What is Methadone?

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Methadone is most known for its use in treating opioid addiction. Methadone is an opioid, but it lacks many of the risks associated with other opioids. It’s a synthetic drug that impacts the body in much the same way as codeine, fentanyl, oxycodone, and hydrocodone, but is less potent.

Methadone also remains in the body for longer – between 40 and 300 hours – than other opioids.

Doctors prescribe methadone to ease the pain and other unpleasant symptoms of opioid withdrawal. It’s one of the most common drugs used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). It is also used to treat chronic pain. 

People recovering from opioid use disorder receive a maintenance dose that prevents withdrawal symptoms without triggering a high or sedation. This dose can be used for months or years to help addicted individuals maintain sobriety. However, methadone is addictive, so the longer it’s used the higher the risk of developing an addiction.

Generally considered safe, methadone is addictive and triggers similar side effects to other opioids. It’s important to use methadone exactly as directed by medical professionals. 

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System?

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System

Here is how long methadone stays in your urine, hair, blood, and saliva:

Urine

Methadone is detectable for about seven days after the last dose in a urine test. Urine tests are one of the most common methods of drug testing, despite having low to moderate accuracy due to the pH of urine changing the accuracy of the test results.

Hair

Methadone is detectable in hair follicles for up to 90 days. This is similar to other opioids and pain medications. Traces of the drug end up in hair follicles after traveling through the bloodstream and show up in hair tests. 

Blood

Blood tests show traces of methadone for about four to five days after the last dose.

Saliva

Saliva tests detect methadone for up to 48 hours after the last dose. It has the smallest detection window of any drug test.

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Factors That Affect How Long Methadone Stays in Your System

A variety of factors influence how long methadone stays in someone’s system. These include:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Liver function
  • Metabolism
  • Duration of use
  • Frequency of use
  • Use of other substances
  • Dosage amount

How Long Does it Take for Methadone to Work? 

Methadone begins working quickly. It is detectable in the blood within 30 minutes of ingestion. It reaches peak concentrations in about four hours. These times vary slightly based on the individual user. In rare cases, it takes several hours for the drug to take effect.

How Long Does it Take for Methadone to Wear Off? 

For most people, pain relief from methadone lasts about four to eight hours. However, traces of the drug remain in the body and less noticeable effects occur for as long as 60 hours after dosage. 

What is the Drug’s Half-Life?

Methadone has a half-life of about 24 to 55 hours. A drug’s half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of the dosage to clear the body.

An entire dose of methadone is usually eliminated from the body after five half-life cycles. This can take up to 14 days, which means traces of the drug are detectable for at least this long. Long-term, heavy opioid use increases how long it takes for the drug to clear a person’s system.

How Long is Methadone Detectable in a Drug Test?

Because methadone has such a long and varied half-life, traces of the drug can be detectable in the system for up to two weeks after using the drug. 

How to Get Methadone Out of Your System 

The only way to get methadone out of your system is to stop using it and wait. Your body’s natural metabolizing process rids it of the drug over time. 

There are no tricks to speeding up the process of methadone leaving your system. 

Metabolizing the drug happens faster for some people than others, but you can’t make it go faster by drinking water, exercising, or doing anything other than stopping the use of the drug. 

Symptoms of Methadone Addiction

Methadone is very addictive. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to use the drug as prescribed by your doctor. 

Symptoms of a methadone addiction are similar to addiction to other opioids and include:

  • Spending a lot of time trying to obtain methadone
  • Using higher doses than prescribed by your doctor
  • Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms if you stop using the drug
  • Neglecting responsibilities and obligations to use methadone
  • Neglecting important relationships to use methadone
  • Breaking the law or betraying the trust of loved ones to get money to buy methadone

People addicted to methadone have a high risk of overdose. This drug must be taken as directed by your doctor and for no longer than necessary. Your doctor can also help you manage any withdrawal symptoms you experience if you stop using methadone. 

Symptoms of methadone withdrawal are the same as other opioid withdrawal symptoms and include:

  • Stomach cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drug cravings
  • Shaking
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chills
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Body aches and pains
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Increased heart rate
  • Water eyes 
  • Runny nose

Treatment Options for Methadone Addiction 

People seeking treatment for methadone addiction can choose between inpatient and outpatient treatment. However, since some addictions evolved from using methadone to treat other opioid addiction, more intensive treatment options are often necessary. 

Additionally, medically assisted detox is recommended. Withdrawal symptoms are severe and unpleasant. Having medical supervision during this time ensures patients have round-the-clock care and are able to better manage symptoms. 

Suboxone is prescribed to many people transitioning off of methadone use. If suboxone is not an option, doctors gradually decrease methadone dosage amounts to ease withdrawal symptoms. The less intense a person’s withdrawal symptoms the less likely they are to relapse during this time. 

Note: using suboxone while methadone is still in the system will cause precipitated withdrawals. You have to wait at least 72 hours and must be showing signs of withdrawal.

Methadone addiction treatment programs begin by helping the patient through detox, assisting them in identifying triggers for their drug use, and helping them with aftercare. 

Programs are available on an inpatient or outpatient basis and include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Peer support groups
  • Family counseling
  • Health and drug education
  • Help with creating a long-term care plan
  • Community support programs, including vocational training and help with transitioning to a sober life

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Resources +

“Drug Testing: Methadone - Mayo Clinic Laboratories.” www.mayocliniclabs.com, www.mayocliniclabs.com/test-info/drug-book/methadone.html.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How Much Does Opioid Treatment Cost?” Drugabuse.gov, 2019, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/medications-to-treat-opioid-addiction/how-much-does-opioid-treatment-cost.

“Methadone.” www.samhsa.gov, https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/methadone.

“Methadone: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” Medlineplus.gov, Nov. 2019, https://www.medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682134.html.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Are the Treatments for Heroin Use Disorder?” Drugabuse.gov, 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-treatments-heroin-use-disorder.

“Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) | SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.” Samhsa.gov, 21 July 2015, https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment.

“Opioid Overdose.” Www.samhsa.gov, https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/opioid-overdose.

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