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Drug Info > M > Methadose
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How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Methadone belongs to the class of medications called narcotic analgesics (pain relievers). These pain relievers are also known as opioid analgesics. Methadone is used to relieve chronic (long-term) severe pain when less potent pain relievers are not effective. It should never be used by someone who has not tried other pain relievers. Opioids decrease pain by working on the brain to increase pain tolerance. For pain relief, methadone works quickly and stays in the body for a much longer time than other opioid analgesics.

Methadone is also used in combination with medical and social services to help people break the habit of drug abuse, when the drug being used is another opioid, such as heroin or morphine-like medications. Because it is active in the body for a long period of time, the withdrawal effects of methadone can be milder than those of heroin or other abused drugs.

This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

How should I use this medication?

The usual starting dose of methadone for adults is 2.5 mg to 10 mg taken by mouth every 4 hours for the first few days. After this, your doctor will determine the appropriate dose for you, to be taken every 8 to 12 hours. Doses of methadone for pain relief vary widely and depend on the circumstances of an individual. If you have not taken opioid pain relievers before, methadone is NOT appropriate. Discuss other alternatives with your doctor.

After a certain dose of methadone has been taken for a period of time, the body may get used to it and a higher dose of methadone is needed to relieve the pain. Generally, your doctor will try to find the dose of methadone that will give you acceptable pain relief without an unacceptable level of side effects. This helps to reduce the side effects of the medication and allows for the dose to be adjusted upwards if needed. Always check with your doctor if you feel your medication isn't working well anymore.

Over time, this medication may produce tolerance and physical dependence as your body becomes used to the drug. Tolerance occurs when a dose that used to provide acceptable pain relief is no longer effective, and higher doses are required to achieve the same level of pain relief. Physical dependence is a state where the body will go into withdrawal if the medication is stopped suddenly. If you have been taking methadone on a regular basis for a long period of time, talk to your doctor before stopping the drug, as withdrawal effects can occur.

Tolerance and physical dependence are not the same as addiction. Addiction is defined as a psychological need to use the medication for reasons other than pain relief. Although people may become addicted to this medication, it is most common for people who have had addictions to other substances in the past.

The starting dose of methadone for opioid detoxification is determined by the dose needed to suppress withdrawal symptoms from other opioid medications. This is almost always done in a hospital setting. Slowly, the dose of methadone will be reduced by your doctor, keeping in mind that the objective is often to totally withdraw the narcotic with minimal withdrawal symptoms.

Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.

It is important to take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible and continue with your regular schedule. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice. If you miss several doses in a row, contact your doctor for advice on how to restart the medication.

The liquid form of methadone will be provided to you in juice or another drink such as Tang or grape Kool-Aid. Store the medication in the refrigerator. If the medication is mixed in apple juice, return any unused medication to the pharmacy for disposal after 7 days. If it is mixed in another beverage, return the unused portion after 14 days. Use an oral syringe to measure each dose of the liquid, as it gives a more accurate measurement than household teaspoons.

Store the tablet form of this medication at room temperature, protect it from light and moisture, and keep it out of the reach of children.

Keep methadone in a safe place to protect it from being stolen. This medication can be fatal if it is taken by anyone other than the person for whom it was prescribed.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

This medication is available as 10 mg/mL oral liquid.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not take methadone if you:

  • are allergic to methadone or any ingredients of the medication
  • are experiencing acute asthma or other obstructive airway disease
  • have severe diarrhea that is caused by antibiotics



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