Methadone Overdose — Signs, Symptoms, and Risks

Methadone overdose occurs when the medication exceeds the recommended methadone dosage either accidentally or intentionally. Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist commonly used with an individualistic program to treat opioid overdose and addiction. Its mechanism of action allows it to be effective for pain management, especially in individuals who need painkillers and are addicted to opioids.

For opioid use disorder involving methadone use usually requires supervision for its administration. It is important to identify some signs and symptoms of methadone overdose, such as vomiting, mental confusion, and many more, to help suspected cases of overdose appropriately and within the time necessary. This article will point you to some significant signs and symptoms of methadone overdose, and explain how to handle an overdose case appropriately.

Methadone Overdose

Can You Overdose on Methadone?

Methadone is different in many ways compared to natural opioid medications, however, there is still a possibility of overdose while using this medication. The constant use of this medication can result in long-term dependence and potential drug overdose.

There are certain risk factors associated with methadone overdose, such as:

  • High doses: Some individuals require methadone in high doses to be able to take care of the opiate addiction. Overdosing on doses exceeding 100 mg can potentially provide better outcomes for illicit opiate use but carries the risk of overdose.
  • Combining different medications and substances: Some painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, or morphine can be used with methadone. While using these medications, methadone overdose treatment can occur.
  • Frequent dosing: The frequency of drug use is a crucial determinant of methadone overdose. The more you have to take the medication, the more the likelihood of overdosing.
  • Demographics: The demographic distribution of methadone usage has a lot to do with the possibility of an overdose. A study showed that males between the ages of 31 to 39 years use methadone more, which could imply a higher tendency for overdose with this demographic result.

Methadone Side Effects

The side effects and overdose symptoms are largely dependent on the frequency of use of the medication. The symptoms seen are classified into short-term and long-term use. Some common side effects could include restlessness, vomiting, and constipation. See here for more information about methadone side effects.

In case of an overdose, there is a need to specifically identify symptoms of too much methadone, as it could be life-saving for the patient. Body systems are affected by the overdose with diverse presentations. In severe cases, there would be a compromise critically affecting the respiratory and cardiovascular systems and could potentially result in overdose death.

Signs of Methadone Overdose

An overdose is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate identification of the signs and prompt medication action.

Here are some signs associated with methadone overdose:

  1. Dizziness
  2. Constricted pupil
  3. Nausea and vomiting
  4. Disorientation
  5. Cold, clammy skin
  6. Discoloration in nails and fingers
  7. In severe cases, respiratory depression and possible loss of consciousness

If any of these signs are noticed at home, your health provider or emergency unit should be contacted immediately. Ensure you have the following information before contacting your emergency health care provider:

  • The person’s age and body weight
  • The medication used (methadone in this case)
  • The time it was used
  • The amount used

This information will better help your healthcare provider decide on what to do immediately to reduce the possibility of overdose-induced deaths.

How Much Methadone is Too Much?

Physical dependence and tolerance are associated with the abuse of methadone. It will get to a point where the body requires high doses to deliver the same effect suitable for that individual. In this case, there will be a resultant overdose risk of the medication. The benchmark dosage for methadone is 100 mg. The use of the medication above this puts the individual at a risk of overdose.

Overdose Prevention and Treatment

The best way to prevent the occurrence of an overdose is to use the prescribed dosage given by your healthcare provider. This will save you from the risk and possibility of an overdose. Also, avoid combinations with other drugs, especially painkillers. This can significantly affect the dosage of methadone and propel the need to take higher doses to achieve the desired effect.

Treatment of Methadone Overdose

The primary treatment program for methadone overdose will require a hospital visit where medical professionals can attend to the individual. Self-medication is not an option to consider as it can result in severe damage instead of improved health. There are specific emergency treatments for methadone overdose such as the use of activated charcoal and naloxone which acts to reverse methadone overdose. Supportive care is also an important aspect of overdose treatment as there will be a need to recuperate within a professional environment.

Overdose Response

Your response to a case of methadone overdose will greatly affect the outcome for the individual involved. Here is a guide on how to effectively address an overdose response:

  • The first thing to do is to call an emergency medical unit especially if the person involved is unconscious or unwell
  • Provide the required details for the medical unit to properly understand the situation at hand. You might have to provide the name of the medications used, the time taken and the amount of medication used.
  • The emergency medical unit will ask further questions and guide you on what to do before the emergency team arrives
  • Stay calm and follow the instructions provided by the emergency unit
  • Stay on the phone until the operator tells you to hang up
  • Once the emergency team arrives, the medical team will understand best how to proceed further.

Final Words

Methadone overdose requires an emergency response, especially in severe cases. The risk factors range from the use of other additional medications and the high dosage rate for the medication. There is always a need to use methadone safely within the dosage recommended by your healthcare provider.

Identification of signs associated with overdose can greatly help to reduce the incidence of overdose deaths. Watch out for the body’s reaction to overdoses such as vomiting, dizziness, confusion, and disorientation. Call an emergency unit if you suspect a methadone overdose. You can also call a clinic when substance abuse is spotted and requires professional supervision.