How to Treat Addiction & Withdrawal with Methadone

Methadone is a synthetic opioid drug that can be prescribed to treat chronic pain, but it is most commonly used in the treatment of heroin and opiate drug withdrawal. When administered as part of a medical detox, methadone can help to reduce the severity of symptoms associated with opiate withdrawal.

As it produces effects similar to other opioids but without the associated euphoria, it can be effectively used to help in the withdrawal from drugs such as heroin without experiencing the unpleasant symptoms typically associated with detox.

The idea behind using methadone for heroin withdrawal is that it can be administered in tapering doses over a specific period of time, thereby allowing the affected individual to quit heroin completely with as few side effects as possible.

What Addictions Is Methadone Used to Treat?

  • Heroin addiction
  • Opioid addiction

Medications for Addiction Detox

Addiction is typically treated with a full programme of detox and rehabilitation. As part of a detox, certain medications may be prescribed by a medical professional to help reduce cravings or the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Some medications can even prevent the worst symptoms from occurring.

Medication during an addiction detox is only ever prescribed by medical professionals and only when appropriate. Whether medication is prescribed or not will also depend on the type of substance that has been abused as certain addictions respond better to medication than others. For example, there are many medications that can help with alcohol or opioid withdrawal whereas for other substances, the medication may have no benefit.

One may also be prescribed medication to treat co-occurring disorders during a detox. For example, those also suffering from a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression may be prescribed specific medication to relieve the symptoms of these disorders.

How to Choose the Right Medication

Choosing the right medication will depend on your addiction and how severe it is. Your doctor will consider your overall health, age and whether or not you have any underlying health problems before administering any medication during either a detox or rehabilitation programme.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is an opioid drug that is considered safer than other narcotics and is therefore used as a replacement drug in the treatment of opioid withdrawal. It can provide relief in the same way that drugs such as heroin or morphine can, but it blocks the ‘high’ and is therefore a suitable replacement drug during a detox.

It must also be mentioned that methadone’s effects are milder than other opioids, so the idea is that it can be taken instead of drugs such as heroin to reduce the withdrawal effects. It is then meant to be reduced over time until the affected individual is completely free of all opioid drugs.

Brand Names for Methadone







History of Methadone

In 1937, German scientists worked on creating a synthetic opioid drug that would solve the country’s then shortage of opium. In 1941, an application for the patent for methadone, or Hoechst 10820 as it was known then, was filed by Bockmuhl and Ehrhart. The drug was marketed in 1943 and used extensively by the German army during the Second World War.

Upon the war’s conclusion, the Allies seized all German research records and patents. The records relating to Hoechst 10820 were seized by the US Department of Commerce Intelligence. They subsequently issued a report that stated the drug should be considered for commercial purposes due to the fact that its side effects were milder than those of morphine.

Methadone became known as such in 1947 and was marketed under the trade name of Dolophine by Eli Lilly and Company.

Is Methadone Addictive?

Although methadone that is prescribed by a doctor as part of a heroin replacement programme will be subject to strict regulations and will be of a specified strength, the same cannot be said of methadone that is sold on the streets.

Furthermore, as methadone is an opioid drug producing effects similar to drugs such as heroin, there is always the risk of the user becoming addicted to it. If you are taking street methadone to get high, you are in danger of developing a tolerance and then requiring stronger or larger doses to achieve the effects you desire. This can lead to an eventual addiction.

What is the Mechanism of Action?

Methadone is a drug that changes the way in which the nervous system responds to pain. Although it works on the same receptors in the brain that other opioid drugs such as heroin and morphine do, it does not produce the same high.

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How Long Does It Take for Methadone to Work?

Methadone varies in the length of time that it takes to work from one person to the next. However, it can usually be detected in the bloodstream within the first half-hour after it is taken. Having said, that it can still take a few hours before the full effects are felt.

What are the Side Effects of Methadone

  • Sedation
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Breathing problems
  • Trouble sleeping

Facts/Statistics on Methadone

Fact #1

As a Class A drug, it is illegal to possess, sell, or give away methadone.

Fact #2

Being found in possession of methadone could mean a seven-year prison sentence.

Fact #3

If you supply methadone to another person, even if you give it to someone you know, you could face a life prison sentence.

Studies Done on Methadone

In 2014, the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology published the findings of a study into the long-term outcome of methadone as a treatment for opioid dependence.

The study reviewed different pharmacological treatment options for opioid addiction to determine which was most effective; methadone was included. Results showed that as a treatment for opioid dependence, methadone was ‘useful in increasing retention in treatment, physical and mental health levels, functioning and quality of life, and in decreasing the use of illicit drugs and HIV risk behaviours’.