People currently taking Methadone or planning on doing so are questioning the drug’s activity in their bodies.
For this reason, it is critical to understand better the basics of Methadone, including how long does methadone stay in your system. Keep reading to stay updated!
Methadone: A Quick Overview
Methadone is a narcotic or opioid medication used for treating pain. It also helps a person get through the drug detoxification process.
This narcotic medication helps reduce withdrawal symptoms for someone with narcotic drug addiction, including heroin, without feeling “high.”
Methadone is used for pain management; it must only be prescribed to people with chronic, long-lasting pain who have not responded to other treatment methods.
What are the Specifications of Methadone?
Methadone is available under the Dolophine and Methadose brand names and comes in three formats: tablets, powders, and liquid.
Tablets – they are also known as diskettes and are taken orally by dissolving in water.
Liquid – they are commonly used by methadone maintenance clinics.
Powder – they are also taken orally by dissolving in water.
In some instances, doctors administer doses of Methadone through an injection.
This long-acting synthetic opiate is widely prescribed because it is more cost-efficient than other prescription painkillers.
How Does Methadone Work?
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), methadone work by affecting the nervous system and brain’s response to pain. Euphoric effects of feeling high and painful opioid withdrawal symptoms are blocked.
As a medication-assisted treatment, Methadone provides a comprehensive additional treatment program in combination with support group participation and therapy. People taking this medication for opioid addiction treatment should participate in a drug treatment program.
During the drug treatment program, doctors and other accredited healthcare providers provide and monitor this drug for each patient as needed. This medication can only be acquired through certified opioid treatment programs.
How Long Does a Single Dose of Methadone Take to Work?
A single dose of Methadone is usually felt within 30 minutes and lasts 8-12 hours. In some cases, a person can feel the effects of Methadone for 24-36 hours.
Within this period, individuals on methadone maintenance therapy should return to the doctor, dispensing clinic, or other treatment centers to obtain the next dose. The attending doctor is responsible for monitoring the methadone dosages and effects. They also adjust the prescription as needed.
How Long Does Methadone Stay in the Body System?
The period methadone stays in the system is influenced by many factors. A person’s health factors, like liver function, metabolism, weight, age, additional ailments, and concurrent use of other substances, dosage amount, frequency of use, and duration of use, all affect how quickly this medication gets processed through a person’s body.
According to some clinical opinions, the period this medication assisted treatment stays in the system varies anywhere from 2 to 13 days.
In many cases, Methadone is completely processed out of the system within 2 weeks. However, traces of this medication may show up for longer times, depending on the drug test type used. Law enforcement officials, athletic organizations, addiction treatment programs, and employers can request methadone drug tests.
Please note that standard drug tests for opioid use, such as morphine, codeine, and heroin, cannot pick up methadone use. As a result, more costly and specific tests are used for screening for methadone use. Blood, hair, saliva, and urine tests are developed to test the methadone presence in the system.
What are the Tests Used to Detect Methadone?
Several drug tests are used to detect Methadone in an individual’s system. Urine tests are the most common test and usually the most accurate and least invasive way to detect substances in someone’s body.
Here are the different drug tests that help detect Methadone in the body with approximate detection times:
These tests can detect Methadone 1 hour after ingestion and up to 2 weeks after last use. They are the most common form of methadone use testing. Since they come with a long detection period, are relatively inexpensive, easy to administer, and are noninvasive, they are the most preferred drug test to detect the drug.
These tests can detect methadone traces for days after last use. They provide a noninvasive and convenient mode of testing methadone use. They can detect traces of Methadone in saliva 30 minutes after ingestion.
These tests can detect the traces of methadone for several months after last use. They help test methadone use over time. It is because the methadone traces can stay in the hair for several months after previous use.
Individuals with long-term use of methadone have methadone traces in their hair. For people who have recently started taking this medication, it may take up to 2 weeks for methadone traces to appear in their hair.
These tests can detect traces of methadone 30 minutes after ingestion and 3-4 days after last use. They are highly accurate but invasive and expensive. They also come with a very short detection window. In return, these tests are not commonly preferred for testing the use methadone.
As mentioned earlier, Methadone is processed out in the body within 2 weeks. In comparison, other pharmaceutical medication used for opioid dependence treatment, like suboxone, is believed to clear from the system within 9 days up to 2 weeks.
On the other hand, heroin comes with a shorter half-life compared to suboxone and Methadone. For this reason, this highly addictive morphine-derived illicit drug clears out of the system more quickly. This drug clears out of the body in less than an hour. However, morphine ingested from heroin takes up to 2 days to clear from the system.
Why is a Person Tested for Methadone Use?
Methadone use testing can occur in different places and under various circumstances, such as:
People are tested for Methadone to monitor analgesia levels.
Someone takes a methadone test as part of their rehabilitation program. That is to monitor proper levels or ensure sobriety.
Sports-Related Organizations, Workplaces, or Through Insurance
Testing for Methadone helps determine someone’s eligibility for insurance, job, or sports.
What are the Factors that Influence How Long Methadone Stays in the Body?
While Methadone is commonly eliminated in the body after 2 weeks, its traces are still found in the metabolites and can remain in the system longer.
As mentioned above, several factors can influence how long Methadone stays in the body, such as:
Length of Use and Dosing Schedule
The more Methadone an individual uses, the longer they may have the medication in their systems. This is particularly true for people taking this narcotic medication for an extended period. As Methadone builds up in the system, it becomes detectable in the system longer compared to people who only take the medication once or twice.
In short, the quantity and frequency at which you use the medication can affect how long does methadone stay in your system.
Gender, Weight, and Age
Metabolism plays a vital role in how fast Methadone leaves someone’s system.
People in better shape and are younger can usually eliminate the medication from their systems more quickly than those who are less healthy and older. It is because healthier and younger people typically have faster metabolisms. So, their body can process and eliminate Methadone more easily and quickly.
Furthermore, individuals with healthy weight or men tend to process Methadone faster. Therefore, overweight or female people take longer to get rid of the medication from their systems.
Functions and Overall Health of Liver and Kidneys
The kidneys and liver work hand in hand to process out any substances in the body. This means individuals with poor kidneys and liver generally take longer to process and get rid of Methadone from their bodies.
What is the Half-Life of Methadone?
Understanding Methadone’s half-life is also critical. Half-life refers to how long half of a specific substance is processed out from the system. Generally, it takes 4-6 half-lives for a substance to be eliminated from the system.
As with Methadone, it has a complicated half-life. People who are used to taking opioids often need a half-life of 24 hours. Meanwhile, those who are not taking opioids may need a half-life of 55 hours in maximum.
What are the Common Side Effects of Methadone?
Methadone does not cause opioid receptors stimulation in the brain like heroin, or other opioids do. Furthermore, methadone side effects are usually milder in comparison to heroin.
Below are the common side effects of Methadone but not limited to:
Rashes or hives
Loss of appetite
Change in mood
Diminished sexual ability or desire
Skipping menstrual periods in females
In some cases, a person can experience more severe methadone side effects, including but not limited to:
Swelling of face, eyes, tongue, mouth, or throat
The appearance of methadone side effects and their severity level depends on individuals’ physiological factors. Since Methadone is a medically managed treatment, a person must seek assistance from the prescribing doctor or attend a methadone clinic if any moderate to severe symptoms emerge.
On the other hand, asking for emergency help in a severe situation is recommended. While this medication is typically safe, individuals using it must follow the guidelines for use.
Can Methadone Use Lead to Addiction?
Methadone can lead to overdose and addiction, like other narcotics.
According to the US National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus, this medication can be habit-forming. It is not taken any longer than necessary. Instead, a person should take it as directed by their healthcare provider.
Conditions like breathing or heart problems, mental health issues, alcohol use history, can increase someone’s likelihood of experiencing severe side effects.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), someone can develop a physical dependence on Methadone if they take the medication regularly for an extended period. After physical dependence sets in, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms soon after they stop taking Methadone.
The withdrawal symptoms timeline is the same with opiates; withdrawal often sets in within a couple of days after last use. This withdrawal can last for 7-10 days.
Once a person starts to experience the symptoms of withdrawal, they must consult their healthcare provider before stopping methadone use. Extreme dehydration and other adverse side effects have occurred in people who have abruptly quit taking it.
When Methadone is used appropriately, only for a short period, and closely monitored by healthcare providers, a person is less likely to experience addiction. On the other hand, overuse may still occur whether Methadone is used recreationally or medically.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared in a 2017 report that deaths associated with methadone overdose have increased by 600% from 1999 to 2006.
What are the Common Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms?
If a person decides to stop taking Methadone, withdrawal symptoms usually emerge. Here are the common withdrawal symptoms someone may experience:
Increased heart rates and breathing
Runny nose and watery eyes
Body pains and aches
Inability to hold still
Vomiting and nausea
Loss of appetite
What are the Detox and Treatment Options for Methadone Addiction?
While Methadone can be used to treat opioid drug addiction, it may also cause addiction. So, the users must seek treatment.
Medically assisted detox can help with methadone addiction. Alternative medications, like suboxone, are usually prescribed to people transitioning off Methadone. In some instances, healthcare providers can reduce the methadone dosage until patients are completely off it.
The above methods all aim to decrease the withdrawal symptoms severity during the detox process. Once withdrawal symptoms become less severe, a person can stick with the treatment, prevent future relapses, and remain sober.
After the detox process, a person can proceed to addiction treatment. They can choose from different treatment programs to help them plan their aftercare.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), short-term and long-term residential programs, community support programs, drug counseling, and outpatient programs are effective methadone addiction treatment options.
A person can get 24-hour, highly structured care with residential treatment programs. When it comes to outpatient programs, someone can obtain more flexibility and opportunities to participate in family events or work, depending on the treatment intensity.
Both outpatient treatment and residential program usually include a comprehensive treatment plan, such as occupational assistance, drug and health education, individual and group counseling, and the building of a strong aftercare plan. Participation in community support programs and ongoing individual therapy are some aftercare plan components.
For better understanding, check out the following:
Medically Assisted Detox Treatment
People who need a medically assisted treatment program are given medications like L-alpha-acetylmethadol, buprenorphine, or suboxone. These alternatives to methadone help treat opioid use disorders.
Buprenorphine and other Schedule V drugs have lower chances of misuse. LAAM and other drugs classed as Schedule II may have longer-lasting effects but do not produce a euphoric high like Methadone.
Counseling allows people to talk through their problems and obtain various tools to help change their thought patterns. It is done to cater to a person’s comfort level, whether in a solo or group setting.
It is usually combined with rehabilitation and help before, during, and after medically assisted detox treatment to achieve successful treatment and recovery.
Residential Treatment Programs
Depending on the patient’s needs, an outpatient or residential program is suggested. As mentioned above, a residential treatment program comes with a 24/7 structured recovery setting.
Outpatient programs may provide more flexibility by allowing a person to participate in family events and work, but residential programs can be a better option if methadone addiction is severe.
Peer Support Programs
With the peer support programs, people with addiction to Methadone can be part of a helpful community. They can gain the necessary support and feel that they are not alone in their journey to overcoming addiction to methadone.
Individual circumstances and goals help determine the best option for someone dealing with addiction. As a result, they can effectively plan the appropriate aftercare.
What are the Best Practices When Taking Methadone?
Many people are concerned about the increased number of overdoses related to methadone use and the increased number of methadone prescriptions for pain management. So, the American Pain Society (APS) provided a guideline regarding the safest and best practices for methadone use.
The organization has recognized that methadone-assisted treatment is critical in opioid addiction treatment and chronic pain management, with various positive results. Lowered chances of drying due to drug overuse, a decrease in drug use, and prolonged therapy participation are some of the methadone treatment outcomes.
On the other hand, warnings remained regarding the potential methadone addiction, a drastic increase in methadone use, interactions with other medications, and small use of alternative methadone treatment. While Methadone is helpful in the medical field, users still need to take it under well-informed and safe conditions.
Who Can or Cannot Use Methadone?
Not everyone can take Methadone. Adults 18 years old and above can take this medication for drug addiction treatment.
People should tell their doctor the following things before starting methadone treatment:
Allergic reactions to Methadone and other medications in the past
Breathing difficulties or lung problems
Alcohol and substance abuse that are not opioids
Bad headaches or head injury
Fits or seizure
Low blood pressure or heart rhythm problems like arrhythmia
Problems with liver, kidneys, adrenal glands, or thyroid
Myasthenia and other conditions that cause muscle weakness
Pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to get pregnant
As a synthetic opiate, methadone can help heroin and other people abusing opioids during withdrawal process through reduced drug cravings. This medication assisted treatment is used for opioid replacement therapy. People who use methadone have high risk of drug overdose or addiction. So, it must be taken as prescribed by the doctor and for no longer than the required period of use.
While methadone comes with high safety profile, it can still lead to addiction. So, methadone users can undergo drug screenings, such as hair test, saliva test, blood test, and urine test. Plus, there are also treatment programs available, like detox treatment, counseling, residential treatment program, and peer support program.