Methadone is a medication that was first synthesized in 1939. Distribution and use of the drug began within just a few years and has continued to be a controversial treatment option for opioid addiction. Currently, methadone is only administered in the United States via licensed Methadone clinics. For the most part, methadone patients have to go to the clinic every day to receive their dosage. Only in some cases are patients able to pick up 2 or more days worth of this drug to be self-administered. As a drug that needs to be monitored so closely, how long does methadone stay in your system?
How Long The Effects of Methadone Last
When detoxing from opioids, the withdrawal symptoms are severe and uncomfortable. Additionally, any underlying pain could quickly come back on top of the withdrawal symptoms. Methadone works by preventing opioid withdrawal symptoms and providing some pain relief. The effects of methadone set in within about 30 minutes of consumption. At the 8 hour mark, it is common to start noticing the effects of methadone to begin wearing down. However, the effects wearing off does not mean that the drug is anywhere near having left the body.
How Long Methadone Stays in Your Body
Methadone acts like an opioid in that it attaches to the same receptors in the brain, but it has a significantly longer half-life than other opioids. The half-life of an opioid is the amount of time that it takes for half of the dose taken to have been processed out of the body. Most opioids have a half-life between 2 and 4 hours. Methadone on the other hand has a half-life of about 15 to 20 hours.
This means that half of the dose taken is still in the body after 15 hours, even if the effects have started to wear off. Additionally, 25% of the dose could still be present in the body even after 40 hours have passed. This does not take into account how daily use affects how long methadone will stay in a patient’s system.
Testing for Methadone Use
As methadone is processed through the body, there are certain methods of testing that may or may not be able to detect it’s presence. This is approximately how long methadone can be detected via each method of testing:
- Blood: After 30 minutes and up to 3-4 days
- Saliva: After 30 minutes and up to 2-4 days
- Urine: After 1 hour and up to 2 weeks
- Hair: After a couple of weeks and up to several months
Factors to Consider
You may notice that there are ranges for how long most of these tests can detect methadone in an individual’s body. These factors include:
- Food and water intake
- Length of use
- Amount used
- Age and overall wellness
Risks of Methadone Overdose
As mentioned above, methadone can help in reducing pain and withdrawal symptoms, but the pain-relieving effects can begin to wear off in as little as 8 hours even though the substance is still in their system for much longer. This means that a methadone patient experiencing pain could feel the need for more methadone before even half of it has left their system. Taking too much methadone in a short period of time does carry a significant risk of overdose. The overdose risk and general risk of addiction to methadone are why the distribution of this medication is so highly regulated.
Methadone, Addiction, and Addiction Treatment
Although methadone is a medication that has helped countless people who were struggling with opioid addiction, it is not the best solution for many. Considering how long methadone does stay in your system and the associated risks, getting off this medication should always be the long term goal for opioid addiction treatment. A drug and alcohol rehab program can offer different recovery options that any opioid addict should consider. Sometimes individuals in treatment have to try different therapies or even go through multiple attempts to find what works for them. Ultimately, the goal is a better life free from drugs.