics like OxyContin or, increasingly now, methadone.

Few people know just how these narcotic drugs affect their bodies. It is easiest to compare the effects of these dangerous narcotics to anesthesia. If you received anesthesia before an operation or during childbirth, it either put you to sleep or numbed you so that you either didn’t feel the pain or, at the very least felt it an incredibly reduced level.

Many people have felt the effects of another anesthesia, novocaine, when getting dental work. Novocaine numbs an area of the mouth and makes it less sensitive to the pain of the dentist’s drill. When the novocaine wears off, we feel the pain but it normally will lessen as the treated area heals.

Call Novus Detox today to speak with one of our detox advisors and learn more about the treatment options available to you at (855) 464-8550.

Methadone Does Not Treat Pain

Like OxyContin, novocaine, or any other anesthesia, methadone does not in any way “treat” pain but just prevents the pain from being felt by the patient – for a time. To keep the body numb, you have to keep taking the narcotic, unless you actually handle the cause of the pain.

Using the dental analogy, if you simply kept getting novocaine shots but never fixed the cavity that was causing the pain in a tooth, the cavity will enlarge and eventually kill the tooth and infect the gums. In addition, you would have to live with a numb jaw, which would cause a considerable number of problems, including not being able to taste food at all.

This is the same problem created by many doctors when they prescribe a narcotic like methadone or OxyContin rather than diagnosing and actually treating the cause of the pain. However, unlike novocaine, patients taking these dangerous narcotics experience a numbing of their senses and numerous other side effects, which you can learn more about here.

Opioid-Induced Hyperalgesia Due To Methadone And Other Narcotic Use

There is another reason why prescribing narcotics for pain is often not a good idea, known as opioid-induced hyperalgesia.

Opioid-induced hyperalgesia is a condition where opioids, like methadone or OxyContin, will actually make the patient more sensitive to the pain it is supposed to be blocking. This means that the person feels that the pain is worse, which may then lead to increasing the dosage of the narcotic in order to achieve the intended effect. However, the higher dosage of the opioid can cause this condition to spiral out of control, make the person more sensitive to pain, which in turn leads to them needing a higher dosage, and on and on. The person is now in a losing race against the pain because the more opioid he or she takes, the greater they feel the pain. For more information, we encourage you to read Do Opioids Actually Increase Pain?

A Woman’s Story Of Life On Methadone

Bob White, a reporter for the News-Enterprise in Hardin County, Kentucky, told the story of Joyce Cole, a 56-year-old Rineyville woman suffering from acute and chronic pain resulting from degenerative spinal disc disorder. Cole described some of the problems she started having.

“I’d just pass out,” Cole said. “I remember waking up with burns on my arms and wondering, “How’d that happen?’ I drove on this stuff without being able to recall where I’d been or how I’d got there.”

Cole had another operation and was told that she had to come off methadone. She just stopped taking it.

“I was having horrible cramps in my stomach and charlie horses in my legs,” she said. “I didn’t realize what was happening. I felt like I was dying. No wonder people don’t come off drugs. It was two or three more weeks after that before I felt like I was going to survive. I lost 30 pounds, and I was sick all the time. I remember telling myself ‘I’ll never again take methadone.’
“It’s an awful drug,” Cole said. “At least you know you’re alive with the pain. I lost years of my life because of methadone.”

Methadone Deaths Rose More Than 750 Percent

Many people have not been as fortunate as Ms. Cole. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) points out that the growing use of methadone for pain relief is a large part of the 700 percent increase in methadone deaths, which makes methadone one of the deadliest drugs in America. In 2006, there were over four million prescriptions written for pain relief.

According to the NHCS report, other opioids like OxyContin, Dilaudid, and Vicodin are also killing people in record numbers.

  • 40 percent of all poisoning deaths in 2006 in the U.S. involved opioids.
  • The opioid death rate was highest for whites, males, and people between the ages of 35 and 54.

In a March 26, 2009 report entitled ‘Methadone-Associated Overdose Deaths: Factors Contributing to Increased Deaths and Efforts to Prevent Them’, the Government Accounting Office pointed out that methadone prescriptions for pain management grew from about 531,000 in 1998 to about 4.1 million in 2006, a nearly 775 percent increase.

Why The Increased Deaths From Methadone?

Methadone is generally only effective for pain relief for between four to six hours. However, it has a half-life. Half-life means the amount of time it takes for one-half of the drug to be eliminated from the body. After the second half-life, one fourth of the drug will remain in the body. This continues and most drugs are considered fully eliminated from the body after between five and seven half-lives. Methadone has a half-life of between 24 hours to 90 hours.

Unlike OxyContin, oxycodone, Vicodin, hydrocodone and other opioids with a much shorter half-life, methadone will stay in the body for a long time, while its effects only last those few hours.

Adverse Interactions Of Methadone With Other Drugs

Many people suffering from pain will also take other benzodiazepines like Xanax or Ativan, or antidepressants like Paxil, Lexapro, or Zoloft. These drugs are all metabolized through the P450 pathway in the liver, the same pathway used by methadone. In a significant number of people, these drugs are known to interfere with the way that methadone is metabolized. Sometimes this results in the methadone becoming more toxic. This can lead to an overdose of methadone in one patient even though they are taking what the label says are the proper doses of methadone.

The Lethal Results Of Continuing Methadone Use

The difference between the time that methadone provides anesthesia benefits and the long half-life of methadone often leads to a person:

  • Starting to feel more pain in a few hours
  • Not being aware that even though the pain relief is gone, there are still high levels of methadone in the body
  • Taking more methadone for the pain, which causes highly toxic levels of methadone
  • Going to sleep and never waking up

Methadone For Pain Causes Death — Even At Therapeutic Levels

It is not just taking more and more methadone that kills patients. A study by Oregon Health & Science University researchers published in the January 2008 issue of The American Journal of Medicine concluded that,

“Methadone is a possible cause of sudden cardiac death even when it isn’t overdosed but is taken at therapeutic levels primarily for relief of chronic pain or drug addiction withdrawal.”

The study’s findings were based on an evaluation of all sudden cardiac deaths in the greater Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area between 2002 and 2006 where detailed autopsies were performed.

“The unexpectedly high proportion of otherwise unexplained sudden deaths in the therapeutic methadone group points to a significant contribution of this drug toward the occurrence of sudden cardiac death among these patients,” said Sumeet Chugh, M.D., lead investigator of the study.
“However, the unexpectedly high proportion (77 percent) of otherwise unexplained sudden deaths in the methadone group points to a significant contribution of this drug toward the occurrence of sudden cardiac death among these patients,” he continued.

In an article entitled Methadone Poisoning Epidemic published in the summer 2008 issue of The Forensic Examiner, Dr. Johnathan Lipman says,

“Methadone at high doses, or in naive users or idiosyncratically at much lower doses, depresses respiration and may interfere with cardiac function, either or both of which can lead to death… Methadone may interact with other CNS (central nervous system) depressants to produce lethal respiratory depression—people die because they simply stop breathing as a result of the depression of the brain’s respiratory centers… There is no "toxic level" of methadone. Rather, people die of so-called "overdose" as a result of the effect of a blood level that exceeds their individual tolerance to the drug’s toxic effects on respiration and heart function.”

The Medical Dangers Of Methadone Abuse

Methadone has been used for decades as a way to treat heroin addiction. However, these statistics show that is now causes more than twice as many deaths as heroin itself. And because it is potent and long-lasting, and far less expensive than other prescription painkillers, it has become more and more popular among family physicians and other health care providers who hand it out for all kinds of chronic pain.

Methadone Is Particularly Complex And Deadly

But the problem, according to experts, is that doctors are not sufficiently educated in narcotics, and methadone is particularly complex and deadly. No two people respond to methadone in the same way, so where one patient might seem okay, another can die on the same dosage. And if it doesn’t kill the patient, it can rapidly lead to dependence and wind up in a full-blown, life-altering prescription drug addiction.

In some areas of the country, methadone deaths now surpass deaths from oxycodone painkillers such as OxyContin and Percocet and hydrocodone painkillers such as Vicodin and Lortab. But whereas the majority of deaths from these other narcotic painkillers come from illicit abuse of the drugs, nearly half of all deaths from methadone result from taking methadone “as directed” on legitimate prescriptions.

Labeling directions for methadone were dangerously incorrect for decades, and were not updated until late 2006, long after thousands of cases of prescription drug addiction and death were reported. The FDA, woefully lax in dealing with physicians’ ignorance about the using the drug properly, failed to recognize the dangers that more widespread prescribing could bring about. Since the new labeling information is only partially helpful, the FDA may require doctors to take special classes on prescribing narcotics and methadone in particular.

Despite The Alarming Statistics Methadone Prescriptions Continue To Increase

The DEA reported that the number of methadone prescriptions increased by 700 percent from 1998 to 2006, inundating parts of the country where it had rarely been seen. Shipments of methadone across the country from manufacture through commercial distribution channels, which are tracked by the DEA, increased by 500 percent.

The result has been massive increases in methadone-related deaths, which the feds say increased even more than the shipments. In Utah, where prescription drug addiction is a state-wide epidemic, supplies of methadone shipping into the state increased six-fold in the five years between 1997 and 2002, but deaths from methadone increased 15-fold.

In Florida, where prescription drug addiction is also ravaging the population, meticulously-kept death statistics reveal that methadone deaths more than doubled in a space of just four years, jumping from 367 deaths in 2003 to 785 deaths in 2007.

It’s clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that methadone, in spite of its perceived power to help relieve serious chronic pain, is not the ideal solution. The FDA needs to assign a higher priority to getting America’s physicians into advanced education classes on narcotics.


You would think that any normal person who works at a drug company would be concerned that they are condemning tens of thousands of our children, relatives, and friends to a life of addiction to methadone rather than advocating treatment that would free the person from drugs.

You would think that these same people at the drug companies would not want to make even more addicts and kill more people. However, they continue to place profits above the welfare of their customers. They don’t want to educate doctors or patients on the dangers of methadone because that would be bad for business.

It is time to expose these drug company executives and employees to the ridicule that they have earned by putting their profits in front of the health and well-being of the rest of us.


We develop an individualized medical detox program specifically for each of our patients, which means no recovery will look the same. Our delicious food, nutritional IVs and supplements, and specialized detox protocols are all designed to quicken the healing process. We understand that various addictions present a number of issues for the human body, so we create our IVs and diets to fit the needs of specific withdrawal symptoms.

Our process is all about you, which is why we have private and shared rooms available for our residents. Each room is outfitted with a TV, telephone, and access to the internet. We also provide educational classes that will show you how the drug or alcohol of your choice affects your body. We believe that to effectively fight off your withdrawal symptoms, it is important to know what you are fighting against and what to be prepared for.

To learn more about how we can help you,
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