13 Jun How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System?
Methadone is a prescription opioid used primarily for opioid & opiate dependency treatment (including addiction to prescription opiates & opioids like oxycodone) referred to as “replacement therapy.” With professional medical monitoring, methadone can be administered in a medically controlled dose during the detox period at a rehabilitation facility in order to help addicts transition from withdrawal to sobriety.
When administered, methadone tablets may either be swallowed whole or first dissolved in water or juice. Methadone can also be administered via injection. Its use is meant to suppress withdrawal symptoms for 24 to 36 hours for addicts going through detox. By taking it in this manner, people should not feel any cravings nor the typical euphoric rush most commonly associated with drug. Although, it will help people experience pain relief and relaxation.
It should be noted, that although methadone is most commonly used as a treatment for opioid addiction, that long-term methadone use may cause negative effects such as hallucinations, fatigue, sedation, and heart problems. It’s important for the administration of methadone to be done by a medically-trained professional in a supervised setting, in order to attend to any problems faced during the detoxification process. Not every patient will experience taking methadone in the same way and some may even have adverse reactions to it.
Effects of methadone can last up to 24 hours, but at this time, it doesn’t mean the drug is immediately eliminated from the system. It can take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks in order for the drug to be undetectable in the body.
There are several factors which come into play to determine how long before the drug is fully gone including:
- The person’s history with methadone use;
- Frequency of use;
- Dosage amount; and
- How the drug is administered.
If a person has taken methadone with other substances, this can also contribute to how long it takes for the drug to be cleared out of the system. There’s no set time that will apply to every methadone user. Each situation is unique.
The Methadone Half-Life
The half-life of a drug is the time it takes for it to be reduced by one-half in the body. The methadone half-life reaches this point at different times depending on the situation for which it is being used. It’s determined by how often the drug is being administered and at what dosage.
As an average estimate, if half of the methadone has been cleared from the system in a time span of 5 to 59 hours, it will take somewhere in the range of 2 to 14 days for it to be completely eliminated from the body.
For treatment of chronic pain patients, since the drug is administered on an ongoing basis, it will most likely accumulate within the half-life of 5 days. If this is the case, it can take up to 27 days after the last methadone dosage for the drug to be completely cleared out.
In cases of opioid dependence, the half-life may range between 47 to 75 hours meaning it could take 11 to 17 days for there to be complete elimination of the drug from the system.
Once a person has ingested methadone, the drug is then absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. Upon this absorption, methadone is detectable in the plasma within 30 minutes. Following full absorption, up to 90 percent of methadone adheres to plasma proteins and is widely distributed throughout the body. It begins to infiltrate and accumulate within the body’s lipids and bodily tissues.
In order for methadone to be metabolized, liver enzymes are responsible for breaking it down until it is eventually eliminated through urine output.
Factors Influencing How Long Methadone Stays in the System
Why does methadone stay in the system longer for some people than others? In addition to the frequency and the size of the dose a person takes, an individual’s age, weight, and organ functionality also factor into how long the drug will remain in the system.
For example, a teenage girl weighing 95 lbs. will metabolize drugs much faster than an elderly man weighing 200 lbs. Teenagers’ organs function at a higher level and their metabolism runs faster, which enables the drugs to be processed and passed through the system at a higher rate. How much a person weighs affects drug absorption. Since methadone is considered lipid-soluble, the more overweight a person is, the longer they most likely will keep the drug in their system before excretion. The drug essentially becomes “stored” in different lipid pockets and remains even as more methadone is absorbed by the body.
The rate at which a person uses methadone still remains the top influencing factor for how quickly it is eliminated from the system. Those who frequently abuse the drug will accumulate and continue to store increasing amounts of the drug within lipids. However, frequent users can reach a “capped” amount of methadone in the system.
When this occurs, addicts who abuse methadone may start to build a tolerance for it and require more frequent or higher doses in order to feel the “high” they’re trying to achieve. As a result, the more the person takes in order to reach that level, the longer it takes for it to be eliminated from the system.
Obviously, individuals taking smaller doses don’t have as much of the drug to process, and thus it is efficiently metabolized by the liver.
It’s also been studied that a person’s genetics can contribute to how fast a person metabolizes methadone. The way genes regulate liver enzymes will contribute to the metabolization process. To simplify, certain genes make the process go faster.
Methadone does not differ too much from alcohol or any other substance in how it is absorbed and processed in the body. Each person will react differently to ingestion of it as well as how fast it is eliminated.
Types of Methadone Drug Tests
There are various drug tests, including sampling of urine, saliva, hair, or blood, which can determine whether a person currently has methadone in their system. Drug testing may be performed at your place of employment, if you are an athlete, if you’ve been arrested, or when you enter rehab.
Drug testing on the job is typically performed for work that requires people to handle heavy machinery or operate motor vehicles since methadone can alter a person’s motor skills and can lead to injury or death. Athletes are also regularly tested for performance enhancing drugs specifically, but can also be tested for methadone or other illicit drugs. If drugs are found in the system, the athlete can be fined or banned from play.
The reason for drug testing in rehabilitation facilities is to make sure the administration of methadone is being properly regulated and users are not taking it in an effort to get high.
Urine tests are most frequently used in drug testing for its ease and efficiency. Methadone can be detected with a urine analysis within one hour and up to 2 weeks of ingestion.
Saliva tests can detect methadone within 30 minutes and up to several days after ingestion. Like urine testing, it’s also a quick and relatively convenient way in order to detect methadone in the system.
Methadone can also be tested through hair follicles. The larger the amount a person has taken, the higher the levels of the EDDP, or the metabolite, of methadone. A sample of hair is sent to a lab for analysis to look for traces of the drug. For someone who has used methadone for the first time, it could take days or weeks for the drug to accumulate in the hair, but for frequent users, methadone can be automatically detected. This method of testing can return positive results for methadone for up to several months after ingestion.
Blood tests are used less regularly as part of drug testing, but methadone can be detected within 30 minutes of ingestion, if a person has taken methadone pills. This type of testing is most commonly reserved during treatment at detoxification facilities.
It’s important to note there is a variance per individual of how long it will take methadone to be fully extracted from the system, but on average, it will be cleared out within two weeks after the last use.
Detecting Methadone Abuse
Although methadone is frequently administered at monitored intervals through rehabilitation facilities, the drug is still not off limits from those who choose to abuse it. Methadone is an opiate and the side effects are the same as many of the related opiate drugs like hydrocodone, OxyContin, or heroin. Opiates, even if prescribed as medications, are highly addictive and life-altering.
This category of drugs has been known to cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, and constipation. Side effects or symptoms to check for also include an irregular sleep schedule, weight gain, and constant shifts in mood.
In more serious cases, if a person is abusing methadone, opioid painkillers, or other types of opiate drugs, he or she may suffer a slowness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. People who are abusing or addicted to methadone will suffer painful opioid withdrawal symptoms including loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. They will actively seek out more of the drug at any cost.
Why do some drug users become addicts and others do not? Again, each case is different and is made up of varying factors, which will affect the outcome of drug use. Among the many influences, a person’s social environment and age can be contributing factors at different stages of life. For example, an impressionable person at a young age may be more prone to be at risk of becoming addicted, which is why drug education is often introduced early on. Drug awareness and prevention are important in order for people to understand the dangers that come with use, but also the increased risks associated with addiction like an overdose or mental health issues.
If at any time, you suspect a loved one is using or abusing drugs, don’t ignore the signs. The sooner someone is able to get help for their addiction, the better their chances are at recovery and a healthy life.
Getting Help for Addiction
Drug addiction plagues millions of Americans every year. Although methadone is a drug meant to be administered by professionals, it’s helpful to know how it works and what to expect when taking it. Additionally, it’s important to understand the ramifications of abusing it.
An inpatient treatment program is one option people have for recovery from drug addiction. Treatment facilities are staffed to properly attend to those who are suffering from substance abuse and need help during the medical detox process. Detox and treatment for addiction can be difficult to face, but with the support of a caring and knowledgeable staff, it can be made easier to achieve.
Outpatient care is an alternative for those who choose not to enter an inpatient treatment facility. Often, people will choose a combination of both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs to fully tackle their addiction. With either option, detox is always the first step.
Treatment during the rehabilitation and recovery period includes individual and/or group therapy in order to understand a person’s individual addiction at a root level and education about addiction with ways to cope with it in the future. Understanding triggers and actively working towards recovery is an ongoing process. The goal is for people to live drug-free lives in the best way possible.
Each step forward is moving in the right direction. With a treatment plan in place customized for the person seeking help, the success rate of overcoming addiction is likely to be much higher. Relapses don’t happen as frequently and the pieces are in place to achieve sobriety.
Our treatment specialists are here to help people when they need it most. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, you don’t have to feel alone, call a treatment specialist now. You have all the options at your fingertips. It’s just up to you to decide when to take the first step.
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“How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System?” Addiction Resource. 7 Mar. 2019. https://addictionresource.com/drugs/methadone/how-long-methadone-stay-in-your-system/