Updated on February 6, 2024
8 min read

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System?

Key Takeaways

Doctors prescribe methadone, one of the most common medication-assisted treatment/therapy (MAT) drugs, to ease chronic pain and unpleasant symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Methadone helps reduce withdrawal symptoms for people addicted to narcotic drugs like heroin. 

While methadone typically processes out of the body within two weeks, urine drug tests can detect it for up to two weeks, and saliva tests for up to 40 hours.

How Long Does Methadone Last?

Methadone lasts varying lengths depending on whether used for chronic pain management or opioid addiction treatment. When prescribed as pain medication, methadone lasts four to eight hours. When prescribed to treat opioid use disorder, the drug can last 24-48 hours. 

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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 – Younger and healthier people eliminate methadone more rapidly.
  • Weight – Methadone, like many drugs, is stored in fat cells. People with a higher body mass index may take longer to eliminate the drug.
  • Liver function – The liver metabolizes most drugs administered orally. With diseases of the liver, medications can be activated and inactivated irregularly. 
  • Metabolism – A person with higher metabolic function will typically eliminate methadone from the system faster than a person with lower metabolic function. 
  • Frequency and duration of use – The longer and more frequently you take methadone, the more prolonged elimination takes.
  • Use of other substances – Using methadone alongside other drugs, including alcohol, increases the elimination time of the drug.
  • Dosage – Higher doses of methadone remain in the body for longer. 

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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 subtle effects occur for as long as 60 hours after dosage. 

What is Methadone’s Half-Life?

A drug’s half-life is when it takes half of the dosage to leave the body. Methadone has a half-life of about 24 to 55 hours. This is much longer than other prescription painkillers, such as morphine, whose half-life is one to five hours. 

Methadone’s peak respiratory depressant effects persist later than its analgesic effects. Great care must be taken with repeated dosing, as the liver can retain and slowly release methadone, prolonging the duration of the drug and increasing the risk of methadone overdose. 

An entire dose of methadone is usually eliminated from the body after five half-life cycles. This process can take up to 14 days, which means traces of the drug are detectable for at least this long. 

Methadone Detection Times – How Long Does it Stay in the Body?

Methadone remains in the body between 40 and 300 hours, longer than alternative opioids. Because of its long and varied half-life, methadone testing can detect the drug for up to several months after use. 

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

how long does methadone stay in the body

How Long Does Methadone Stay In Urine?

Standard urine drug tests can detect methadone for about seven days and up to two weeks after the last dose. Despite having low to moderate accuracy, urine tests are one of the most common methods of testing for methadone use. 

How Long Does Methadone Stay In Hair?

Similarly to other opioids and pain medications, a hair follicle drug test can detect methadone for up to 90 days.

When a person ingests methadone, the substance enters the bloodstream and ends up in the hair follicles. As the hair grows, a hair follicle drug test can detect traces of methadone. 

How Long Does Methadone Stay In Blood?

Blood tests offer a short detection window and are most valuable when somebody is suspected to be under the influence of methadone at the time of the test. A blood test can detect methadone for about four to five days after the last dose.

How Long Does Methadone Stay In Saliva?

Saliva tests have a relatively short detection window. Methadone typically appears on saliva drug tests for up to 48 hours after the last dose. 

False Positives

Several basic over-the-counter drugs, such as diphenhydramine, commonly found in OTC antihistamines such as BENADRYL®, can create a false positive on methadone drug tests. Over-the-counter medications with sleep aids such as Advil PM can present a false-positive result.

How to Get Methadone Out of Your System 

The only way to eliminate the drug from your system is to stop taking methadone and wait. Your body’s natural metabolizing process clears the drug over time. 

While drug metabolization happens faster for some, there are no methods to accelerate methadone’s elimination time other than stopping the use of the drug. 

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What is Methadone? 

Methadone is a synthetic opioid. That means it’s synthesized to mimic the effects of natural opioids.

It acts on the same brain receptors as other opioids but has a more prolonged action duration. It is also helpful in treating opioid addiction and pain management.

Methadone is a schedule II controlled medication. While generally safe, methadone is addictive and triggers similar side effects to other opioids. Use methadone precisely as directed by medical professionals.

Methadone for Pain Management

Healthcare providers can use methadone as a second-line treatment for chronic pain. It helps manage chronic pain due to its long duration of action and effectiveness in pain relief. 

Healthcare providers can prescribe it in carefully monitored doses, starting low and gradually increasing it to achieve optimal pain control. The drug’s unique long-acting and analgesic properties effectively relieve chronic pain conditions that have not responded well to other opioids.

Methadone Dosing

People recovering from opioid use disorder receive a maintenance dose that prevents common withdrawal symptoms without triggering a high or sedation. Initial doses of methadone for pain control start at 2.5 mg to 10 mg every 8 to 12 hours. This dose can be used for months or years to help addicted individuals maintain sobriety. 

Extreme caution is necessary to avoid overdosage considering methadone’s long elimination half-life. Consuming even one additional dose can lead to an overdose.

What is the 3-Day Rule for Methadone?

The 3-day rule for methadone is when healthcare providers give a take-home dose of methadone to people who showed stability and compliance with their treatment for at least three consecutive days.

It exists to reward progress and commitment to the treatment program and signifies a level of trust between the person with addiction and the healthcare provider.

Methadone Prescriptions

Healthcare professionals with expertise in addiction medicine typically handle methadone prescriptions. These professionals include doctors specializing in addiction treatment or methadone clinics.

A healthcare professional will consider the following factors when prescribing methadone:

  • A person’s medical history
  • Severity of addiction
  • Treatment goals
  • Close monitoring to ensure safety and effectiveness

Methadone Therapy Duration

While the length of a methadone treatment program varies depending on individual progress, the minimum suggested treatment time is 12 months. Some opioid-addicted individuals benefit from treatment for several years. 

The length of treatment depends on factors including:

  • Severity of addiction
  • Treatment response
  • A person’s overall stability

Misuse and treatment dropout are the most significant barriers to therapy success and may increase the overall length of a treatment program. 

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.

Symptoms of Methadone Addiction

Methadone acts on the same opioid receptors as morphine and heroin, making it highly addictive. People who use methadone to overcome an opioid addiction are at higher risk of developing a dependency on the drug. 

Symptoms of a methadone addiction are similar to opioid addiction symptoms and include:

  • Increased tolerance – Requiring higher doses of methadone to experience its effects
  • Misuse – Using higher doses than prescribed by your doctor 
  • Prioritizing methadone – Choosing the drug over professional, familial, or social responsibilities
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms – Experiencing unpleasant symptoms such as depression, nausea, or insomnia when stopping the use of the drug

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

Methadone Withdrawal 

Methadone withdrawal symptoms are similar to other opiates, such as heroin or morphine. Many users struggle more acutely with methadone withdrawal because the drug takes longer to process through the body. Common methadone withdrawal symptoms include:

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

Treatment for Methadone Addiction 

Drug treatment centers provide methadone addicts with the best chance at recovery. Since some methadone addictions evolved from other opioid addictions, more intensive treatment options are often necessary.

  • Inpatient programs: Provides around-the-clock medical treatment and therapies; highly recommended for people struggling with a severe addiction to methadone
  • Outpatient programs: An excellent option for people diagnosed with a minor methadone addiction by a substance abuse professional
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Healthcare providers may prescribe suboxone or gradually decrease methadone dosages to ease withdrawal symptoms and help people transition away from methadone use

Healthcare providers can provide comprehensive treatment plans for people with methadone addiction. This plan can include:

  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Therapy (individual or group counseling)
  • Support groups (Narcotics Anonymous, etc.)
  • Regular medical checkups
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Social support systems

A comprehensive treatment plan addresses addiction's physical, psychological, and social aspects to enable long-term recovery and sobriety.If you or someone you know is struggling with a methadone addiction, contact a treatment provider for more information on where to get help. You can also call (928) 723-1202 to speak with an addiction specialist and explore treatment pathways.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
11 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. Drug Testing: Methadone - Mayo Clinic Laboratories.” Mayo Clinic Laboratories.
  2. “How Much Does Opioid Treatment Cost?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019. 
  3. “What is Methadone?” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 2023.
  4. “Methadone: MedlinePlus Drug Information” MedlinePlus, 2019.
  5. “What Are the Treatments for Heroin Use Disorder?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018.
  6. “Medication-Assisted Treatment" Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 2015.
  7. “Preventing, Recognizing, and Treating Opioid Addiction” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 2023.
  8. “Methadone Dosing” NYC Office of Addiction Services and Supports, 2006.
  9. “Methadone Monograph for Professionals” Drugs.com. 
  10. "Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)” National Institutes of Health, 2014.
  11. “Going Through Methadone Withdrawal” Healthline, 2016.

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