Methadone is a medication that was created by German doctors during World War II. When it first came to the United States, it was used by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain. Today, methadone is still used as part of opioid addiction treatment to help people recover. Due to its varying uses, many people wonder, “is methadone a stimulant?” Let’s check out how this drug works and what drug class it falls into.
What Are the Effects of Stimulants & How Do They Work?
Stimulants is an umbrella term that refers to drugs that increase neural communication in the central nervous system and the body, drugs that have pleasurable and invigorating side effects, or drugs that affect the sympathetic nervous system. Stimulants include both illicit and prescription drugs.
Illegal stimulants include cocaine and methamphetamine, while prescription stimulants include Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta. Stimulants work by interacting with neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine to increase alertness, focus, concentration, energy levels, and more. For these reasons, stimulants are often used to treat people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is marked by symptoms like poor focus and impulsivity.
Common side effects of stimulants include:
- Heightened feelings of well-being and confidence
- Increased alertness and talkativeness
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
- Increased body temperature
Healthcare providers may also prescribe stimulants to treat narcolepsy and promote weight loss. However, as effective as they are for these uses, stimulants are known to be addictive. Long-term abuse of stimulants, whether they’re illicit or not, can result in physical dependence.
This occurs when the person is no longer able to function “normally’ without the drug. It’s a common symptom of long-term drug use and doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has a drug addiction. It’s recommended that people who have been taking drugs for long periods undergo medical detox to safely recover from withdrawals.
Many people, especially young adults and professionals, abuse stimulants. These people either use these drugs to improve their academic or work performance or to get high. Due to these drugs’ effects on dopamine and other chemicals in the brain, in cases when the individual continues to use drugs either to avoid withdrawals or for recreational purposes (to get high), addiction is likely to occur.
Is Methadone a Stimulant or a Depressant?
Methadone is a depressant, specifically an opioid. Opioids, or narcotics, are drugs that are prescribed as painkillers, often in extreme cases, such as pain caused by cancer. Opioids attach themselves to opioid receptors in the brain and throughout the body to block pain signaling and alleviate the individual’s symptoms. However, due to these effects, as well as their ability to increase dopamine levels in the CNS, opioids are among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States.
The current opioid epidemic can attest to this statement. In addition to treating pain, methadone may also be prescribed to help people recover from addiction to other prescription or illicit opioids. This is because methadone does not create the same euphoric effects as heroin or morphine because it’s designed to block the pleasurable sensations of other drugs in its class.
What’s more, while the risk of developing a drug use disorder is there, methadone addiction isn’t as common as heroin addiction because of the tight regulations placed on the use and prescribing of this medication. People who are prescribed methadone have to go to a clinic every day to receive their doses by healthcare professionals, so the chances of the person having the drug to themselves to abuse it are low.
When taken for pain, methadone comes in tablets, dispersible tablets, or a solution that may be taken by mouth. People who have been prescribed the drug to take at home have more freedom to abuse it.
While euphoria is less likely to occur in cases of methadone abuse, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has indicated that methadone users aren’t fit to drive due to its side effects. Some side effects of methadone include:
- Decreased reaction time
- Impaired judgment
- Droopy eyelids
- Dry mouth
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased body temperature
- Low blood pressure
- Pupil dilation
In high doses, a methadone high can occur, during which the aforementioned side effects are intensified. Overdose is also likely to occur if methadone is taken in high doses, which can be fatal.
Help for Methadone Abuse
Although methadone abuse is rarer than heroin or oxycodone abuse, it still happens. In fact, methadone is involved in one-third of all opiate-related overdose deaths in the U.S.1 So, despite the various restrictions set in place to prevent this from occurring, people are still abusing the drug. Fortunately, help is available for those who are struggling with opioid addiction.
Our drug rehab in Massachusetts offers opiate and prescription drug addiction treatment to help people who are battling disorders linked to substances like heroin, oxycodone, morphine, methadone, and more. Whether it’s depressants or stimulants that are the problem, our PHP or outpatient services can help.