What is Methadone?

Opiate Addiction | Opiate Overdose | Opiate Withdrawal | Opiate Resuscitation

Methadone is a potent, long-acting opiate used for pain and/or addiction. It is referred to as an ‘opioid replacement therapy’ or used for chronic pain and end-of-life pain management. Addiction to pain medication can happen as a result of a long healing time secondary to a major trauma. As an example, think about the bus crash in Saskatchewan and the devasting injuries of the players, the fractures, muscle injuries, etc. These trauma patients may initially be started on opioids for pain management, become addicted, and they need to be placed on opioid replacement therapy.

Methadone has gone from being the GOLD STANDARD in opioid replacement therapy to now PLATNIUM STANDARD as we learn through education, research and program evaluation. People do not have to turn to heroin as a replacement therapy. We now have Narcan Nasal Spray to assist with accidental methadone/opioid poisoning. We have revised and improved resuscitation algorithms, and better monitoring parameters and means of taking better care of people taking methadone, including women who care for their children.

How will Methadone make me feel?

Consuming methadone either in tablet or drink form will not make you high, but it will help keep the withdrawal symptoms at a manageable level. These withdrawal symptoms include: suicidal and homicidal ideation, and other destructive behavior such as forging prescriptions, theft of narcotics, armed robberies, and the need to hunt for the next opioid fix. Opioid withdrawal includes the worst flu-like symptoms you have ever experienced x 10-fold. There is a HIGH RISK of overdose within the first two weeks of initiation and stabilization. You will be admitted to hospital where staff can keep a close eye on you, and where there is access to staff and equipment for resuscitation purposes. You will be given information pamphlets, a Narcan Nasal Spray teaching video, the signs and symptoms of methadone/opioid overdose fridge magnet, a methadone medical alert tag, as well as Narcan Nasal Spray resuscitative device(s) as a component of discharge planning. You may be asked to fill out a patient satisfaction questionnaire.

What are my responsibilities when taking Methadone?

It is your responsibility to keep yourself and others ALIVE. Selling or giving away your methadone doses is a DEADLY practice as its potency is tailored to fit your needs, not anyone else’s. The requirement for a Methadone Exemption has been lifted by Health Canada (May 2018), making access to Methadone treatment easy and more accessible. Everyone who needs methadone for pain or addiction can get their own prescription. Note: You do not have to get pregnant or commit a federal offence to get methadone.

Who can prescribe Methadone?

All healthcare providers are now able to prescribe Methadone for pain and/or addiction purposes including: Nurse Practitioners, Emergency Room doctors, Cardiologists, Cardiac Surgeons, Dentists, family physicians, etc.

Q. Do I have to go to a pharmacy every day to get Methadone?

A. No. Do you go to the pharmacy every day to get your birth control pill? What about your diabetes medication or high blood pressure pills? Do you go to a pharmacy everyday to get a razor blade to shave?

How long will I be taking Methadone?

You will be taking Methadone for the rest of your life, just as diabetics take insulin, or people who have hypothyroid disease will take Synthroid everyday for life.

What kind of monitoring needs to be done?

If you want to stay alive, we will need to monitor your heart (ECG), lungs, kidneys, and other blood work. If you overdose once, you will have a propensity to overdose again. We will need to keep a close eye on you and adjust your treatment plan accordingly.

Can I live a normal life taking Methadone?

Yes, as long as you keep yourself and others safe from overdose, you can have a VERY normal life. If you have other questions, do not hesitate to ask. Methadone is the PLATNIUM STANDARD in opioid replacement therapy, up from GOLD STANDARD.