Methadone can stay in your system for 8-59 hours, depending on how much you take and which type. The amount of time that methadone can be detected in your system relies on the type of test. Urine tests can detect methadone after 24 hours and for up to 7 days. Blood tests should be done within three hours to hit peak dosing, but it can be detected as soon as three hours after oral administration. Blood tests can detect methadone for up to 2.5 days. Hair tests can detect methadone within 7-10 days after use and for up to 90 days. Saliva tests can detect methadone within 10 minutes of use and for up to 10 days. Methadone has been a long-standing treatment for people with opioid-related substance use disorders. When taken as prescribed, it can be a life-changing medication, especially in the face of the current opioid epidemic. However, it also has a potential for abuse that cannot be ignored. With this in mind, we have compiled information about this drug to help educate you about using it safely, recognizing negative side-effects, and getting help for abuse if and when it’s needed.

What is methadone and what is it used for?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid, meaning that it is chemically unrelated to other opioids, like heroin, but it binds to opioid receptors and can produce similar effects. However, it does not create the same sense of euphoria as non-synthetic opioids, and it produces fewer symptoms of withdrawal. It is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that it has a clinically accepted use, but a high potential for abuse that could lead to psychological and physical dependence. It has multiple purposes, including pain relief, treating opioid abstinence syndrome, and to help wean people off illicit drug use, and it is available with a prescription in tablets and oral and injectable solutions.

Why do people abuse methadone?

Despite the fact that methadone does not produce the same intense effects as other opioids, it can still be pleasurable to users. It can cause:

  • Altered sensory.
  • perception.
  • Analgesia.
  • Dizziness.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Euphoria.
  • Light-headedness.
  • Sedation.

For people seeking a high, methadone can be an attractive substance. It has multiple purposes, including pain relief, treating opioid abstinence syndrome, and to help wean people off illicit drug use, and it is available with a prescription in tablets and oral and injectable solutions.

What problems can come from methadone abuse?

Like other opioids, methadone comes with some dangers, such as:

  • Altered cognitive and sensory efficiency.
  • Cardiac arrest.
  • Circulatory collapse.
  • Clammy skin.
  • Coma.
  • Constipation.
  • Constricted pupils.
  • Convulsions.
  • Death.
  • Decreased heart rate.
  • Depressed reflexes.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Facial flushing.
  • Flaccid muscles.
  • Headache.
  • Hives.
  • Hypersensitivity.
  • Inability to completely empty the bladder.
  • Nausea.
  • Overdose.
  • Pulmonary edema.
  • Respiratory depression.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Stupor.
  • Sweating.

Tolerance, dependence, and addiction can also occur, which can require detox, rehab, and continued maintenance therapy.

How and why do people test for methadone?

Testing can take place in many places and under a variety of circumstances, including:

  • Clinical settings to monitor analgesia levels.
  • As part of rehabilitation to ensure sobriety or to monitor proper levels.
  • Workplaces, sports-related organizations, or through insurance, to determine eligibility for a job, etc.

Various things may be tested, such as urine, blood, saliva, and hair.

What sort of treatment is available for methadone abuse?

Methadone’s half-life is long compared to how long its analgesic properties last (4-8 hours). This makes it harder for you to want to go through detox. However, there are many ways to approach recovery, such as:

  • Counseling can help you talk through your problems or give you different approaches to changing your thoughts. It’s available in both solo, and group settings, and family can be involved, catering to your comfort level.
  • Rehab can help you get through detox and withdrawal from methadone, but be aware that according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, any treatment less than 90 days is limited in its efficacy; the longer you stay in treatment, the better your outcomes will be.
  • Other medications. Buprenorphine and LAAM (L-alpha-acetylmethadol) are both alternatives to methadone that treat opioid use disorders. Buprenorphine is a Schedule V drug, meaning that it has a low potential for abuse. It can still be used as an analgesic, and it’s safer in terms of respiratory depression and overdose potential. LAAM is Schedule II, like methadone, but it has longer lasting effects and no euphoric effects.
  • Peer support programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can provide you with a sense of support from other people who have been in your shoes.

Whichever mode of treatment(s) you choose, remember that getting some kind of help is the primary goal. With this information in mind, you can take the next steps toward recovery.


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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.