How Long Does Methadone Hydrochloride Stay In Your System?

Methadone hydrochloride is used as part of a medication-assisted treatment program when people are addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers. Methadone can help people stop using opioids because it blocks their effects and can prevent withdrawal symptoms. When methadone is used as part of a treatment plan and is taken as prescribed, it’s considered a safe medication. However, methadone works in a way similar to other opioids, so there is a potential for misuse and addiction. A physician has to prescribe methadone, and it must be provided under a specific program that’s carefully supervised. After a period of time, a person may be able to take methadone at home. At first, however, a patient can only receive methadone in a clinical setting. Methadone can only be dispensed through an opioid treatment program (OTP) certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Some people may require methadone treatment for a year or more.
Some of the methadone regulations are touched on above. For example, a physician has to be certified to specifically prescribe methadone. Methadone is a Schedule II controlled substance in the U.S. This indicates the DEA sees methadone hydrochloride and other versions of the drug as having a high risk of misuse and dependence. Using methadone without a prescription is illegal. Professionals who are licensed to prescribe methadone have to undergo specific training and receive certifications through SAMHSA”s Division of Pharmacologic Therapies.
Methadone has become a big topic of conversation in the past decade. This is because of the role it plays in the opioid epidemic, which has taken a huge toll on the U.S. Methadone is seen as both a treatment and as a drug of misuse. At prescribed doses, methadone isn’t likely to have effects of other opioids. At high doses, it can cause a euphoric high, however. Other opioids frequently misused include heroin, which is an illegal drug sold on the streets as well as prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are becoming increasingly problematic as well. These drugs come into the United States, and they’re highly potent with many people dying after using them only once.
When someone uses methadone hydrochloride, whether they’re prescribed it for pain or to treat addiction or they’re using it illegally, it affects opioid receptors in the brain. Methadone is a depressant, and it slows the functions of the central nervous system. Methadone is also an opioid agonist, which means it activates opioid receptors. The effects of methadone are slower and milder than other opioids, however. When someone uses it as prescribed, it’s absorbed slowly, and while it can provide pain relief, it doesn’t create euphoria. At high doses, individuals who use methadone can experience euphoria. The physical and psychological effects of methadone are similar to other opioids. For example, methadone hydrochloride can cause drowsiness, dry mouth and gastrointestinal symptoms. It’s possible to overdose on methadone as well. Symptoms of a methadone overdose can include changes in respiration and heart rate, fainting, seizures and death.
The half-life of methadone is a long one. Its estimated average half-life is around 24 hours in someone who’s opioid tolerant. In someone who hasn’t previously used opioids or isn’t tolerant to them, the half-life is around 55 hours. It usually takes around five half-lives for a drug to leave the system of a patient completely, so methadone is going to stay in the system of the individual for a relatively long time. Knowing the half-life of methadone is important to prevent an overdose. It should also be noted that the half-life range for methadone can vary significantly. For some people, the half-life of methadone can be as short as eight hours and as long as 60 hours. The half-life of the parent drug of methadone can be shorter than the ranges above. Methadone leaves behind metabolites, however, as the body processes it. Those metabolites are what can take so long to fully be eliminated from the system.
There is a really big range when it comes to the half-life of methadone. A lot of this range is based on the fact that there are individual considerations that determine how long any substance stays in the system of a patient. Methadone is a drug that accumulates in the system of a patient, so the more often someone takes it, the more it is going to build up and the longer it’s going to take the body to eliminate it. Also relevant is metabolism. People with faster metabolisms eliminate drugs more quickly than people with slower metabolic rates. Larger people, healthier people and younger people also tend to eliminate drugs like methadone hydrochloride more quickly. People with chronic health conditions or organ function impairment may eliminate drugs more slowly.
If someone is drug tested, methadone will show up as an opioid. Methadone hydrochloride can show up in a drug test for longer than most other drugs. For example, in a urine test methadone can show up for anywhere from six to 12 days. This can be higher for people who heavily use the drug or have used it for a long time. A blood test might show positive results for methadone for up to 24 hours after it’s used. The short detection window with blood tests is one reason they’re not the preferred method of drug testing. In a hair follicle test, methadone can show up for up to 90 days, which is pretty consistent with most drugs.

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Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.

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