While it might seem odd or even counterproductive, there are some instances where medications can be taken to help people wheen off or withdrawal from substances of abuse, especially early on during the detox process. One of these medications is methadone. Methadone, when used as directed for its intended medical purpose, can help ease some of the withdrawal symptoms that people may go through when they are detoxing off certain substances.
Unfortunately, like many other medications, methadone can also be taken recreationally and abused. In this blog, we will discuss what methadone is and what it is intended for, how it can be abused, some of the issues that can arise from it being abused, and answer the question, “how long does methadone stay in your system?”
What Is Methadone and Why Is It Used?
Methadone is a synthetic opioid that is also known as Methadose and Dolophine. Since it is a synthetic opioid it is completely unrelated to more traditional opioids on a chemical level. Like a regular opioid though, it binds to the opioid receptors. It does so without that creating that euphoric effect that most people take opioids to achieve. Methadone is considered a Schedule II substance, meaning that while it has medical and clinical use, it can still be abused and that abuse can lead to dependence and addiction.
Methadone is most commonly given to people who are in treatment for addiction to certain substances such as opioids and narcotics. Methadone is given to these people to help wheen them off these substances of abuse and to help manage some of the withdrawal and detox symptoms during the early stages of the addiction treatment and recovery process.
Methadone is typically taken orally either via tablet or oral solution. In some rare instances, it can be taken via injection. Some common side effects of methadone use, even when taken as directed include:
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the arms and/or legs
- Trouble sleeping
- Rashes and/or hives
- Difficulty breathing
Why Do People Abuse Methadone?
As we mentioned above, despite being a type of opioid, methadone doesn’t produce the same intense euphoric feelings that other opioids do. Despite that, some people just see that it’s an opioid and start misusing and abusing the drug anyway.
Even though it does not produce that euphoric-type high, it can still produce some pleasurable effects. Some of these include:
- Altered sensory
- Euphoria (although not as intense as other opioids)
- A change in perception
What Can Happen If I Abuse Methadone?
Like any other opioid or substance of abuse, there are dangers to abusing methadone and taking it in ways other than directed. After all, at the end of the day it is still an opioid meaning there is still a great risk of dependency and addiction.
Some of the dangers associated with methadone abuse include:
- Dry mouth
- Facial flushing
- Decreased heart rate
- Dry mouth
- Clammy skin
- Difficulty concentrating
- Altered cognitive and sensory efficiency
- Cardiac arrest
- Sleep issues
- Respiratory problems
- Pulmonary edema
- Urinary tract issues
How Long Does Methadone Stay in the Body?
Like with any other substance that stays in your body for an extended period of time and can be tested for, the amount of time that methadone can stay in a person’s system can depend on a variety of factors such as age, weight, height, metabolism, how quickly the liver can process the methadone, and how much was taken. That being said, methadone can stay in a person’s system for anywhere from as little as 8 hours to as long as two weeks.
Why Do People Test For Methadone?
Testing for methadone can be done for a variety of reasons. Employers, addiction treatment programs, law enforcement, and even athletic organizations have all been known to test for methadone. Since most standard drug tests don’t pick up methadone, specific drug tests typically have to be used.
There are four main ways in which methadone can be tested for:
When tested via a blood sample, methadone can be detected in as little as 30 minutes after the last use. It can also remain detectable within the bloodstream for as long as three days. While blood testing for methadone is the most accurate, it is also the most expensive, invasive, and has the shortest detection window. As a result, this form of testing is very rarely used.
Like they are for testing for other substances, urine testing is by far the most common way in which people are tested for methadone in their system. While it can take up to 24 hours for methadone to be detected in urine it can sometimes take as little as one hour. Methadone can also be detected in urine for up to 2 weeks after it was taken last. The fact that it can be detectable for up to 2 weeks is another reason why urine samples are so popular.
For those who might be suspected of using and abusing methadone for long periods of time, taking a hair sample might be the best form of detection. If a person is regularly using methadone, traces of the substance can remain in their hair follicles for up to 90 days. However, hair testing won’t even spot methadone for the first 7-10 days which is why it is only effective for testing those who are long-time users.
Another popular testing option due to it being non-invasive and relatively inexpensive is saliva testing. Methadone can be detected in a person’s saliva as quickly as 20 minutes after they took it last. Methadone can remain detectable in saliva for up to 10 days.
Can I Get Treatment For Methadone Abuse?
While the main medical use of methadone is to help when people refrain from or detox from other illicit substances, in some cases methadone is the substance that a person will need treatment for. The good news is that for those who might be suffering from methadone dependency or addiction, there are ways to get help.
The first step in the treatment process is to detox off of the methadone. Especially in the case of methadone addiction or abuse, it is imperative that methadone detoxing be done under the 24-hour care and supervision of trained medical professionals. It is recommended that detox be done at either a local medical facility, a treatment center that offers detox services, or even a dedicated detox center like Magnolia City Detox. Attempting to self-detox can be incredibly dangerous.
While in most cases methadone is used to help people detox from other forms of opioids or narcotics, in this case, methadone can’t be used. Instead, your detox or treatment professional might prescribe a different medication such as Suboxone or slowly decrease your methadone dosage until you are completely off the drug.
Once detox has been completed then treatment can begin. Your treatment professional will likely recommend either inpatient or outpatient treatment based on your needs and your situation. Inpatient treatment requires you to live at the facility for the duration of treatment and provides structure, access to medical care, and additional services that might not be offered to those in outpatient treatment such as nutrition. Outpatient treatment, on the other hand, allows for the freedom and flexibility to come to the facility for treatment and then return home to your regular life. Outpatient treatment is designed for those who are unable or unwilling to commit to inpatient treatment.
How Long Does Methadone Stay In Your System?
Whether you are someone who started taking methadone to help with treatment for another substance of abuse and became dependent on it or you used it recreationally and developed an addiction, there are options out there to get the help that you need. It’s important to remember that the first step in that process is detox.
At Magnolia City Detox we understand just how crucial detoxing is to the overall addiction treatment process. After all, without first detoxing you can not truly begin to heal. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction and is in need of detox treatment before entering into an inpatient or outpatient program, contact us today. We offer detox services for a variety of different substances and will even help you find a treatment facility that is best for you and your needs after detox has been completed.
Dr. Olaniyi O. Osuntokun is a Neurology & Psychiatry Specialist based in Conroe, Texas, and Lafayette, Indiana. He has extensive experience in treating Individuals with substance use disorders and addiction. He earned his medical degree from University of Ibadan College of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years.