Methadone

  • Generic Name or Active Ingridient: Methadone
Drug Class: Methadone > Semi Synthetic Opioid > Opioids > Opioid Agonist > Analgesic.

Methadone is used as a pain reliever and to reduce withdrawal symptoms in people physically dependent on heroin and other narcotics. Methadone is a powerful narcotic, similar to morphine. Dolophine is a brand name formulation of methadone hydrochloride tablets.

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Administration/Dosage

Methadone is available in tablets, dispersible tablets, as an oral solution and as an injection. Tablets and oral solutions are not intended for intravenous use. Dispersible tablets are made to be dissolved in a 4 oz. glass of water, orange juice or other citrus-flavored, non-alcoholic beverage. Drink the liquid immediately. Do not chew, crush or swallow the dispersible tablet whole.

Methadone is typically administered in a hospital, clinic, special pharmacy or rehabilitation center. It is sometimes prescribed for home use. In these cases, your doctor may recommend someone else administers the methadone to reduce risk of dosing errors and to make sure doses are taken in accordance to treatment plans. Additional forms of counseling are recommended during methadone treatment.

Your doctor may prescribe 2.5 to 10 mg of methadone tablets every three to twelve hours. The typical IV, IM or subcutaneous dose is 2.5 mg to 10 mg every three to six hours. The initial dose is 15 to 40 mg once a day, with 5 to 10 mg doses as necessary to control distressing symptoms. After a day or two, daily doses are reduced by 20 percent each day. Detoxification typically takes 10 days. The maintenance dose for opiate-dependent individuals is 20 to 120 mg per day.

Methadone is approved to treat neonatal abstinence syndrome, a group of problems facing a baby who was born addicted to drugs. The initial dose is typically 0.05 to 0.2 mg/kg per dose given every 12 to 24 hours or 0.5 mg/kg per day divided every 8 hours. The newborn is then weaned from dependence through gradually decreasing doses of methadone. Usually methadone is reduced 10 to 20 percent per week over a 60 to 90 day period.

Methadone is approved for use in children for pain control. Doses are titrated, or adjusted, for children. Pediatric doses do not exceed 10 mg per dose.

Never use more methadone than prescribed; serious side effects or even death may result. Notify your doctor if the prescribed dose stops reducing your pain or controlling your withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone accumulates in your system with repeated doses. Your doctor may reduce your dosage downward after three to five days to prevent toxic effects.

Do not stop taking methadone suddenly. Contact your physician if you have missed doses or forgot to take methadone for three consecutive days or longer.

Read More About Methadone Administration and Dosage

Action

Methadone binds with the same opiate receptor in your brain and nervous system that heroin does. When taken orally, methadone has a gradual onset of action and sustained effects. This reduces the desire for other opiates while preventing withdrawal symptoms. Properly administered, methadone does not produce the high, or euphoria, associated with narcotics. Methadone does not interfere with ordinary activities of daily living. Methadone treatments for opiate dependency are most effective when combined with other therapies, including behavior modification and counseling. More About How Methadone Works

Precautions

Tell your doctor if you are allergic to Methadone or any other medication. Signs of an allergic reaction include:

  • Hives.
  • Difficulty Breathing.
  • Swelling of Your Face, Lips, Tongue or Throat.

Methadone may not be the appropriate treatment for you if you have had certain medical conditions. Tell your doctor if you currently have or have ever had:

  • A Personal or Family History of the Heart Condition "Long QT syndrome."
  • Asthma, COPD, Sleep Apnea or Other Breathing Disorders.
  • Liver or Kidney disease.
  • Underactive Thyroid.
  • Curvature of the Spine.
  • A History of Head Injury or Brain Tumor.
  • Epilepsy or Other Seizure Disorder.
  • Low Blood Pressure.
  • Gallbladder Disease.
  • Addison's Disease or Other Adrenal Gland Disorders.
  • Enlarged Prostate.
  • Urinary Problems.
  • Mental Illness.
  • A History of Drug or Alcohol Addiction.

Drowsy Do not consume alcohol while taking methadone. Methadone may increase the affects of alcohol in dangerous ways. Check all food, prescription drugs and over the counter medicines to be sure they do not contain alcohol.

This drug can be habit-forming, especially if you take it for long periods of time.

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Warnings

Taking methadone improperly may increase your risk for serious side effects or death. Methadone can slow your breathing, even many hours after the pain-relieving properties of methadone have worn off. Death may occur if breathing becomes too weak.

Scientists do not yet know known if methadone will harm your unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Your baby may be born with a physical dependence to methadone and experience withdrawal symptoms after delivery. Methadone may pass into breast milk. Do not breastfeed your baby while taking methadone without first talking with your doctor.

Stopping methadone use suddenly may cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Whenever possible, wean yourself from methadone by taking smaller doses further apart. If you cannot comfortably stop using methadone, consult with your doctor or qualified in-patient or out-patient rehabilitation center.

Older adults and people with debilitating diseases may be more sensitive to the effects of methadone. These patients should be closely monitored while taking methadone.

More Warnings About Using Methadone

Drug Interactions

Some medications may interact with methadone in negative, potentially dangerous, ways. Do not take methadone with other narcotic pain medications, tranquilizers, sedatives, muscle relaxers or other medications that make you drowsy or slow your breathing. Do not take methadone with these medications:

  • Diuretics.
  • Antibiotics.
  • Heart or Blood Pressure Medications.
  • HIV Medicines.
  • MAO Inhibitors.
  • Narcotics.
  • Rifampin.
  • Seizure Medication.

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Side effects

You may experience side effects while taking methadone. Call your doctor or seek immediate medical assistance if you have any of these serious side effects:

  • Shallow Breathing.
  • Hallucinations or Confusion.
  • Chest Pain.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fainting.
  • Fast or Pounding Heartbeat.
  • Trouble Breathing.
  • Feeling Light-headed.
  • Fainting.

Other, less serious side effects are associated with methadone. Tell your doctor if these side effects become acute or do not subside on their own:

  • Feeling Anxious, Nervous or Restless.
  • Insomnia
  • Weakness, Drowsiness.
  • Dry Mouth
  • Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Constipation or Loss of Appetite.
  • Decreased Sex Drive, Impotence or Difficulty Having an Orgasm.

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Overdose

If you suspect that you or someone you know has taken an overdose of methadone, seek emergency assistance immediately. Contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 or go to the emergency room. While at the hospital, you can expect emergency, life-saving treatments including activated charcoal, artificial respiration, fluids, laxatives, medicine to lower methadone levels in the blood, medicine to reverse the effect of the methadone or a tube through inserted the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach. Overdose symptoms include:

  • Extreme Drowsiness.
  • Pinpoint Pupils.
  • Confusion.
  • Cold and Clammy Skin.
  • Weak Pulse.
  • Shallow Breathing.
  • Fainting.
  • Breathing that Stops.

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Abuse

Methadone is a Schedule II drug, which means it carries a significant risk for abuse and physical as well as psychological dependence. Pharmaceutical companies legally manufacture methadone for licit use as a pain reliever but abusers obtain methadonethrough forged prescriptions, bogus prescription call-ins to pharmacies, "doctor shopping" as well as theft from pharmacies and friends. Read More About Methadone Abuse

Withdrawal

You may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking methadone, especially if you have been using high doses or taking the opioid for a long period of time. Withdrawal symptoms typically set in as soon as a few hours after the last dose of narcotics. Symptoms vary in intensity but usually peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and generally subside after one week. Withdrawal is a normal, predictable, physical sign of dependency, not necessarily a sign of willful abuse. Withdrawal symptoms may prevent you from quitting methadone without medical assistance. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Restlessness.
  • Muscle and Bone Pain.
  • Insomnia.
  • Diarrhea and Vomiting.
  • Cold Flashes with Goose Bumps.
  • Kicking Movements.

Detox

Dependency and addiction to Methadone is often difficult to overcome on your own, especially if you have been taking large doses or using these opioids for a long time. Fortunately, there are in-patient and out-patient treatment facilities where trained professionals can minimize withdrawal symptoms, detoxify your body and give you the tools you need to live drug-free. Detoxification, rehabilitation and counseling are effective therapies to treat addiction to Methadone and other opiates.

Learn More About Methadone Detoxification Programs

Storage

Keep Methadone away from excessive heat and moisture. Do not keep this drug in your bathroom or car. Store Methadone away from children, pets and adults who might accidently or purposeful consume the drug. Do not share Methadone with others, especially with individuals with a history of alcohol or drug abuse. Keep track of your medication, taking note of any missing doses.

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Miscellaneous information

Methadone was first synthesized in 1939 by German scientists. The United States Public Health Service hospitals began methadone as part of an opioid abstinence program by the 1950s.

Miscellaneous Information About Methadone