Methadone is medication used to treat opioid use disorder. However, methadone itself can be addictive, so it’s important to use this medication exactly as directed.

Methadone hydrochloride, also known simply as methadone, is a medication often used to treat opioid use disorder. However, because methadone is also an opioid drug, it carries similar risks of addiction, abuse and dependence. The following provides an overview of how methadone works, why it’s addictive and the health concerns it can create.

What Is Methadone Hydrochloride?

Methadone hydrochloride is a synthetic opioid that acts similarly to morphine. Methadone is available in several forms, including tablets, dissolving tablets and a liquid formulation. Because it is a controlled substance, methadone is available only by prescription.

Methadone is often used as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for people addicted to opioid pain relievers or heroin. It can also treat severe pain because it changes how the brain and central nervous system respond to pain, providing a sense of relief.

Although methadone itself is an opioid, it can effectively treat opioid dependence and addiction. This is possible because methadone has slower effects and blocks the high of other opioids, such as codeineheroin and oxycodone.

Methadone can help prevent withdrawal symptoms in people undergoing opioid addiction treatment. Experts recommend that methadone should be prescribed for at least a year when treating opioid addiction. When someone is prescribed methadone for opioid addiction treatment, they will usually take a daily dose. The dose amount can vary widely based on a person’s opioid tolerance and history of use. Methadone should only be used under medical supervision and direction.

What Does Methadone Hydrochloride Look Like?

Methadone hydrochloride is available in different formulations that vary in appearance:

  • Tablet and dispersible (disintegrating) tablet: Depending on the manufacturer, the methadone oral tablet can have several different appearances. In general, it is white and round/oblong with an imprint on one or both sides. Although some methadone tablets are scored with a line, not all of them are.
  • Oral liquid: The methadone oral liquid can be clear or red in color. The red formulation, which is cherry flavored, can also smell like its cherry flavoring.

Is Methadone Hydrochloride Addictive?

Whether it’s prescribed to treat pain or opioid addiction, methadone can be misused. For this reason, it comes with a warning about its addictive nature. It’s also a Schedule II drug in the U.S., meaning it is classified as a controlled substance that has a high potential for severe psychological and physical addiction.

Methadone is addictive because it acts on the brain and central nervous system like other opioids. Effects like euphoria are milder because of methadone’s slow onset, but they are still present. Methadone still binds to opioid receptors in the brain and can cause euphoria, changes in mood, relaxation and drowsiness. These are all effects patients might find desirable.

The long-term goal of methadone use is to help people stop using opioids, but sometimes, they end up simply replacing one opioid with another. Despite this, experts agree that the benefits of methadone addiction treatment generally outweigh the risks.

If you or someone you love is struggling with methadone addiction, or if you believe methadone may help treat your opioid use disorder, The Recovery Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn about individualized treatment programs that can help you make real, long-term changes in your life.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more
Sources “Methadone.” July 31, 2020. Accessed September 12, 2021. “Methadone Pill Images.” Accessed September 12, 2021.

VistaPharm. “Methadone Hydrochloride Oral Concentrate[…]�� Safety Data Sheet.” May 2015. Accessed September 12, 2021.

American Society of Addiction Medicine. “National Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder.” December 18, 2019. Accessed September 12, 2021.

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.