How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System?
This article will discuss all the factors determining how long methadone stays in your system, why it is important to know them, and the potential for false positives in drug tests.
Let’s get into it…
What is Methadone?
Methadone is a prescription-only opioid medication designated by the FDA as a Class II controlled substance.
Methadone is used to help with various issues related to opioid use disorder (OUD), such as easing withdrawal symptoms, lessening the feeling of pain, and blocking the high that opioids can cause.
However, it’s important to know that methadone doesn’t actually cure or fix opioid addiction; instead, it’s a safer alternative to other opioids.
When doctors prescribe methadone as part of a certified opioid treatment program, they use what’s known as a harm-reduction strategy.
This is a key part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for OUD.
The idea behind harm reduction is not necessarily to make someone stop using a substance altogether but to decrease the risk of more serious problems, like an overdose.
By doing this, methadone can help someone with OUD live a safer life.
Methadone stays in the system for a significant amount of time, so it’s important to understand its nature and effects.
Methadone is commonly used in addiction treatment programs to help individuals overcome opioid addiction.
It reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings, allowing individuals to focus on their recovery.
Methadone use should always be done under medical supervision, as it can be addictive itself.
When taken as prescribed, it can be an effective tool in treating addiction.
It’s worth noting that the length of time methadone stays in your system can vary depending on dosage, frequency of use, and individual metabolism.
If you are undergoing a test for methadone, it is important to inform the testing facility to ensure accurate results.
Treatment options for methadone addiction may include tapering off the medication or transitioning to a different medication-assisted treatment.
Working closely with your doctor is crucial to determine the best course of action for your individual needs.
The video below gives a great 2-minute overview of methadone:
- Methadone can be detected in the blood within 30 minutes of use and still be present for up to 2 days (55 hours).
- Hair analysis can effectively detect traces of methadone for up to 3 months.
- Saliva tests can detect methadone within 30 minutes of use and can detect it for up to 2 days.
- Methadone can be detected in urine within an hour to 2 weeks after the last dose.
How Long Does Methadone Stay In Your System?
If prescribed for pain relief, a single dose of methadone typically lasts between four and eight hours.
Conversely, when used for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in managing opioid use disorder (OUD), the effects of methadone can extend from 24 to 48 hours.
However, the answer is not that straightforward.
Many factors, directly and indirectly, determine how long methadone stays in your body.
Before we proceed, we need to learn some basic pharmacology about methadone.
A drug’s half-life is the amount of time it takes to remove half of it from the body.
Methadone is known to have a long half-life, ranging from 8 to 59 hours or sometimes even more.
This duration can vary greatly, depending on factors unique to each person.
For example, someone who is used to taking opioids (called opioid tolerance) will have a methadone half-life of around 24 hours.
However, an individual who is not opioid-tolerant (called opioid-naive) may have a methadone half-life of about 55 hours.
It takes about five half-lives for a drug to be completely eliminated from the body.
Methadone undergoes many changes in the body, turning into other substances known as metabolites.
By testing for these metabolites, doctors can tell if someone has been using methadone.
The presence of these metabolites and the long half-life of methadone help to explain why the drug can have lasting effects and why it requires careful monitoring.
Other factors that determine how long methadone stays in your system
The speed at which methadone is processed through your body can be influenced by many personal health factors.
These include your age, weight, fast metabolism, how well your liver is working, and any other health conditions you might have.
The length of time you’ve been using methadone, how often you use it, the amount you take, and whether you’re using other medications simultaneously (drug interactions) also play a role.
Medical experts have different opinions about how long methadone stays in your system.
Some believe it can be as short as 2 days, while others think it could be up to 13 days.
This wide range reflects how unique each person’s situation can be regarding how their body handles methadone.
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Methadone traces in hair, blood, urine, and saliva
Methadone usually leaves your system within two weeks, but evidence of the drug might be detected for longer, depending on the drug test being used.
Employers, addiction treatment centers, sports groups, and law enforcement might require you to submit to methadone drug tests.
Standard drug tests, which often look for opioids like heroin, codeine, and morphine, usually don’t detect methadone.
Because of this, specialized and more expensive tests are needed if the goal is to screen for methadone specifically.
Several types of tests have been created to find methadone in the body, including those that analyze urine, saliva, hair, and blood.
The ability to detect methadone varies by the type of test used, and the detection times for each test can differ.
By understanding how methadone is processed and excreted through these different channels, you can better understand how long it may stay in your system and how it may impact drug tests.
When testing for methadone use, urine tests are the most common method employed.
These tests are inexpensive, noninvasive, quick, easy to administer, and have a long detection period.
Generally, methadone can be detected in urine within an hour of last use and be detectable for 14 days.
The amount of time methadone lingers in your bloodstream varies.
When you take a blood test, methadone can be detected within 30 minutes of your last use, and traces of the drug can still be present in your blood for up to 2 days (55 hours).
When it comes to drug tests, hair analysis is one of the most effective methods for detecting the presence of methadone in your system, especially to determine long-term use.
This is because methadone gets metabolized, incorporated into the hair follicles, and stays in your hair for 3 months after the last use.
If you just started using methadone, it may not appear in your hair for up to two weeks.
The hair follicles act as a timeline, recording the drug use over a period of months.
Using saliva for drug testing is a quick and non-invasive method to detect the presence of substances in the body.
Saliva drug tests can detect methadone within 30 minutes of use and can have a detection period of up to 2 days.
Of note, this type of testing is usually unreliable and is not used often.
Below are detection times in a table format:
Detection Time of Methadone in Body Systems
|Body System||Detectable Period In System|
The video short below describes why fast drug tests that you can pick up at your local pharmacy are not accurate, and the true standard is a test administered at an official lab:
If you need discreet drug testing, I highly recommend HealthLabs.
They have agreements with testing laboratories all across the United States.
They have various panels of drug testing available, including methadone.
You can check them out at this link on their official website.
While we are discussing drug testing, I recommend reading my article, Does CBD Show Up On A Drug Test?
The Reality of Methadone Addiction and Withdrawal
You can get addicted to methadone just like any narcotic drug.
When you’re struggling with methadone addiction and going through withdrawal, it can be a challenging experience.
When you stop taking methadone abruptly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms due to developing physical dependence.
Methadone withdrawal can vary from person to person, but it typically lasts around 7-10 days.
If you start experiencing withdrawal symptoms, never attempt to “tough it out” alone.
To ensure a safe and successful recovery, seeking professional help and support is crucial during this challenging time.
Methadone withdrawal symptoms
The following are common withdrawal symptoms:
- Stomach cramps.
- Profuse sweating.
- Appetite disturbance.
- Runny nose and eyes.
- Difficulty staying still.
- Body aches.
- Elevated heart rate and breathing.
Severe dehydration is a serious adverse effect that can occur if methadone is suddenly stopped without slowly tapering down the dose.
Again, if you experience any of the symptoms above, contact your doctor immediately for help.
False Positives for Methadone
To avoid false positives for methadone, you must be aware of other medications or substances that could interfere with drug test results.
The following medications can interfere with methadone tests and give false-positive readings:
- Quetiapine (Seroquel, an antipsychotic).
- Common over-the-counter antihistamines diphenhydramine (Benadryl, ZzzQuil) and doxylamine (an ingredient in NyQuil).
- Verapamil (blood pressure medication).
Poppy seeds, a common food ingredient, can also result in false-positive tests, as they contain small amounts of codeine and morphine.
Therefore, informing the tester of any medications or substances you may have taken is crucial to avoid any potential false positives.
To understand how long methadone stays in your system, it is important to understand the nature and effects of the drug.
Methadone addiction and withdrawal are harsh realities that many individuals face.
However, detox and treatment options are available for those struggling with methadone dependence.
Factors such as metabolism, dosage, and frequency of use can affect how long methadone stays in your system.
It is crucial to seek professional help if you or someone you know is dealing with methadone addiction.