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  • Writer's pictureDr. Harold Pierre

Methadone Excessive Sweating Treatment

Updated: Apr 17

Introduction to Methadone and Its Common Side Effect: Excessive Sweating

Methadone, an oral prescription medication for managing opioid addiction, is known for its ability to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings enabling individuals to concentrate on their journey to recovery. Despite its effectiveness, methadone use is accompanied by side effects, including constipation, sleepiness, dry mouth, nausea and vomiting. Among these known side effects lies a lesser discussed issue. Hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating.

Patients on methadone maintenance treatment often face the challenge of dealing with sweating. This can lead to discomfort and embarrassment as they may find themselves perspiring enough to soak through their clothing or experience dripping sweat. The impact of hyperhidrosis extends beyond discomfort affecting work performance, interpersonal relationships and self confidence. Whether occurring during the day, at night, and varying in intensity from mild to excessive, sweating poses a significant hurdle for many individuals on methadone treatment.

Close up portrait of a man with sweaty face

The exact mechanism through which methadone triggers hyperhidrosis remains unclear according to experts. One hypothesis suggests that it may stimulate receptors in the body that enhance the cooling systems activity. Regardless of the cause, coping with excessive sweating proves to be a genuine challenge for numerous individuals receiving methadone therapy.

Understanding Hyperhidrosis in Methadone Patients: A Case Study

Here is a story of a 35 year man who sought treatment with methadone for his heroin addiction after struggling opiate addiction for six years. He began with a low dose of methadone, which was gradually increased to 100 mg daily. At that level most of his withdrawal symptoms subsided. But then, he started experiencing excessive sweating due to the methadone.

The sweating became so severe that he had to change clothes often and causing issues at his workplace. His doctors conducted tests to rule out potential causes and checked his urine every two weeks for drugs with only methadone being detected.

Concerned about the sweating the man consulted his primary care physician who prescribed oxybutynin which is typically used for treating bladder spasms but also effective in addressing excessive sweating. Taking 5 mg at four times a day resulted in a complete cessation of excessive sweating within just two days.

Why Methadone Causes Excessive Sweating: Exploring the Mechanism

Doctors speculate that methadone triggers sweating by stimulating muscarinic receptors located on cell surfaces of the skin. These receptors respond to chemical signals in the body and may influence temperature regulation. The activation of these receptors, by methadone could potentially disrupt the body's cooling mechanism leading to hyperhidrosis or extreme perspiration.

There might be other ways in which methadone triggers hyperhidrosis. Some experts suggest histamine release as contributing to sweating. In instances antihistamine medications could be beneficial.

Effective Treatment of Methadone-Induced Sweating Side Effect with Oxybutynin

Oxybutynin counteracts this process. It belongs in a category of medications known as anticholinergics, which inhibit the effects of acetylcholine a neurotransmitter that triggers muscarinic receptors.

Oxybutynin is typically prescribed for managing overactive bladder by relaxing the muscles around bladder. This allows the bladder to hold more urine and decreases the frequency of urination. Oxybutynin can also help alleviate methadone induced excessive sweating.

Through its acetylcholine blocking action, oxybutynin hinders muscarinic receptor stimulation thereby assisting in regulating the body's temperature control system. This reduces and sometimes eliminates profuse sweating.

It's worth mentioning that both methadone and oxybutynin have the potential to lead to urinary retention, a condition characterized by difficulty emptying the bladder. Physicians must monitor for this complication, urinary retention, when prescribing oxybutynin to methadone patients.

Although ongoing research is exploring the mechanisms involved, oxybutynin stands out as an effective treatment option for numerous patients dealing with this common methadone side effect.

Other Medication Options

There are alternative medications available for treating excessive sweating. For instance antihistamines such as desloratadine (Clarinex) may be beneficial in situations by blocking histamines effects—a chemical known to trigger sweat production.

Biperiden (Akineton) is another medication used to address methadone induced sweating; it functions similarly to oxybutynin and falls under the category of anticholinergic drugs.

Misdiagnosis Risks in Methadone Treatment

It is critical to differentiate between hyperhidrosis and withdrawal symptoms. Excessive sweating can be an occurrence in both scenarios. However withdrawal symptoms also manifest as runny nose, diarrhea, stomach cramping and body aches. If a patient displays these signs, increasing the methadone dosage might be necessary to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce sweating.

Misinterpreting sweating as withdrawal symptoms can lead to complications. Doctors may continue raising the methadone dosage without addressing the root cause if they mistake sweat related issues, for withdrawal symptoms. The patient might end up taking a higher dose than needed.

To prevent prescribing too much methadone for the addiction treatment, doctors should assess the situation carefully. They must take into account all the symptoms the patient is experiencing and perform the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS) throughout the process of modifying the methadone dose. This will help them identify the excessive sweating is caused by opioid withdrawal or methadone. With a diagnosis they can recommend the most suitable treatment, which could include oxybutynin, a different medication or adjusting methadone dosage.

Conclusion: Key Insights and Recommendations for Healthcare Providers

Row of Hanging Lightbulbs with One Lit Up

This case study underscores a common side effect medical professionals need to monitor during medication assisted treatment (MAT) using methadone. Some doctors may not be aware that taking methadone can lead to sweating and may mistake it for withdrawal symptoms potentially resulting in incorrect treatment decisions.

Staff at methadone clinics should be particularly observant as they play a role in treating opioid addiction and are part of the team patients rely on for their recovery. By recognizing the signs of methadone induced hyperhidrosis they can alert the healthcare professionals.

When a patient complains of sweating, doctors should explore all possible causes. They should inquire about symptoms and assess potential drug interactions. Urine tests can help exclude illicit substances.

If methadone is suspected as the cause, oxybutynin should be considered as a treatment option based on this case study's demonstration of its effectiveness, in resolving sweating within a few days.

Key Takeaways from Methadone-Induced Hyperhidrosis Treatment

The occurrence of methadone induced hyperhidrosis poses a challenge for patients.

Healthcare providers must stay alert for appearances of profuse sweating. View it as a potential side effect of methadone therapy.

When hyperhidrosis is diagnosed, oxybutynin can make a difference.

Also, consider other treatment options like biperiden and desloratadine.

Hong, J., Lee, J., Totouom Tangho, H., Dunn, N. R., & Swift, R. G. (2017). Managing methadone induced hyperhidrosis with oxybutynin. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 11(3) 237–238. Https;//

About The Author

Dr. Harold Pierre is a board-certified anesthesiologist and addiction medicine specialist with over 20 years of experience. He is certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and the American Board of Preventive Medicine.

This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician or another qualified medical professional. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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