Methadone facts

Gail Evans, Alphabiolabs

By Gail Evans, Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 03/10/2023

In this article, we take a closer look at methadone, what it is, how it is used, the side effects of methadone use and more.

What is methadone?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid that is commonly prescribed as a heroin substitute, for people undergoing treatment for heroin addiction/dependency. It is also used to treat moderate to severe pain when around-the-clock pain relief is needed for a long period of time.

A person taking methadone for heroin addiction – usually prescribed in the form of Methadose® or Dolphine® – will usually have their dosage reduced over time.

This can help them reduce their heroin dependency, while preventing acute withdrawal symptoms that are typically experienced when a user stops taking heroin completely (e.g. extreme flu-like symptoms including shivering and shaking).

Although it is most often used in the treatment of addiction, methadone can also be used as a powerful painkiller in medical settings.

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What are the street names for methadone?

Some of the most common street names for methadone include:

  • Street Methadone
  • Amidone
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Fizzies
  • Maria
  • Pastora
  • Salvia

What does methadone look like?

Methadone usually comes in the form of a green liquid but can also be prescribed in tablet or injectable form.

How is methadone used?

Methadone is usually swallowed in liquid or tablet form. However, it may also be injected.

What are the side effects of methadone use?

Because methadone is used to reduce a person’s craving for opioids such as heroin, it does have some effects that are similar to heroin, although much milder.

In fact, it is designed to block the familiar ‘pleasurable’ sensations that a person might experience while using opioids. This means that if a person being treated with methadone attempts to get ‘high’ by using opioids, methadone will significantly reduce any euphoric effects that they might usually experience.

Despite this however, methadone is still an opioid, meaning that it does have the potential to be abused if used incorrectly.

Some common side effects of methadone include:

  • Sedation
  • Slower reaction times
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lower blood pressure and reduced body temperature
  • Shorter attention span

In high doses, methadone can cause other adverse effects including nausea and vomiting, sweating, mood changes, and potentially fatal breathing difficulties.

What happens when you use methadone with other drugs?

Below is an overview of the side effects of using methadone alongside other drugs.

Alcohol

Methadone has the potential to heighten the effects of alcohol in some people.

This means that it can be dangerous for people with alcohol dependency to use methadone.

People who drink alcohol while taking methadone put themselves at an increased risk of serious health issues including low blood pressure and respiratory distress. In extreme cases, mixing the two substances can even lead to coma and death.

Benzodiazepines and other sedatives

Sedative medications such as benzodiazepines slow down the functions of the brain and body.

When taken alongside methadone, these substances can cause severe drowsiness, breathing problems, coma, or even death.

Methadone is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act

Although it can be legally prescribed under the supervision of a physician, it is illegal to use methadone for non-medical purposes.

Is methadone used in medicine?

Methadone is available on prescription only via physicians, detoxification centers and hospitals, for the treatment of opioid addiction.

Although it is commonly used to help people recover from heroin dependency, it can be prescribed to aid withdrawal from other opioids including morphine, fentanyl, and codeine.

It can also be used as a painkiller for long-term pain relief.

How long does it take for methadone to show up in a drug test?

The drug testing detection windows for methadone are as follows:

  • Oral fluid (saliva) – up to 48 hours
  • Urine – up to 4 days
  • Hair – up to 12 months (depending on the length of hair available)
  • Nails – up to 12 months (up to 6 months for fingernails and up to 12 months for toenails)

Oral fluid and urine drug testing are known as ‘narrow-window’ forms of testing and can be used to detect drug use from 30 minutes after consumption, up to a few days.

This can vary depending on the type of substance and how much was used.

The rate at which hair and nails grow means that both hair drug testing and nail drug testing can provide a ‘wide-window’ of detection for drugs and their metabolites (up to 12 months).

Where can I buy a drug test?

AlphaBiolabs offers two types of home drug tests, designed to give you peace of mind or enable you to seek support for a loved one who is struggling with substance misuse.

  • Home Urine Drug Test Kit (pack of 3 – $34.95) – this easy-to-use home drug testing kit can detect drugs and their metabolites in a urine sample. The self-contained screening kit includes built-in test strips, allowing you to read the results in just 5 minutes
  • Drug and Alcohol Nail Test (from $99) – this test can detect drug use for a period of up to 12 months prior to samples being collected, with only a sample of fingernail clippings or toenail clippings required. Simply follow the instructions included in your test kit to collect your nail clipping samples and return them to our accredited laboratory for testing

Please be aware that our home drug test kits are for peace of mind only, and the results cannot be used in court or for legal reasons.

For confidential advice about which test might best suit your needs, you can email our Customer Services team at info@alphabiolabsusa.com.

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Gail Evans AlphaBiolabs

Gail Evans

Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs

A professionally-trained forensic scientist, Gail joined AlphaBiolabs in 2012 and holds the role of Technical Trainer. Her day-to-day responsibilities include delivering in-depth training sessions both internally and externally, covering DNA, drug, and alcohol testing.

Before joining the company, Gail was a practising forensic scientist, attending scenes of crime, and analyzing physical and biological material with potential evidential value. Gail also holds qualifications in chemistry and is a Lead Auditor for the ISO 9001 standard, the international standard for quality management.

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