Methadone is a synthetic opioid commonly prescribed to treat opioid addiction. It acts on the same receptors in the central nervous system as other opioids (fentanyl, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, etc.), and is usually less potent than these drugs.
Methadone stays in the body for a long time compared to many other opioids. Methadone can stay in the body between 40 to 300 hours after the last dose, but some cases have seen methadone stay in the body for up to 2000 hours.
Methadone Half-Life & Elimination Times
Methadone’s half-life, or the amount of time it takes to reach 50 percent of maximum concentration, is much longer than many other opioids. Half-life times also vary greatly—anywhere between 8 to 200 hours.
Methadone is usually eliminated from the body after five half-life cycles. It can take anywhere between 40 to 1000 hours for methadone to be eliminated from the body.
This means that the detection window for methadone use is significant because of the long period of time it can stay in the body after the last dose.
How long methadone stays in a person’s system can be affected by other factors, such as a history of heavy opioid use or an existing opioid addiction.
Methadone Drug Tests
Methadone has unique metabolites, which can be detected after it’s taken. Many opioids have morphine as a metabolite and can be detected with tests for morphine. Methadone does not, which means that drug tests must detect methadone specifically.
Methadone can be detected in hair follicles for up to 90 days after the last dose. This is consistent with other pain medications, painkillers, and opioids. All of these make their way into hair cells after travelling through the bloodstream, and stay in the hair as it grows.
Methadone can be detected in blood samples for several days (about 4 or 5 days) after the last dose.
Urine tests can detect methadone for about 7 days after the last dose. The pH of urine can change the accuracy of the test results, and this method of testing is not completely reliable as a result.
However, urine tests are still one of the most common methods of methadone drug testing.
Mouth swabs, or saliva tests, may detect methadone for up to 48 hours after the last dose. While saliva tests do not require a urine sample or needle, the detection window is usually smaller than other methods of testing.
Reasons For Methadone Drug Testing
Although it’s often prescribed as a part of an opioid addiction treatment program, methadone itself is a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States.
It’s less powerful than other opioids and opiates but is still a target for drug abuse. It can be habit-forming, worsen opioid withdrawal symptoms, and cause other serious side effects.
A positive drug test may be a sign of methadone addiction or abuse. If you or a loved one are struggling to take methadone properly, it may not be the right opioid treatment option.
To learn more about the effects of methadone and treatment options for opioid addiction, talk to your healthcare provider or contact us today.