While methadone’s effects may wear off in a few hours, traces of the drug can linger in your body for days, weeks or even months after the last use.
Methadone is a long-acting opioid that can stay in the system for several days or even up to nearly two weeks in some cases. As a synthetic opioid, methadone is often used as part of treatment programs for opioid use disorder. Most commonly, methadone is used to help people with heroin addictions. Methadone is also a pain reliever. If you or a loved one take methadone, it is important to know how long you can expect the drug to stay in your body.
What Is Methadone?
Methadone is an opioid and Schedule II controlled substance often prescribed to treat pain or opioid use disorder (OUD).
Therapeutic effects of methadone include alleviating withdrawal symptoms from OUD, reducing the perception of pain and preventing opioids from creating euphoria. Methadone doesn’t cure or treat opioid addiction. Rather, methadone is a safer replacement for other opioids.
When prescribed for OUD, methadone is often described as harm-reduction medication and is a cornerstone of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for OUD. A harm-reduction approach doesn’t require someone to stop using a substance completely, but it helps lower the risk of some more severe consequences like an overdose.
How Does Methadone Make You Feel?
Methadone is often specifically prescribed because it can treat pain or OUD while preventing a euphoric high. However, that does not mean that methadone is free of other side effects. Common methadone effects include:
- Nausea or vomiting
How Long Does It Take for Methadone to Work?
Methadone is a drug that kicks in slowly and can take up to five days for the drug’s full effects to show up. This is especially true when methadone is prescribed for pain. For this reason, doctors start methadone at very low doses and usually increase the dose no more frequently than once every few days. Increasing the dose sooner could increase the risk of overdose.
How Long Does Methadone Last?
The duration of methadone’s effects depends on why a person takes the drug. When used for pain, methadone can last between four and eight hours. However, when the drug is prescribed for OUD, its effects can last for much longer, between 24 and 48 hours.
A drug’s half-life refers to the time it takes for half of it to be cleared from your system. With one half-life, the amount of drug found in a person’s body will be one-half of the original starting dose. Methadone’s half-life is notoriously long and can vary widely by person.
Although most people consider the half-life of methadone to be 8–59 hours, it can be up to 75 hours in people with OUD and up to 120 hours in people taking methadone for pain.
The half-life of methadone is likely to be shorter in someone with an existing opioid tolerance. The average half-life in this situation is approximately 24 hours. In someone who isn’t opioid-tolerant, the average half-life of methadone is about 55 hours.
How Long Does Methadone Stay In Your Body?
Even after the drug’s effects have worn off, traces of methadone can linger in your body for days, weeks or months. The time methadone can be detected often depends on which body part is tested for methadone. Some tests for methadone include urine, hair, saliva and blood.
How Long Does Methadone Stay In Urine?
Methadone and its breakdown product EDDP (2-Ethylidene-1,5-dimethyl-3,3-diphenylpyrrolidine) can stay in your urine for up to 14 days.
How Long Does Methadone Stay In Hair?
A 1.5-inch sample of hair can detect methadone for up to 90 days following the last use.
How Long Does Methadone Stay In Saliva?
How Long Does Methadone Stay In Blood?
Methadone and its breakdown product EDDP (2-Ethylidene-1,5-dimethyl-3,3-diphenylpyrrolidine) can stay in your blood for up to 55 hours.
Methadone False Positive
Methadone false positives are extremely rare but can sometimes occur. A false positive for methadone can happen when the drug test accidentally picks up the presence of different, chemically unrelated drugs. These drugs are generally not even opioids and include:
- Verapamil, a blood pressure medication
- Diphenhydramine, an antihistamine
- Doxylamine, an antihistamine
- Quetiapine, an antipsychotic
A methadone false positive can be retested using confirmation testing, which should correct the false positive.
Factors That Affect How Long Methadone Stays in Your System
Many factors can impact how long methadone stays in your system after the last use. These include:
- Methadone dose: Higher methadone doses, like those used for pain, may stay in your body longer than smaller doses. This is reflected in the much longer methadone half-life for those taking the drug for pain.
- Frequency of methadone use: Someone who takes methadone on a chronic basis will have the drug last longer in their system than someone who takes it infrequently.
- Age: It may take longer for an older person to clear methadone from their system than a younger person.
- Medical history: A person’s medical conditions can impact how long methadone stays in the body. For example, methadone lasts a shorter period in pregnant women in their second and third trimesters.
- Drug interactions: If a person takes drugs that interact with methadone, the methadone may last shorter or longer than expected in their body.
How Is Methadone Metabolized in the Body?
The liver metabolizes methadone in the body. Multiple liver enzymes work together to break down methadone, including:
In addition, the liver also helps break down methadone using a process called N-demethylation. This process does not rely on enzymes and breaks off one carbon and three hydrogen atoms from methadone. N-demethylation creates the methadone breakdown product EDDP, which can be found in the blood and urine for days following the last methadone use.
How Long Does It Take To Get Methadone Out of Your System?
Although methadone’s effects may wear off in a handful of hours, it can take days, weeks or months to remove traces of methadone from your system fully. Because specific liver enzymes break down the drug, there is nothing you can do to speed up this process. The body must wait for the liver enzymes to break down the drug and slowly eliminate the drug in both the urine and the feces.
Find Help for Methadone Addiction in Colorado
If you or a loved one live with a methadone addiction, it is crucial to ask for help. At The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, we can support you through detox, rehab, counseling and peer support programs. By addressing methadone addiction alongside any co-occurring disorders, individualized treatment plans cater to each person’s specific needs to ensure they receive the best treatment. Begin your healthier future today; call now.
Gryczynski, Jan; Schwartz, Robert P; Mitchell, Shannon D; et al. “Hair Drug Testing Results and Self-repor[…]icit Drug Use.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, May 17, 2014. Accessed July 29, 2022.
ARUP Laboratories. “Drug Plasma Half-Life and Urine Detectio[…]ection Window.” October 2021. Accessed July 29, 2022.
Cansford Laboratories. “Oral Fluid (Saliva) Testing”>.” Accessed July 29, 2022.
ARUP Laboratories. “Therapeutic Drug Monitoring”>.” June 2021. Accessed July 29, 2022.
Drugs.com. “Methadone”>Methadone.” March 29, 2021. Accessed July 29, 2022.
Lasić, Davor; Uglesić, Boran; Zuljan-Cvitanović, Marija; et al. “False-positive methadone urine drug scre[…]th quetiapine.” Acta Clinica Croatica, June 2012. Accessed July 29, 2022.
Lancelin, Frédérique; Kraoul, Linda; Flatischler, Nadia; et al. “False-Positive Results in the Detection […]ic Substances.” Clinical Chemistry, November 1, 2005. Accessed July 29, 2022.
Shiran, Mohammad Reza; Hassanzadeh-Khayyat, Mohammad; Iqbal, Mohammad Zafar; et al. “Can saliva replace plasma for the monito[…]of methadone?” Therapeutic Drug Monitoring, October 2005. Accessed July 29, 2022.
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.