The Effects of Methadone
Methadone is prescribed as a substitute for drugs like heroin, codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone. It allows people who are recovering from addition to live active and meaningful lives. It can be taken in pill, liquid, or wafer form and is taken once a day (source: the US Department of Health & Human Service’s Substance Abuse Services Administration)
Are you worried about methadone use during pregnancy? Studies have shown that illegal drugs carry a higher risk to both the mother and baby (source: National Institute on Drug Abuse.) The risks with methadone are thought to be lower than the risk of using these illegal drugs. Even though using methadone during pregnancy may be better than using illegal opioids, it can still cause severe side-effects and complications to your baby.
An experienced medical professional needs to decide whether or not you should use methadone during pregnancy. There are risks to using methadone during pregnancy since it enters the placenta and can cause your baby to become addicted to it. Babies born to mothers who used methadone while pregnant have a higher risk of suffering from withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to get medical help in an addiction treatment center during their pregnancy to find the best course of action.
How Does Methadone Use Affect My Baby?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 60-80% of infants show at least some immediate side effects after being exposed to methadone. The most common side effects are low blood pressure, pinpoint pupils, confusion, nausea and vomiting, decreased heart rate, dry mouth, eyes, or nose, and increased pressure inside the skull.
Babies born exposed to methadone tend to be smaller, be born early, and grow at a slower rate, according to Medical News Today. And some get jaundice, develop thrombocytosis (high platelets in the blood), and face an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
“I just found out I’m pregnant. Should I stop taking methadone?”
No; if you’ve been taking methadone regularly, you shouldn’t stop “cold turkey.” According to American Addiction Centers, suddenly withdrawing from an opioid like methadone can lead to your baby not getting enough oxygen, and may be deadly. For you, the side effects of sudden opioid withdrawal include anxiety, depression, muscle and joint pain, sweating and chills, insomnia, tremors, increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea.
The U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services states that detoxing from opiates is particularly dangerous during pregnancy because withdrawal can cause uterine contractions, miscarriage or early labor. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Methadone Treatment for Pregnant Women. Publication number SMA 06-4124. 2006.)
We encourage you to speak with a healthcare provider before making any changes to your medication(s). Withdrawing from methadone during pregnancy should be done only under the care of an experienced healthcare professional.
“Does taking methadone mean that my baby will be born with a birth defect?”
No. Methadone doesn’t cause birth defects or other long-term health problems. (Kaltenbach K, Silverman N, Wapner R. Methadone maintenance during pregnancy. In: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. State Methadone Treatment Guidelines. DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 93-1991.)
You can have a normal pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby while receiving methadone treatment. (Source: The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation. About Methadone. 2000).
“I don’t believe in abortion but can’t become a parent. Help!”
Creating an adoption plan has been a positive life choice for many women. Here is one woman’s story about choosing adoption: “I knew that by adopting out my son I was doing the best thing I could for him. I was able to give him a financially stable, two-parent home. I chose adoption because I wasn’t able to provide the kind of life for my son that I wanted and that he deserved. I was able to pick and meet the couple who would become his parents. I get updates on him through email, Facebook, and Instagram. Keeping in contact in touch really has shown me that the decision I made was the right one.”