What Is Methadone And How Does It Really Work?

Many Americans want to know, what is methadone and how to use it in different cases? If you or someone you know is grappling with opioid use disorder (OUD), it’s essential to understand the potential solution that methadone offers. It’s also used as a pain relief medication.

Methadone – classified as a schedfule II controlled medication – serves as a long-acting full opioid agonist explicitly designed for treating OUD. This means that it activates the same receptors in the brain as other opioids but in a controlled and regulated manner.

Here, at Methadone.org, we’ll explore various aspects of Methadone, including its mechanism of action, usage guidelines, benefits, and potential risks. So, whether you’re seeking solutions for yourself or aiming to support a loved one struggling with addiction, we’ve got you covered.

What Is Methadone

What Is Methadone?

Methadone is an opioid medication that is central to addiction treatment and pain management. This medication plays a significant role in medication-assisted treatment programs designed to help individuals overcome Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) and regain control of their lives. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In addiction treatment strategies, Methadone is utilized within a comprehensive approach to support individuals in reducing or eliminating their use of heroin and other opioids. When taken as directed and under close medical supervision, this medication has proven safe and effective for those seeking recovery.

How Does Methadone Work? Unveiling its Mechanism of Action

Methadone, a medication renowned for its effectiveness in pain management and addiction treatment, operates through intricate processes that offer relief and aid recovery. Let’s explore its mechanism of action:

A Powerful Tool for Pain Relief

When faced with pain, Methadone becomes a reliable ally, subtly altering the brain and nervous system’s response to those distressing signals. While it may not provide instant relief like other potent painkillers, such as morphine, it offers a sustained and enduring impact. This characteristic makes it invaluable for individuals coping with persistent pain resulting from injuries, surgeries, or chronic illnesses.

Curbing the Pleasurable Effects

Methadone’s influence extends beyond pain relief. It acts as an effective deterrent against drugs like codeine, heroin, and other opioids. By obstructing their pleasurable effects, Methadone becomes a potent tool in minimizing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Consider it a replacement therapy that provides a similar experience without detrimental consequences.

However, it’s important to note that this medication alone cannot eliminate addiction. It thrives best when combined with counseling and other therapies, working in synergy to offer steadfast support on the path to recovery.

Disrupting Pain Signaling

Methadone can remarkably interrupt the intricate process through which nerves transmit pain messages between the brain and the body. By temporarily intercepting and modulating these signals, it effectively reduces the intensity of pain experienced. This noteworthy attribute makes Methadone an ideal choice for managing chronic pain, offering respite from the often overwhelming sensations.

How Do People Take Methadone? Understanding Administration Methods

When it comes to taking Methadone, several administration methods suit different needs and circumstances. It is primarily available in liquid form, with two main versions commonly used in Australia, namely Methadone Syrup and Biodone Forte. This liquid form offers versatility, making it a suitable option for individuals with advanced dementia or those who struggle with swallowing Methadone pills.

In long-term methadone programs, individuals typically visit a public clinic or pharmacy on a daily basis to receive their prescribed dose. The pharmacist will carefully dilute the liquid with water, and then the person will take their dose and pay the necessary fee. This structured approach ensures regular monitoring and support throughout the treatment process.

Methadone History

The history of Methadone traces back to World War II. In response to the shortage of morphine, German scientists Gustav Ehrhart and Max Bockmüh synthesized Methadone as a solution. Surprisingly, it wasn’t initially recognized as a narcotic analgesic but rather as a means to address the scarcity of pain relief medications.

Methadone’s Role in Treating Opioid Dependence: A Historical Perspective

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the groundwork for this medication research was laid, setting the stage for future developments. In 1947, Methadone arrived in the United States, primarily used as an analgesic for individuals with severe pain. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that its potential in treating opioid addiction began to be acknowledged by the medical community.

The first comprehensive report on the properties of Methadone was published in the United States in 1947, shedding light on its effects and benefits. While its early use as a medication for opioid withdrawal was acknowledged, researchers took another 14 years to fully appreciate its potential as a maintenance drug.

Today, this medication is included in the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, highlighting its crucial role in treating opioid dependence.

What Is Methadone Used For?

Methadone serves multiple purposes in healthcare, primarily in managing chronic pain and treating opioid use disorder (OUD). Let’s explore its applications:

Chronic Pain Management

Methadone plays a crucial role in easing severe pain caused by various medical conditions, providing effective relief, and improving the quality of life for individuals with chronic pain. It offers long-acting pain control, which is particularly beneficial for those with long-term pain.

One of the advantages of Methadone is its versatility in addressing different types of pain, including neuropathic pain characterized by burning or tingling sensations. It is also a good option for individuals with confirmed allergies to other opioids. Additionally, it has a lower incidence of neurotoxic side effects and constipation than other opioids, making it a favorable choice in hospital and palliative care settings.

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)

You may wonder, what is the use of Methadone in OUD? This medication is integral to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs for individuals struggling with opioid use disorder. It helps individuals reduce or quit their use of heroin or other opiates by alleviating withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

It is administered under the supervision of specialized treatment programs to ensure its safe and effective use. These programs, often facilitated by healthcare providers and addiction specialists, incorporate counseling and behavioral health therapies to provide comprehensive support for individuals in their recovery journey.

Experts recommend using this medication for at least a year in addiction treatment programs to optimize the chances of successful recovery. When the time comes to discontinue Methadone, healthcare professionals carefully taper the dosage to minimize withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone Safety: Ensuring the Effective and Responsible Use

You must follow some guidelines while using this medication for pain relief. It is recommended for pain relief when non-opioid pain-relief drugs are not feasible or when other pain management options have proven ineffective. Methadone for pain should only be prescribed by healthcare professionals due to the risks allied with opioid use, and strict adherence to dosage instructions is crucial.

Methadone is carefully customized to meet your specific requirements. Your doctor will regularly adjust the dosage to ensure maximum effectiveness. Remembering that this medication should never be shared or given to others is crucial. Sharing medicine can have unintended consequences and pose risks to individuals. So, it’s vital to follow the prescribed dosage instructions strictly.

It can interact with other medications, particularly those that affect the heart. To lessen the risk of adverse effects or complications, inform your healthcare provider about all your medicines. This way, they can make informed decisions and ensure your safety.

Practical Tips for Safe Methadone Use

Here are some practical tips to help you use Methadone safely:

  1. Avoid consuming alcohol while on Methadone, as it can intensify its effects and lead to unwanted reactions.
  2. Always take this medication as prescribed and avoid extra doses if you miss one or feel it’s not working.
  3. If you suspect an overdose or accidental ingestion, immediately contact emergency services at 911.
  4. Be cautious when driving or operating machinery, as Methadone can cause drowsiness or impaired judgment.
  5. Store your Methadone in a secure location, out of reach of children, to prevent unintentional ingestion.
  6. Never share this medication with others, even if they seem to have similar symptoms or conditions.
  7. Keep this drug at room temperature and protect it from direct light.
  8. Properly dispose of any unused Methadone. You can consult your healthcare provider or refer to guidelines on safe medication disposal provided by relevant authorities.

Methadone Side Effects

There are some well-known Methadone side effects. At the same time, some of them are less known and less common. But anyway, you should know about all of them if you need to take methadone.

Common Side Effects

During short-term use, individuals may experience common side effects, which are generally temporary and subside over time. These include:

  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Upset stomach or vomiting
  • Itchy skin
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Heavy sweating
  • Sexual problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushing
  • Sleep changes
  • Appetite changes
  • Vision problems
  • Stomach pain
  • Mood changes

Serious Side Effects

If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop taking Methadone and seek immediate medical help:

  • Difficulty breathing or shallow breathing
  • Chest pain or a fast/pounding heartbeat
  • Hives or a rash
  • Swelling of the throat, face, tongue, or lips
  • Hallucinations or confusion
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint

Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women and Methodone

  • Safety for Pregnant Women: If you’re pregnant and struggling with heroin or pain pill addiction, seeking treatment is crucial for your well-being and your baby’s safety. Methadone can help manage opioid use disorder (OUD) during pregnancy, with milder withdrawal symptoms in babies compared to illicit opioids. Inform your doctor about your methadone treatment.
  • Breastfeeding and Methodone: Breastfeeding is generally safe while on Methadone treatment. Although a small amount of this drug may enter breast milk, the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the potential risks. Consult your doctor for a gradual and safe weaning process when ready.
  • Comprehensive Treatment and Prenatal Care: Comprehensive treatment and regular prenatal care are vital for pregnant women on Methadone. It reduces the risk of complications and helps manage opioid addiction without causing congenital disabilities. Maintain open communication with your healthcare provider throughout your pregnancy.
  • Withdrawal Risks and Consultation: Methadone prevents withdrawal symptoms, reducing the risk of miscarriage or premature birth. Some babies may experience neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) after birth. NAS symptoms can appear within hours to weeks. Seek guidance from your physician, as various factors influence NAS.

Methadone Withdrawal

Methadone, when taken in high doses, can lead to strong physical dependence and addictive tendencies. It is commonly prescribed to address opiate addiction, but it’s important to be mindful of the potential for trading one addiction for another. Frequent use can quickly build tolerance, requiring higher doses for desired effects.

Once the body becomes reliant on Methadone for normal functioning, quitting the drug triggers withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal occurs as the body readjusts and learns to function without Methadone. During this period, uncomfortable symptoms emerge, making the recovery process challenging.

Onset and Duration of Withdrawal

Symptoms of Methadone withdrawal typically emerge around 24 to 36 hours after the last dose. Unlike heroin withdrawal, methadone withdrawal develops gradually and with less intensity. The duration varies from person to person.

Early Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

During the first 30 hours after discontinuing Methadone, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Restlessness
  • Yawning
  • Watery eyes
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sweating

Peak Withdrawal Symptoms

Around the third day of withdrawal, certain symptoms may peak, including:

  • Muscle aches
  • Goosebumps
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Intense drug cravings

Managing the Withdrawal Process

Withdrawal can be uncomfortable, and the risk of relapse may increase. To mitigate these challenges, some individuals discuss the option of remaining on Methadone treatment at lower doses if tolerated. Once stability is achieved, a gradual tapering plan can be explored with the guidance of your doctor.

Remember, withdrawal requires support and medical supervision. Working closely with healthcare professionals who can provide personalized guidance and help you navigate the process as comfortably as possible is essential.

Methadone Overdose

Overdosing on Methadone can have severe consequences and demands immediate attention. It is crucial to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of an overdose and take prompt action if you or someone else exhibits these signs. In the event of an overdose, call emergency services right away:

Signs of a Methadone Overdose

  • Low, shallow breathing: An overdose may cause breathing difficulties, resulting in abnormally slow and shallow breaths. If you notice this symptom, it indicates a medical emergency.
  • Drowsiness or unconsciousness: Excessive drowsiness or loss of consciousness is an acute symptom of an overdose. If someone becomes unresponsive or extremely difficult to wake up, it is essential to seek urgent medical help.
  • Cold, clammy skin with a bluish color: During an overdose, the skin may turn cold and clammy, taking on a bluish hue. This change in skin coloration is a grave sign that necessitates immediate intervention.
  • Slack muscles: Overdosing can lead to muscle weakness and a slackening of the muscles throughout the body.
  • Occasional seizures: Seizures, characterized by sudden, uncontrolled movements or convulsions, can occur during an overdose.
  • Coma: In severe cases, an overdose can lead to a state of coma.

Responding to an Overdose: Taking Immediate Action

Contact emergency services or the Poison Help line if you suspect an overdose. An overdose can be life-threatening, particularly in children or individuals using opioid medication without a prescription.

To enhance safety, your doctor may advise keeping naloxone, an effective medicine used to reverse opioid overdoses, readily available. While waiting for professional assistance, your caregiver must seek emergency medical help and, if necessary, perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) until help arrives.

Methadone And The Law

Just like any other prescription medication, Methadone is closely regulated by the FDA under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Additionally, because of its potential for misuse, it falls under DEA as a controlled substance.

What makes this medication unique is its role in treating opiate addiction, which comes with an extra layer of federal regulations. These regulations specify how physicians should care for opiate-dependent patients and are enforced by federal agents.

The authority for these regulations stems from the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention (CDAP) and Control Act of 1970 and the Narcotic Addict Treatment Act of 1974. These acts empower the Secretary of HHS to establish treatment standards and require practitioners to obtain DEA registration based on the Secretary’s qualifications.

As it is classified as a Schedule 8 drug, it falls under the category of controlled substances. It’s important to note that certain actions involving Methadone are considered illegal, including:

  • Using Methadone without a valid prescription from a doctor.
  • Making false claims to obtain this medication or a methadone prescription from a healthcare professional.
  • Engaging in forgery or alteration of a methadone prescription.
  • Selling or providing a methadone prescription to another person.
  • Injecting this medication.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get emergency methadone?

It’s crucial to call 911 immediately if you’re facing a medical emergency due to opioid withdrawal. Healthcare professionals can administer emergency methadone to address acute withdrawal symptoms in hospitals. Buprenorphine is another medication often used in emergency treatment for sudden opioid withdrawal.

Is Methadone an opioid?

You may wonder, is Methadone an opiate? Yes, it is classified as a synthetic opioid agonist. It is prescribed under brand names such as Dolophine and Methadose. This medication is used for chronic pain management and to treat opioid use disorder, including addiction to heroin or other opioids. Another option for these cases is Suboxone.

Is Methadone addictive?

Methadone has the potential to be addictive. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions precisely when taking it. Avoid taking a larger dose, taking it more frequently, or using it for a longer duration or in a different manner than prescribed.

How do I dispose of medicines safely?

To ensure the safe disposal of unused opioid medicines, you can return them to any pharmacy. It is essential not to keep unused drugs “just in case,” as this increases the risk of inappropriate use. Remember to store Methadone securely, out of reach of children and pets. Never dispose of medicines in the garbage bin or flush them down the toilet, as this can harm others and have adverse environmental effects.

What is the half life of Methadone?

Methadone has an average half-life of approximately 25 hours. The prolonged presence of this medication in the bloodstream is attributed to its significant binding to plasma proteins.

What is the effect of Methadone on the body and mental health?

A person may experience physical symptoms such as sweating, headache, itchy skin, or sleepiness, and abuse of Methadone can lead to psychological dependence, where an individual becomes dependent on the drug for emotional well-being, potentially leading to addiction.

When should I see my doctor while using Methadone?

It’s essential to consult your doctor before adjusting your methadone dose, whether increasing or decreasing. Abruptly discontinuing Methadone can lead to withdrawal symptoms, so your doctor can guide you on the appropriate dosage reduction to minimize these effects.


In conclusion, understanding Methadone is crucial for anyone seeking information on chronic pain management or opioid treatment. This drug, being a regulated synthetic opioid agonist, plays a pivotal role in easing withdrawal symptoms and providing vital support to individuals on their path to recovery.

However, it’s crucial to be aware of its potential for habit-forming tendencies and associated risks. Proper usage under the guidance of a medical professional is key. Additionally, responsibly disposing of unused medications and adhering to prescribed dosages are essential. Always consult your doctor for personalized guidance and monitor any physical or psychological effects.

Always remember to consult with your doctor for personalized advice and keep a close watch on any physical or psychological effects that may surface. By placing your well-being at the forefront and seeking expert care, you can effectively navigate your treatment journey and achieve positive outcomes.