Methadone, sold under the brand names Dolophine and Methadose among others, is a synthetic opioid agonist used for chronic pain and also for opioid dependence. It is used to treat chronic pain, and it is also used to treat addiction to heroin or other opioids. Prescribed for daily use, the medicine relieves cravings and removes withdrawal symptoms.
Detoxification using methadone can be accomplished in less than a month, or it may be done gradually over as long as six months. While a single dose has a rapid effect, maximum effect can take up to five days of use. The pain-relieving effects last about six hours after a single dose. After long-term use, in people with normal liver function, effects last 8 to 36 hours. Methadone is usually taken by mouth and rarely by injection into a muscle or vein.
Side effects are similar to those of other opioids. These frequently include dizziness, sleepiness, vomiting, and sweating. Serious risks include opioid abuse and respiratory depression. Abnormal heart rhythms may also occur due to a prolonged QT interval. The number of deaths in the United States involving methadone poisoning declined from 4,418 in 2011 to 3,300 in 2015. Risks are greater with higher doses. Methadone is made by chemical synthesis and acts on opioid receptors.
Methadone was developed in Germany around 1937 to 1939 by Gustav Ehrhart and Max Bockmühl. It was approved for use as an analgesic in the United States in 1947, and has been used in the treatment of addiction since the 1960s. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines