Last updated: September 25, 2023
Methadone doesn’t create a sense of being “high,” so, is there a greater risk that users could overdose? As is the case with any opioid, the amount of time that the drug remains in the system plays a part in that.
Because users build up a tolerance and that requires upping the dosage to achieve the desired effect.
Methadone is classified as a Schedule 2 drug by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). That means it carries a high potential for abuse which can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. It makes sense then that someone who is “self-medicating” with methadone is at higher risk.
According to the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) website, individuals who are receiving methadone to treat the withdrawal symptoms caused by an opioid addiction must be participating in a drug treatment program. Healthcare professionals not only provide the drug but closely monitor its use.
Even though methadone doesn’t produce a “high,” it is still used recreationally. This is concerning because it becomes even more lethal when mixed with other medications or alcohol.
In fact, a 2017 report put out by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) showed a rise in methadone-related overdose deaths increased from 784 deaths in 1999 to over 5,400 deaths in 2006.
Known side effects
Since it’s an opioid, methadone causes the same side effects as other opiates.
- Rash or hies
- Chest pain
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of arms or legs
As with other narcotic medications, users are in danger of overdosing if they use methadone other than prescribed by a doctor. Our bodies build up a tolerance to the drug which requires more of it to obtain the desired effect. For this reason, methadone should only be used on a short-term basis.
Moreover, once the body forms a physical dependence on the drug, users are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking methadone. They can last for seven to ten days.
Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Stomach cramps
- Trouble sleeping
- Nausea and vomiting
- Inability to hold still
- Body aches and pains
- Watery eyes and runny nose
- Increased breathing and heart rates
Furthermore, abruptly discontinuing use can lead to serious side effects, such as extreme dehydration. For this reason, physicians wean their patients from the drug by slowly cutting back on the dosage.
Methadone isn’t identified by “standard” opiate drug tests commonly used to look for heroin, codeine, or morphine. However, all drug testing methods are capable of identifying the drug. The test is more costly, but some employers, drug addiction treatment programs, law enforcement, and athletic organizations use methadone drug tests at their discretion.
Urine drug test
The urine test is the most widely used drug testing method on the market because it’s the most cost-effective. They’re easy to administer, expected by employees, and accurate.
The detection window for methadone is from one hour up to two weeks after the last use of the drug.
Mouth swab drug test
Mouth swab tests are also known as oral fluid or saliva drug tests. Employers who are looking for recent drug use often choose this type of test. They’re becoming more popular with law enforcement agencies across the nation as well when drug use is suspected during routine traffic stops or at the scene of an accident.
Mouth swab drug tests identify methadone in the saliva from 30 minutes after use up to a few days.
Hair follicle drug test
Employers looking to discover extended drug use often choose the hair follicle drug test. Drug metabolites store themselves in the hair follicles and escape the body by growing out into the center of the hair shaft. It takes a few days for them to enter the hair shaft, but once it happens the evidence remains.
Hair follicle drug tests offer a 90 day detection period for any and all drug use.
Blood drug test
This test is extremely expensive and must be administered by qualified medical personnel in a proper setting—as in a doctor’s office or hospital. The detection window is short but they identify both the parent drug—current impairment—and drug metabolites. Most employers reserve a blood test for post-accident situations but athletic organizations often use them for all drug testing scenarios.
Blood tests identify methadone within 30 minutes of use and it can remain detectable for a couple of days.
Varied detection periods
The reason that drug test results vary regarding the amount of time that they identify specific drugs is due to several factors.
- Specific drug types and frequency of use
- Level of activity
- Underlying health conditions
The reason employer’s drug test
The number one reason that employers choose to participate in a drug-free workplace program is for safety’s sake. Drug use affects motor skills and clouds the user’s ability to think clearly. That puts them—and everyone in the vicinity—at higher risk of being involved in an accident.
Statistics also prove that drug use in the workplace costs employers billions of dollars each year. That’s because employee drug use affects business in many ways.
- Increased absenteeism
- Higher turnover
- Higher medical costs
- Lower productivity
If an employee displays signs of opiate abuse at work, supervisors may determine that a drug test should be given. Staff must well document the process from start to finish.
Should the employee pass the standard test, it could benefit the employer to incur the added expense of testing for methadone.
It’s probably wise to add the synthetic opiates panel to the test too if it’s not included on the company drug test. That’s because synthetic opiates, such as oxymorphone and oxycodone, aren’t identified on standard opiate panels either.
Should an employee test positive for drug use, take the time to reach out. Let them know that you care about their well being. Point them in the direction of help!
Ultimately, it could be the catalyst that gives them the courage to beat their addiction.