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What is Methadone?

Methadone is used to relieve severe pain in people who are expected to need pain medication around the clock for a long time and who cannot be treated with other medications. It is also used to prevent withdrawal symptoms in individuals struggling with opioid addiction who are enrolled in treatment programs to stop taking or continue not taking the drugs. Methadone is in a class of medications called opiate (narcotic) analgesics. Methadone works to treat pain by changing how the brain and nervous system respond to pain. In addition, it works to treat people who were addicted to opiate drugs by producing similar effects and preventing withdrawal symptoms in people who have stopped using these drugs.

Also known as Methadose or Dolophine, methadone is a synthetic opioid that is classed as a Schedule II substance. When used long-term, the body will become dependent on methadone, so users who try and quit cold-turkey will experience withdrawal symptoms until the drug is fully eliminated from the body. On the other hand, some drug users crush and snort or inject methadone to get high. These individuals may also get addicted to the drug and suffer methadone withdrawal until the drug is eliminated from the system.

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System
How long does methadone stay in your system? Different Opioids stay in your system for different amounts of time. Both the rate at which they activate and the number of times. Opioids are detectable after use depending on which specific Opioid was used.

Methadone is addictive, like other opioids. However, being on methadone is not the same as being dependent on illegal opioids such as heroin:

  • It is safer for the patient to take methadone under medical supervision than it is to take heroin of unknown purity.
  • Methadone is taken orally. Heroin is often injected, which can lead to HIV transmission if needles and syringes are shared.
  • People who are heroin-dependent often spend most of their time trying to obtain and use heroin. This can involve criminal activity such as stealing. Patients in methadone do not need to do this. Instead, they can undertake productive activities such as education, employment, and parenting.

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Why Do People Abuse Methadone?

Because many individuals receive prescriptions for strong painkillers every year, more and more people suffer from addiction to prescription pain medications. These are often oxycodone- or hydrocodone-based medicines, such as Vicodin, Percocet, or OxyContin. In addition, lawmakers and regulators now say that prescription pain medications are over-prescribed for problems that may not be fixed by this medication, such as chronic back pain, or they are prescribed in large quantities for post-surgery pain treatment.

Although the Food and Drug Administration does not recommend methadone as a prescription painkiller for these types of pain, over 4 million prescriptions were written for methadone in 2009. The rise in methadone prescriptions, specifically for use as a painkiller, is because methadone is cheap, especially compared to hydrocodone and oxycodone. In addition, insurance companies are sometimes more willing to cover the cost of methadone instead of brand-name opioid painkillers, which has driven many people to switch their prescriptions to methadone.

Because methadone is designed to be a long-acting drug, it can build up very quickly in the body, which can mean that taking even one more dose than prescribed can lead to an overdose. Therefore, unless carefully monitored by a medical professional, methadone use is dangerous, and abuse or addiction can lead to severe consequences.

Methadone’s half-life, depending on dose, ranges anywhere from 8 to 59 hours, while the analgesic, or painkilling, effects last up to 8 hours. The long half-life benefits those recovering from a heroin or prescription
painkiller addiction
, as it stays in the body to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings. However, it is less effective for treating chronic pain conditions related to diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis, or osteoarthritis because the painkilling effects do not last as long as the drug remains in the body. As a result, individuals who take methadone as a painkiller can put themselves in danger of an overdose if their pain returns before safely taking their next dose.

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System?

Methadone has a half-life of 8 to 59 hours in adults. Generally, it takes four to five half-lives for a drug to be totally eliminated from the body. In most healthy people, no trace of methadone would be found after 40 to 295 hours (5 to 12.3 days). Most experts agree methadone is typically processed out of your system within two weeks; however, very specific drug tests may detect traces of the drug for longer. In addition, some over-the-counter medicines, such as diphenhydramine, have reportedly shown false-positive results for methadone.

The fact that methadone has such a long-lasting effect makes it helpful in reducing cravings. But unfortunately, methadone might also present some risk of abuse on its own. However, this risk is lower than the risks posed by the drugs it treats, making it more beneficial for therapeutic purposes. But how long does methadone stay in your system? As we mentioned earlier, it depends on different factors, such as the amount a person takes and how long they’ve been taking methadone. 

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System? – Urine Test

Methadone may be detected in the urine up to ~72 hours after the last ingestion. The urine methadone screening test detects the presence of methadone at a concentration of 300 ng/mL or greater; the methadone metabolite(EDDP) may also be detected. Methadone Confirmation testing should be considered for positive screens. Because urine tests are noninvasive, easy to administer, relatively inexpensive, and have a long detection period, they are usually the preferred mode of methadone testing.

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System
How long does methadone stay in your system? Every person metabolizes methadone differently, but as a long-acting opioid, it may be detected in the system longer than other prescription or illicit opioids.

Urinalysis or urine tests are the most widely used type of drug test. Methadone can be detected in urine anywhere between 1 hour after initial consumption and 2 weeks after the last use. Although methadone is a synthetic opioid, it is sufficiently distinct in structure to morphine that it will not show up in standard urine drug tests or 5-panel or 7-panel tests that test for opiates such as morphine and heroin. Routine opiate tests and 5-panel and 7-panel tests reliably detect morphine, codeine, and heroin; however, they usually do not detect other opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl, buprenorphine, and tramadol, unless very high dosages have been taken.

However, extended drug testing panels, such as 10-panel or 12-panel tests, usually test for methadone. In addition, most drug testing panels can be tailored made depending on what the company determines is important to test for, and there is the possibility that any other type of opiate, such as methadone, can be added to a testing panel separately if it is considered necessary. But specific methadone tests are costly and not usually included.

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How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System? – Blood Test

Methadone can be detected in the blood within 30 minutes of last use and remain detectable for up to a few days. While blood tests are highly accurate, they are expensive, invasive, and have a relatively short detection window, so they are not commonly used to test for methadone. It is best to administer blood tests within three hours to capture peak dosing levels. Since blood testing is expensive and invasive, it is not used as much as the other forms of testing. Another reason that blood testing isn’t used often is that the detection window is fairly short.

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System?Hair Follicle Test 

Hair follicle tests for methadone are generally used to test for methadone over a period of time. Someone with long-term use of methadone will have traces of methadone in their hair. These tests are not administered for someone who has recently started taking methadone because the hair will not show methadone use until a couple of weeks after use. However, hair tests will detect methadone for up to 90 days post-use.

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System?Saliva Test 

Saliva tests are rarely used because they have a very short detection period. Methadone can only be detected in your saliva for a couple of days after the last use. An average of 0.4 mL of saliva can be collected. The specimen may be stored at 4C to 37C and tested within 21 days of collection (or within 6 weeks if frozen).

Saliva testing has been proposed as a replacement for urine because it can be collected easily under direct supervision reducing the likelihood of sample tampering. The collection process also does not constitute an infringement of privacy. Generally, the results of oral fluid drug testing are similar to urine drug testing but there are some differences such as lower concentrations of substances in oral fluid than urine, and some drugs remain detectable for longer periods of time in urine than oral fluid. 

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Drug Testing for Methadone

Testing for methadone can take place in a variety of settings for a multitude of reasons:

  • Clinical settings help monitor analgesia levels as part of a rehabilitation program. This is important to ensure sobriety and proper medication levels.
  • Workplaces use testing to verify that a person is capable of performing their job.
  • Sports related organizations test to check players and ensure that they are fit to play.
  • Insurance companies may issue a test to determine eligibility for a policy.

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System and will it Show Up in a Drug Screening?

Drug screenings will detect methadone only when the testing center performs a specific test for it. Methadone is not detected in most standard drug tests. If you do receive a positive result, remember that you have protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A workplace can’t legally fire you for taking methadone if you take it under a doctor’s supervision.

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System
How long does methadone stay in your system? Differences in your genetics can also influence how long methadone stays in the body

How Long Does Methadone Stays in Your System? Determining Factors

There are a number of different factors that determine how long methadone stays in your body. These include:

Age, weight, and gender – Metabolism plays a huge role in how fast drugs leave your system. Young people, people with healthy body weight, and men all tend to process drugs faster. As a result, individuals who are older, overweight, or female may take longer to eliminate methadone from their system.

Length of methadone use and regular dosing schedule – The frequency and quantity at which a person uses a drug will impact how long it stays in their system. For example, someone who has been using a high dose of methadone on a daily basis for four years will require more time to eliminate it from their body than someone who has only taken methadone at a low dose for one week.

Overall health and function of the kidneys and liver – The liver and kidneys work hand in hand to eliminate substances from the body. As a result, people with poor kidney or liver function may take longer to process methadone and eliminate it from their bodies.

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Addiction to Methadone

Like all narcotics, methadone can lead to addiction and overdose. It can be misused in a manner similar to other opioids. It must be taken exactly as directed by a certified Opioid Treatment Program provider. This certification is to be obtained from SAMHSA. It is also important to note that a history of alcohol use, heart or respiratory problems, or mental health issues can cause adverse side effects when taking methadone.

Once physical dependency happens, it is very likely that a person will experience withdrawal symptoms upon no longer taking methadone. The amount of time it takes for withdrawal symptoms to set in is about two to three days post-use, and symptoms can last up to 10 days. It is important to consult a health care provider before stopping the drug due to the withdrawal symptoms and side effects that can occur.

Addiction to Methadone can be a bit of a taboo topic, as many people in the medical community see the drug as a necessary aid in helping Heroin addicts recover. But as with any Opiate, addiction is an all-too-common side effect. An addiction to Methadone can come about because the drug eases a user’s pain. As time goes on and tolerance builds, more of the drug is needed for the same effect.

Detox and Treatment Options

Due to methadone’s withdrawal symptoms, detox can be difficult and is never recommended to undergo without medical supervision. However, there are various ways to approach recovery and be successful.

If you need a medically assisted treatment (MAT), then you may be given medications like Suboxone or Buprenorphine and L-alpha-acetylmethadol. These are both alternatives to methadone and help to treat opioid use disorders. Drugs like Buprenorphine are classed as Schedule V, so they have a lower potential for misuse. LAAM is classed as a Schedule II, and like methadone, it will have longer-lasting effects but won’t produce a euphoric high.

If you’re wondering how long does methadone stay in your system, you are also probably wondering how to get it out of your system. Unfortunately, there is no pill you can take or drink you can drink to surely and safely flush methadone metabolites from your system. Instead, the only way to get the drug out of your system is to stop using it and ask for professional help.

If you’ve tried to quit in the past but ended up using methadone again, that’s a clear sign you need professional help. Get them the safest help they need and deserve. Our team at We Level Up NJ specializes in creating an ideal environment and providing effective therapies.

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System
How long does methadone stay in your system? On average, methadone tends to stay in a person’s system after the time they feel its effects. 

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Sources:

[1] NIH – https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682134.html

[2] SAMHSA – https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/methadone

[3] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310658/