Methadone

Methadone has been used to treat addiction to opioids, including heroin, since the 1960s. Extensive research has been conducted in Australia, Europe, Asia and the United States, and the evidence overwhelmingly shows that methadone treatment is directly related to a reduction in opioid use, particularly when it comes to heroin. It also has been shown to:

  • reduce death rates
  • reduce transmission of diseases associated with drug injection
  • minimize cravings

Since methadone is a relatively low-cost option that has shown to be clinically effective over several decades of research, methadone maintenance is recommended by many organizations. The National Institute of Health (NIH) considers it to be the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder when used in combination with counseling. The longer a patient uses methadone, the higher the rate of long-term recovery. Some people in recovery from an opioid use disorder may be maintained on methadone for years. 

Brand Name

Dolophine or Methadose

Administered

Oral tablet, liquid, wafer, or injection, which must be administered at an approved clinic

How It Works

Methadone works by blocking withdrawal symptoms and reducing cravings for heroin or other opioids

Clinical Benefits

Research shows methadone is effective at the treatment of substance abuse disorders involving heroin or other opioids. Methadone treatment reduced narcotics use and criminal behaviors and is relatively low-cost compared with other treatments.

Potentially Serious Side Effects

Call your doctor at once if you have weak or shallow breathing, severe constipation, a light-headed feeling (as though you might pass out), infertility or missed menstrual periods, impotence, sexual problems, or loss of interest in sex, symptoms of a life-threatening heart rhythm disorder (a headache with chest pain and severe dizziness, fast or pounding heartbeats, or low cortisol levels), nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dizziness, worsening tiredness, or weakness.

Seek medical attention right away if you have symptoms of serotonin syndrome, such as agitation, hallucinations, fever, sweating, shivering, fast heart rate, muscle stiffness, twitching, loss of coordination, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Methadone is more likely to cause breathing problems in older adults and people who are severely ill, malnourished, or otherwise debilitated.

Common Side Effects

Dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, increased sweating

Availability

By prescription, to be administered at a licensed facility only. Browse methadone clinics by state here.