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Methadone Addiction and Weight Problems

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One of the most talked about issues regarding methadone use is how the drug affects weight, appetite or what you eat. Methadone is an opioid narcotic that is given to people addicted to opiates during the addiction or dependence recovery process — a method is known as drug replacement therapy. Using methadone to wean people off stronger opiates is effective because methadone alleviates symptoms of withdrawal without producing euphoric effects.1

While every person may respond differently to different drugs, most people addicted to opiates experience weight gain when they begin using methadone as a part of their opiate addiction recovery. On the other hand, one of the most noticeable symptoms of methadone addiction is unexplained weight loss.

Why Do People Addicted to Methadone Lose Weight?

Like all drug addictions, methadone addiction will change the reward circuit in the brain. Naturally, humans experience psychological rewards that cause a person to repeat certain behaviors, such as eating, having sex or engaging in physical activity. Drugs alter this natural reward system.

When drugs are used to get high, improve mood and energy or relieve pain, the brain perceives these effects as rewarding. With continued drug use, the brain starts associating the drug with pleasure, and as a result an individual starts losing interest in other things that once gave him or her natural feelings of reward.

People addicted to methadone have altered brain reward circuits to the point that the brain craves more of the drug to feel satisfied. This explains why they may become obsessed with maintaining their drug use.

When the brain associates methadone as its source for pleasure, it loses interest in old pleasurable activities such as eating or exercise. When people are addicted to methadone, they commonly lose weight and their appetite. The deeper a methadone addiction gets, the more intense weight problems become, eventually affecting one’s overall health and physical appearance.

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Will Methadone Drug Replacement Therapy Cause Weight Gain?

illustration of brain in cageAlternatively, using methadone during drug replacement therapy can cause weight gain. Many individuals who have used methadone maintenance therapy claim to experience an increased appetite, cravings for sugar and water retention.

These effects can be the drug’s side effects as well as the body’s chemical response to opiate withdrawal. As people addicted to opiates once activated the brain’s reward center with drug use, they now have a physical and psychological void because the of reward center inactivity. Food acts as a replacement drug because it will fit that void by stimulating the reward center.2

With quality addiction treatment, individuals can use methadone maintenance treatment to recover from opiate addiction and avoid noticeable weight gain with nutritional counseling, physical activity and healthy skills training.

Find Help for Methadone Addiction

If you are ready to get help for methadone addiction, the last thing you need is to be discouraged by the process of finding treatment that will work for you and your own, unique needs. You have to make the decision to get help on your own, but the rest of your recovery journey can be aided by caring, knowledgeable professionals. Our trained addiction coordinators are ready to help you find quality methadone addiction treatment that will work for you.

We are ready to answer your questions, listen to your concerns, provide you with information and guidance, and if you are ready, we can even connect you with the treatment and recovery services that are suited for your individual recovery needs. To learn more, call our toll-free, 24-hour helpline, 760.548.4032, and speak with an addiction professional today.

By Becca Owens, Contributing Writer


1 "Opioid Addiction." National Institute on Drug Addiction, January 2018.

2 Peles, E, et. al, "Risk factors for weight gain during methadone maintenance treatment." Substance Abuse EPub, Oct-Dec 2016.