Are there any drug interactions or side effects to be aware of?

ABefore starting a methadone or buprenorphine maintenance program, it’s important to know what to expect and how the medication may affect you. Medication-assisted treatment is widely known to be the most effective treatment for opiate addiction, helping patients safely withdraw from prescription pain pills or heroin by minimizing withdrawal symptoms and reducing cravings. Most patients will not experience any severe side effects. However, in the early stages of treatment, you may experience very mild side effects that will weaken and then cease altogether when the proper dosage is reached. These may include:

  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness or tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid heartbeat or chest pain
  • Cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting

In addition to side effects at the onset of treatment, there are also certain drug interactions that you should be aware of. In particular, alcohol and benzodiazepines (such as Xanax and Valium) should be avoided. Combining methadone or buprenorphine with alcohol or benzodiazepines can cause suppressed respiratory distress, which can be life threatening.

Medications that function similarly to methadone can cause withdrawal symptoms to appear. Other medications, such as some cough medicines, may cause unpredictable interactions. It is extremely important to let your physician know about any medications you are currently on before starting medication-assisted treatment. Similarly, you should make your physician aware that you are in a methadone or buprenorphine maintenance program before taking any other medications or supplements.

If you have concerns about any side effects or drug interactions when you begin a medication-assisted treatment program, you should consult with your physician to determine whether your treatment plan or dose should be adjusted.