Vector Health Clinics / Addiction Medicine

What is Methadone?

What is Methadone? Methadone is a synthetic opioid useful in the treatment of opioid dependence. Examples of opioids include: Codeine, Morphine, Heroin, OxyNEO, Oxycodone, Opium, Doda Tea, Percocet, Percodan, Fentanyl Patch, Dilaudid, Demerol, Tylenol #1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Clients on a proper dose of methadone can improve their lives by minimizing withdrawal symptoms while blocking the euphoric effects of opioids.

In Ontario, methadone is available only by prescription from a doctor with specialized training. Additionally, only a pharmacy which has employed a pharmacist with specialized training can dispense methadone.

Adherence to a methadone maintenance treatment program can ultimately lead to a reduction in the use of opioids or ideally the discontinuation of their use altogether.

Methadone Administration

Methadone is usually mixed with juice and taken orally once a day. The dosage can increase every three or four days (as long as no doses are missed), until the client stabilizes and does not experience withdrawal symptoms.

The daily administration of methadone is witnessed by the pharmacist for the first two months of the program. If a number of conditions are successfully passed (including urine drug screening for illicit drugs) the client will receive take-home doses also known as “carries.”

For children or people not opioid dependent, ingesting methadone can be lethal.

Suboxone

Suboxonetablets are an alternative therapy to Methadone for opiate substitution therapy. It is a combination of Buprenorphine and Naloxone, and has the advantage of significantly less risk of adverse events at high doses. The tablets are taken under the tongue and take approximately 10 minutes to be fully absorbed before the patient can leave the Pharmacy. The advantages of Suboxone therapy, in addition to its superior safety profile at high doses, include options for dosing every 2 days if indicated, and the potential for a smoother tapering period versus methadone in many patients. Disadvantages include higher cost of treatment and the potential for "precipitated withdrawal" if a patient takes any narcotic in addition to Suboxone, which can be severe and difficult to reverse. Your doctor will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of both methadone and Suboxone at your appointment and together you can decided if either of these medications is right for you.

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Read our Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) Program Guide.

What is Methadone?
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