Methadone belongs to the opioid family of drugs. It is used most commonly to treat dependence on other opioid drugs such as heroin, codeine and morphine.Methadone is a "synthetic" opioid, which means that it is made from chemicals in a lab. Other opioid drugs include the "opiates," such as morphine and codeine, which are natural products of the opium poppy, and "semi-synthetic" opioids, such as heroin, which is morphine that has been chemically processed.
Method of Use: Pure methadone is a white crystalline powder. The powder is dissolved, usually in a fruit-flavored drink, and is taken orally once a day.
Street Names: Street names: juice, meth (also used to refer to methamphetamines).
Methadone Maintenance Treatment, which prevents opioid withdrawal and reduces or eliminates drug cravings. Most people who are prescribed methadone are being treated for dependence on opioid drugs. This includes people who are dependent on illicit opioids, such as heroin, and also prescription opioids, such as codeine.
Methadone maintenance is not a "cure": it is a treatment. Through treatment, people who are dependent on opioids receive the medical and social support they need to stabilize and improve their lives. They are encouraged to stay in treatment for as long as it helps them. This form of treatment has led to an increase in the number of people receiving treatment, and a decrease in the number of heroin-related deaths.
Women who use opioid drugs regularly and who are pregnant are often treated with methadone to protect the fetus. Short-acting opioids such as heroin must be taken frequently to avoid withdrawal. Opioid withdrawal increases the risk of miscarriage or premature birth. Methadone maintenance, combined with medical care, improves the chances of having a healthy baby. There are no known long-term effects of methadone on the baby.
People who use opioid drugs regularly, and who are infected with HIV or hepatitis C, are prescribed methadone treatment to help protect their health, and to reduce the risk of spreading infection through needle sharing.
Methadone is sometimes used to provide pain relief for people who have severe chronic pain or pain associated with terminal illness.
Effects of use:
When people begin methadone treatment, some experience the euphoria and sedation that are common to all opioid drugs. As treatment continues, and a stable dose of methadone is established, tolerance to these effects develops. Those in treatment often describe the feeling of being on methadone as "normal." Methadone treatment does not interfere with their thinking. They can work, go to school or care for family. Methadone also blocks the euphoric effect of heroin and other opioids, and in this way reduces the use of these drugs.
Most people experience some side-effects from methadone treatment. Possible side-effects include sweating, constipation and weight gain.
How long do the effects last?
A person who is opioid-dependent is kept free of withdrawal symptoms for 24 hours with a single dose of methadone. In contrast, a person who uses heroin to avoid withdrawal must use three to four times a day.
Daily treatment with methadone may continue indefinitely. If, however, the person taking methadone and his or her doctor agree to move toward ending treatment, the methadone dose is tapered down gradually over many weeks or months, easing the process of withdrawal.
If methadone is stopped abruptly, symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea and muscle and bone ache will occur. These symptoms begin within one to three days after the last dose, peak at three to five days, and then gradually subside, although other symptoms such as sleep problems and drug cravings may continue for months.