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Injecting & Snorting Methadone | Side Effects & Warnings

Published on December 2, 2020
Methadone pills and syringe injecting and snorting Methadone

Methadone is most commonly used to treat opioid addiction but can also be used to treat severe pain. Drug abuse is more likely to occur when methadone is prescribed for pain relief because of the tight regulations on methadone maintenance treatment programs. 

Methadone is an agonist opioid that activates the same receptors in the central nervous system as drugs like morphine and heroin. However, it does not produce the same euphoric effects, unless it is taken in higher doses or abused by snorting and injecting.

Injecting & Snorting Methadone

Methadone is available as a tablet, dissolvable tablet, solution, and concentrated solution, which are meant to be taken orally. 

These forms of methadone contain additives that are meant to be broken down by your digestive system. If you snort or inject it, you risk damage to your respiratory system, heart, and veins. 

Injecting can produce intense sedation and euphoric effects within seconds. When you snort methadone, it will produce similar effects within minutes. 

Health Effects Of Injecting & Snorting Methadone

Although snorting and injecting produces a stronger, fast-acting high, it poses several health risks. 

You may intensify pain relief and sedation along with these common side effects of methadone:

  • constipation
  • nausea
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • stomach pain
  • dry mouth

You also increase the risk of experiencing more dangerous side effects such as:

  • trouble breathing
  • fast heartbeat
  • chest pain
  • sleep apnea
  • confusion
  • agitation 

Viral Infections

When you share paraphernalia, whether you are injecting or snorting, you are at risk for contracting Hepatitis C and HIV. 

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks your immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections. 

Hepatitis C attacks your liver and may cause fatigue, nausea and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin). 

Abscesses

Chronic intravenous drug users may cause a dangerous bacterial infection and abscess. Abscesses are typically round and filled with pus, usually at the site of injection. If left untreated, the infection can spread into the bloodstream.

Nasal Septum Perforation

Chronic snorting of methadone can lead to sinus infections, nose bleeds, and nasal septum perforation. Nasal septum perforation occurs when the cartilage between the nasal cavities develops a hole. 

Lung Infections

When you snort opioids, the drug enters your respiratory system which includes your lungs. Allergic reactions can occur when you snort methadone that can trigger infections like pneumonia. 

Heart Problems

When you take methadone in high doses or intravenously, you are at risk for heart arrhythmia, which can be life-threatening. 

Measurements on an electrocardiogram (ECG) can show a measurement of  the duration of a heart contraction, known as a QT interval. When your heart beats too slow or irregularly, it is known as QT prolongation.

Breastfeeding

A portion of your methadone dose can be passed into breast milk and nursing infants can endure serious side effects. 

If you’re breastfeeding or plan on breastfeeding, you should discuss the risks with your doctor. Those who are on methadone maintenance treatment may decide the benefits outweigh the risks of returning to illicit drug use.

Drug Interaction Warnings

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) presents a long list of medications that may cause adverse effects if taken with methadone. The risk of these effects occurring increases when you snort or inject methadone. 

These medications can induce withdrawal if combined with methadone:

  • butorphanol 
  • carbamazepine 
  • nalbuphine 
  • naloxone 
  • naltrexone 
  • phenytoin
  • ritonavir 
  • rifampin 
  • buprenorphine 
  • pentazocine

The following antifungal medications can increase the amount of methadone in your system, which can dangerously impact your heart rate:

  • erythromycin
  • ketoconazole
  • fluconazole 

Combining methadone with depressants can cause overdose or death. Substances that are dangerous to combine with methadone include:

  • alcohol
  • benzodiazepines 
  • hypnotic sleep-aids
  • antipsychotics

Antidepressants

Certain antidepressant medications can interfere with methadone and cause your body to produce a toxic amount of serotonin, also known as serotonin syndrome. Serotonin is an important chemical that impacts mood and other bodily functions. 

Let your doctor know if you take a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), such as Zoloft or Luvox. 

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:

  • confusion
  • rapid heart rate
  • loss of muscle coordination
  • goosebumps
  • high fever
  • loss of consciousness

Methadone Overdose

Even though methadone is intended to help opioid dependent individuals, it is possible to overdose.

When you take an oral medication, a portion of it is lost when your digestive system absorbs the drug. Snorting and injecting methadone causes is to enter your bloodstream immediately, which can result in a life-threatening overdose.

Signs of overdose include:

  • cold and clammy skin
  • trouble breathing
  • extreme drowsiness
  • slow heart rate
  • low blood pressure
  • loss of consciousness

If you or a loved one may be experiencing an overdose, call for medical attention immediately.

Methadone Addiction

The risk of addiction is increased when you abuse prescription drugs. If you are misusing methadone or find yourself unable to control the amount you take, you may have an opioid addiction. 

Signs of drug addiction may include:

  • compulsively taking higher doses of methadone
  • taking methadone for reasons other than pain relief or addiction treatment
  • snorting or injecting your methadone dose 

Methadone Addiction Treatment

Addiction is treatable and usually begins with a medical detox. Healthcare professionals may provide you with medication to ease withdrawal symptoms. 

Following detoxification, you will be given options for inpatient or outpatient treatment programs. Inpatient treatment programs are the best option for long-term recovery because they provide constant supervision.

To learn about treatment programs available through Ark Behavioral Health, contact us today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.
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