What Is Methadone?
Methadone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) as a medication-assisted treatment (MAT), as well as for pain management. When taken as prescribed, methadone is safe and effective. Methadone helps individuals achieve and sustain recovery and to reclaim active and meaningful lives. Methadone is one component of a comprehensive treatment plan, which includes counseling and other behavioral health therapies to provide patients with a whole-person approach.
How Does Methadone Work?
Methadone, a long-acting opioid agonist, reduces opioid craving and withdrawal and blunts or blocks the effects of opioids. Taken daily, it is available in liquid, powder and diskettes forms.
How Can a Patient Receive Methadone?
Patients taking methadone to treat OUD must receive the medication under the supervision of a practitioner. 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.
The length of time a person receives methadone treatment varies. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse publication Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition), the length of methadone treatment should be a minimum of 12 months. Some patients may require long-term maintenance. Patients must work with their MAT practitioner to gradually reduce their methadone dosage to prevent withdrawal.
Certification of Opioid Treatment Programs
By law, only a SAMHSA-certified Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) can dispense methadone for the treatment of Opioid Use Disorder.
Opioid Treatment Program Contacts
For information about other medication-assisted treatment (MAT) or the certification of opioid treatment programs (OTPs), contact the SAMHSA Division of Pharmacologic Therapies at 240-276-2700 or DPT@SAMHSA.HHS.Gov.
Buprenorphine Waiver Contacts
Methadone is safe and effective, when taken as prescribed. Methadone medication is specifically tailored for the individual patient (and doses are often adjusted and readjusted) and is never to be shared with or given to others. This is particularly important for patients who take methadone at home and are not required to take medication under direct supervision at an OTP.
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:
- Never use more than the amount prescribed, and always take at the times prescribed. If a dose is missed, or if it feels like it’s not working, do not take an extra dose of methadone
- Do not consume alcohol while taking methadone.
- Be careful driving or operating machinery on methadone.
- Call 911 if too much methadone is taken or if an overdose is suspected.
- Prevent children and pets from accidental ingestion by storing it out of reach. For more information, visit CDC’s Up and Away educational campaign.
- Store methadone at room temperature and away from light.
- Do not shared your methadone with anyone even if they have similar symptoms or suffer from the same condition.
- Dispose of unused methadone safely. Talk to your MAT practitioner for guidance, or for more information on the safe disposal of unused medications, visit FDA's disposal of unused medicines or DEA's drug disposal webpages.
Learn more from the SAMHSA publication Follow Directions: How to Use Methadone Safely – 2009 (also available in Spanish).