Methadone is a medication used to treat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). Methadone is a long-acting full opioid agonist, and a schedule II controlled medication.
Used for decades as a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for addiction to heroin and narcotic pain medication, methadone helps people sustain long-term success and to reclaim active and meaningful lives.
Methadone reduces opioid craving and withdrawal and blunts or blocks the effects of opioids. Methadone, taken once a day, is available in various forms such as liquid, powder, tablets, and diskettes. As with all medications used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT), methadone is prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and participation in social support programs.
Patients taking methadone to treat OUD must receive the medication under the supervision of a physician. After a period of stability (based on progress and proven, consistent compliance with the medication dosage), patients may be allowed to take methadone at home between program visits. By law, methadone is only dispensed through a SAMHSA-certified opioid treatment program (OTP). The length of time in methadone treatment varies from person to person.
Methadone is safe and effective, when taken as prescribed. Methadone medication is specifically tailored for the individual patient (as doses are often adjusted and readjusted) and is never to be shared with or given to others. This is particularly important for patients who are not required to take medication under direct supervision at an OTP, and are able to take their methadone at home.
Patients should share their complete health history with health providers to ensure the safe use of the medication. Other medications may interact with methadone and cause heart conditions. Even after the effects of methadone wear off, the medication’s active ingredients remain in the body for much longer. Unintentional overdose is possible if patients do not take methadone as prescribed.
The following tips can help achieve the best treatment results and ensure the safety of others:
Side effects should be taken seriously, as some of them may indicate an emergency. Patients should stop taking methadone and contact a doctor or emergency services right away if they:
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can safely take methadone. Comprehensive methadone maintenance treatment should include prenatal care to reduce the risks of complications during pregnancy and at birth.
Undergoing methadone maintenance treatment while pregnant does not cause birth defects. Methadone's ability to prevent withdrawal symptoms helps pregnant women better manage their Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) while avoiding health risks to both mother and baby. Pregnant women who experience withdrawal may be at risk of miscarriage or premature birth, as withdrawal can cause the uterus to contract.
It is possible that some babies may experience withdrawal, also known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) after birth. Symptoms may begin within minutes to hours after birth, with most symptoms appearing within 72 hours. It is possible for symptoms to appear as late as up to two weeks after birth. It is important to speak with your physician, as NAS is influenced by many factors.
Research has shown that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the effect of the small amount of methadone that enters the breast milk.
If you are concerned about methadone maintenance treatment due to pregnancy or breastfeeding, it is important to speak with your physician before stopping your treatment.