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What Is Methadone Made From?

by Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

Methadone falls under the category of opioid drugs and helps patients feel fewer withdrawal symptoms as a part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program. While methadone counts as an opioid, it has a high safety profile if you take it with a doctor’s supervision. Learn more about methadone’s main ingredients and history.

Methadone’s Main Ingredients

Every methadone medication has the main ingredient methadone hydrochloride. Pure methadone comes in the form of a white powder that medical providers can dissolve in a solution. As a synthetic opioid, methadone contains compounds created in a laboratory using chemical reactions. Methadone has characteristics that are similar to morphine, but it has a different onset. It has gradual and mild effects that make it easier for doctors to control it during MAT.

The main ingredient in methadone medicine activates the opioid receptors in the brain to satisfy its need for opioids. As someone develops an addiction to opioids, their brain begins to rely on them for essential functions. When they try to stop taking opiates, their brain triggers withdrawal symptoms. Methadone works as a full opioid agonist, meaning it fully activates the opioid receptors. It also has opiate-blocking properties that reduce the effects of other opioids, making it easier to stay committed to treatment.

More About Methadone’s History

German scientists first created methadone in the 1930s. They were looking for a painkiller that had similar effects to morphine with fewer addictive properties. When pain medicine supplies became low during World War II, scientists synthesized methadone to solve the problem. The United States received the rights to use the medicine by the end of the war.

When heroin addiction rates rose in the 1960s, medical professionals revisited methadone’s uses. They thought that methadone could manage heroin use disorder, and the government finalized methadone regulations in 1972. The first methadone maintenance programs appeared in Canada, with the United States adopting them soon after.

How Do We Use Methadone Today?

Today, methadone is sometimes used for pain management, but is primarily used as a medicine in MAT. During MAT, the patient takes a medication that reduces their withdrawal symptoms. With their cravings and symptoms managed, the patient can work on developing recovery skills. MAT programs include one-on-one therapy that lets patients explore their thoughts and feelings surrounding opioids. They can also learn coping skills, find ways to reintegrate into the community, rejoin their social circles and other recovery-related tasks. A patient may take methadone as their MAT medicine if they:

  • Have severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Have been using very high doses of prescription or illicit opioids
  • Need extra structure during recovery
  • Have difficulty committing to their treatment plan

Decades after its invention, we still use methadone to help patients who have severe opioid use disorder symptoms. It has years of demonstrated results in improving people’s lives.

Discover More About Methadone Maintenance From Health Care Resource Centers

If you would like to start MAT, change providers or learn more about methadone, count on Health Care Resource Centers (HCRC). We welcome you to ask a question or schedule an appointment using our online contact form.

Medically Reviewed By:

Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

The Clinical Team at Health Care Resource Centers is our team of physicians and medical directors within the organization. HCRC is a CARF accredited organization and has been providing addiction treatment services for over 32 years in the New England area.

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