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Medically Reviewed

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System?

- 9 sections

Medically Reviewed: May 9, 2023

Medical Reviewer

Sahil Talwar, PA-C, MBA

medically-verified

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 80,411 people died from an opioid overdose in 2021.[1]

Because opioid addiction often leads to life-threatening overdoses, experts have found more proactive ways to help individuals recover from opioid use disorder, such as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT involves using medications like methadone to lessen the symptoms of opioid withdrawal and prevent drug cravings during detox and treatment.

While methadone is highly effective in treating opioid use disorder, it can be addictive when misused. If you use methadone in a manner not recommended by your doctor, you could become addicted to it or put yourself at risk of suffering an overdose. Methadone can also have dangerous interactions with alcohol and other prescription drugs. As a result, it is important to be aware of how long methadone stays in your system.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is a medication that is a full opioid agonist, which means it activates the opioid receptors in the brain.[2] It is approved by the FDA for treating opioid addiction. Methadone works by tricking the brain into thinking it’s getting an opioid, thereby preventing withdrawal symptoms and cravings during the early stages of recovery without producing euphoria.

Using methadone in large doses may produce a euphoric high, which might lead to addiction. Since methadone can be abused, you should only use methadone under the supervision of a medical detoxification program.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), you should always take the following steps when you are on methadone:[2]

  • Never use more of the medication than you are prescribed
  • Do not consume alcohol while you are taking methadone
  • Be careful when driving or operating heavy machinery
  • If you take too much or suspect you are experiencing an overdose, contact 911
  • Store the medication out of reach of children and pets
  • Store methadone away from light and at room temperature
  • Never share your methadone
  • Dispose of unused methadone safely

If you become addicted to methadone, suddenly stopping the medication will result in withdrawal symptoms. This is why medical detox programs taper you off the medication over time. Knowing how long methadone stays in your system could help you determine when withdrawal symptoms will begin.

How is Methadone Metabolized in the Body?

When you take methadone, your liver breaks it down into several different chemicals. One of these chemicals is called EDDP, which is what actually produces the pain-relieving effects of methadone.

The liver breaks down methadone with the help of enzymes called cytochrome P450 enzymes. However, some people’s livers may not break down methadone as quickly as others, which can affect how long methadone stays in the body.[3] These enzymes break down methadone into several different metabolites which are eventually excreted from the body via urine. Drug tests may detect these metabolites for several days or weeks after your last dose.

Methadone has a long half-life, which means it takes a long time for the body to eliminate half of the drug. The half-life of methadone varies depending on the individual, but it can range from 15 to 60 hours. Methadone is usually given once a day, and its dose is carefully monitored to avoid overdose.

What Factors Affect How Long Methadone Stays in Your System?

How long methadone stays in the system can be different for everyone because a variety of personal factors play a role in metabolizing the drug.

The factors that affect how long methadone stays in your body include:

  • Overall physical health
  • Metabolism rate
  • Liver function
  • Weight
  • Age
  • Whether you abuse other substances
  • How much methadone you use
  • How often you use methadone

For example, someone with a fast metabolism might eliminate methadone from their system before an individual with a slower metabolism. Additionally, if your liver is not healthy or you suffer from chronic health conditions, it might take your body longer to eliminate it from your system.

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System?

Methadone is typically removed from your body by 2 weeks after your last dose, however, metabolites of the drug can stay in your system longer. While standard drug tests typically do not screen for methadone, specialized tests can detect the metabolites it leaves behind.

There are four different types of drug tests and each one can detect methadone in your system for varied amounts of time.

Urine

Urine is the most common way that people test for methadone because this type of drug test is easy to administer, not expensive, and has a long detection window. With that being said, a urine drug test can begin detecting methadone in your system an hour after you take it and may be able to detect the substance in your urine for up to 2 weeks after your last dose.

Saliva

While saliva drug tests are the least invasive and most convenient type of test to use, they are not as reliable as urine tests. If you are using a saliva drug test, the window of detection is 30 minutes after you ingest methadone for up to a couple of days after your last dose.

Blood

Blood tests are the most accurate type of drug test, however, they are invasive and expensive. Because of this, they are not commonly used. Keeping this in mind, methadone can be found in your blood 30 minutes after you take it for the first time and be detected for up to 2-3 days after you take your last dose.

Hair

Hair tests provide the longest window of detection for any drug because hair grows slowly. Hair drug tests can detect methadone in your system for up to 90 days after you last use the medication.

Get Help for Methadone Abuse and Addiction

If you or a loved one are addicted to methadone you should never stop taking it without professional help. The withdrawal symptoms associated with methadone addiction can be incredibly difficult to cope with, often causing people to relapse. Relapsing after a period of abstinence can be dangerous, as you are more susceptible to overdosing.

Thankfully, programs like Charlotte Detox Center can provide you with the medications and treatments necessary to soothe your methadone withdrawal symptoms and prevent you from experiencing a relapse.

To learn more about our methadone detox program, contact Charlotte Detox Center today.

References:

  1. https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
  2. https://www.samhsa.gov/medications-substance-use-disorders/medications-counseling-related-conditions/methadone
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6339814/

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