How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System? – Methadone has a half-life of between 8-59 hours, which is the time it takes for half the dose to be cleared from the system. It takes about five half-lives for a drug to leave the body entirely. Therefore, methadone can potentially stay in a person’s system for as long as 12 days.
The amount of time that methadone is detectable in a person’s system depends on the type of test being administered.
Urine tests can identify the presence of methadone after 24 hours and for up to one week. Blood tests can detect methadone as soon as three hours after it’s been ingested orally and for up to 60 hours. Hair tests can identify methadone within 7-10 days after use and for up to 90 days. Methadone can show up on saliva tests within 10 minutes after consumption and for as long as ten days.
Several factors affect how long methadone stays in a person’s system, including the following:
- Metabolism and liver health
- Duration and frequency of use
- Dosage amount
- Use of other substances
What Is Methadone?
Methadone (Dolophine) is a synthetic opioid used to treat pain and help people get off more potent opioids by easing them through the process of detox. It works to relieve withdrawal symptoms for those who have become dependent on illicit drugs such as heroin or fentanyl. When used for pain management, methadone is usually only prescribed to people who are experiencing chronic pain that has not responded to other treatment methods.
Methadone is commonly prescribed as a tablet or liquid solution that is taken orally. In some cases, doctors administer doses of the drug via intravenous injection.
Methadone has become widely prescribed because it is often more cost-effective than other prescription painkillers. The effects of methadone are typically experienced within 30 minutes of use and endure for 8–12 hours. The prescribing doctor will closely monitor dosages and effects and can modify the prescription as needed.
Methadone as a Treatment for Opioid Addiction
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that methadone works by altering the brain and central nervous system (CNS) responses to pain. When used, methadone acts as a full opioid agonist and binds to opiate receptors in the brain.
Methadone blocks the unpleasant symptoms of opioid withdrawal and euphoric effects of feeling high. In combination with comprehensive therapy and peer group participation, medication-assisted treatment with methadone can help people recover from opioid addiction.
According to SAMHSA, all people who are receiving methadone for opioid addiction must be participating in a drug treatment program. In this way, healthcare providers and addiction specialists can administer and monitor methadone for each patient. In fact, legally, methadone can only be acquired through a certified opioid treatment program.
Common side effects of methadone use include:
- Leg swelling
- Rash or hives
- Chest pain
- Arm swelling
- Trouble sleeping
- Nausea and vomiting
Methadone has been successfully used as a treatment for people with opioid-related substance use disorders. When used as directed, it can be a life-altering drug. However, it also has the potential for abuse as it can induce feelings of pleasure similar to those of other opioids.
Drug Testing for Methadone
While methadone is typically eliminated from a person’s system within a week and a half, traces of the drug can be detected for much longer, depending on the type of test used. Employers, addiction treatment programs, and law enforcement officials may all require a methadone drug test for one reason or another. Standard drug tests usually check for opioids such as heroin, but they don’t detect methadone. For this reason, specialized tests must be employed to screen for methadone use.
Urine tests are the most commonly used method of testing for methadone. The detection window in a user’s system is one hour to two weeks following the last use. Urine tests are non-invasive, easy to administer, inexpensive, and have a relatively long detection period. Therefore, they are usually the favored mode of testing for methadone.
Saliva tests are also a convenient and non-invasive way to detect methadone use. Traces of methadone can be identified in saliva 30 minutes after administration and stay there for up to a few days following the last use.
Methadone can be identified in the blood within 30 minutes of use and is detectable for several days. Blood tests are very accurate, but they are also more expensive, invasive, and have a relatively short detection window. For these reasons, they are not commonly used to test for methadone.
Hair tests are appropriate to identify methadone use that has occurred over time. Someone with a chronic habit will have traces of methadone in their hair follicles. Moreover, a person who has just started taking methadone will not reveal the drug in their hair for at least a week after use.
It has been generally accepted that methadone will clear out of a person’s body entirely within two weeks. Heroin, conversely, has a much shorter half-life than methadone. Because of this, it is expelled out of the body much more rapidly, possibly in less than an hour.
Morphine, however, can take up to two days to clear from a person’s system. This fact is important to know because heroin is converted back into morphine in the body, so detection of morphine can indicate heroin use.
Methadone Addiction and Dependence
Like all opioids, methadone can lead to abuse and addiction. Methadone can be habit-forming and must be used as directed by a healthcare provider and not for longer than needed. Factors such as a history of alcohol use, mental health conditions, and heart or breathing problems can increase a person’s likelihood of encountering adverse side effects.
Physical dependence on methadone can manifest if it is used regularly for a prolonged period. Once physical dependence onsets, a person will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when he or she stops using methadone.
The timeline of withdrawal symptoms is comparable to that of other opioids. It is likely to begin within a couple of days after last use and can persist 7–10 days. Severe side effects, such as profound dehydration, have occurred in those who have suddenly stopped taking methadone “cold turkey.”
Common methadone withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Stomach cramps
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Body aches and pains
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Increased breathing rate
- Elevated heart rate
When administered correctly, methadone will be closely monitored by healthcare providers and only used for a short period, so dependence and addiction are less likely to occur.
Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Methadone is used as a treatment in those who have developed a dependence on stronger opioids, such as heroin or fentanyl. However, methadone itself does carry the potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction. For this reason, people have found themselves seeking treatment for methadone, regardless of whether it was prescribed legally or obtained illicitly.
Recovery in Tune offers outpatient programs that specialize in the treatment of opioid dependence and other substance use disorders. We feature therapies proven to be vital to the process of recovery, including psychotherapy, counseling, peer group support, medication-assisted treatment, aftercare planning, and more.
If you or someone you know is abusing or dependent on methadone, contact us today! We can help you break free from the chains of addiction and begin to experience the fulfilling life you deserve!