Methadone is an opioid analgesic that is used to treat pain, as well as opioid withdrawal. It works by interacting with opiate receptors in the brain. Federal law and regulations require that when methadone is used in maintenance or detoxification treatment of opioid dependence that it be dispensed by a licensed and accredited Opioid Treatment Program (“OTP”).
When used properly in maintenance treatment, methadone does not induce euphoria, sedation, or an analgesic effect. An appropriate maintenance dose will eliminate cravings and symptoms of withdrawal. Methadone is longer acting than other opiates, such as heroin or oxycodone. It generally takes effect in 30-60 minutes and works for 24-36 hours (as opposed to 4-6 hours for other opiates), and thus needs to be taken only once a day. It is administered in oral form, which eliminates the risks associated with intravenous or intranasal opiate use, such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other health problems.
Common side effects of methadone include drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. It may also cause headaches, mood changes, dry mouth, changes in blood pressure, difficulty urinating, rash, sweating, flushing, vision problems, and sexual side effects. Report all side effects to the Medical Director.
Serious side effects include seizures and cardiac and respiratory complications, which can be fatal. If you experience any of these, seek emergency medical help immediately.
To avoid complications, tell the Medical Director of all drugs (prescription, illicit, or over-the-counter), vitamins, herbal products, and nutritional supplements you are taking or plan to take. Also, tell the Medical Director if you have or have ever had a head injury, brain tumor, stroke or any other condition that caused high pressure inside your skull; irregular heartbeat; asthma, lung disease, or breathing problems; urethral stricture, enlarged prostate, or any other condition that causes difficulty urinating; Addison's disease; or thyroid, heart, liver, or kidney disease.
Tell the Medical Director if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking methadone, tell the Medical Director immediately.
If you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking methadone, as it can have potentially life-threatening interactions with anesthesia.
Methadone is NOT a treatment for cocaine abuse, alcoholism, or any other drug problem. If you find that you are struggling with these additional issues, please see your counselor for an appropriate referral to help you address them. Stabilization on methadone, coupled with any necessary additional treatment, generally helps to reduce or eliminate overall drug use.
Department of Health and Human Service
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment
Division of Pharmacologic Therapies
1 Choke Cherry Road
Rockville, MD 20857
Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration
55 Wade Avenue
Catonsville, MD 21228
American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, Inc. (AATOD)
(Formerly the American Methadone Treatment Association, Inc.)
225 Varick Street
New York, NY 10014
National Alliance of Methadone Advocates (NAMA)
435 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10010