Methadone | Side Effects, Dosage, Uses & More
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Generic Name:

methadone, Oral tablet

All Brands

  • Dolophine
SECTION 1 of 5

Highlights for methadone

Oral tablet
1

Methadone is used to treat pain. It’s also used for detoxification or maintenance treatment of an opioid drug addiction.

2

This drug comes in the form of a tablet, dispersible tablet (tablet that can be dissolved in liquid), concentrate solution, and solution. You take each of these forms by mouth. It also comes as an injection that’s only given by your doctor.

3

Methadone is available as brand-name drugs called Methadose and Dolophine. It’s also available as a generic drug.

4

The more common side effects of this drug can include constipation, nausea, sleepiness, vomiting, and tiredness. They also can include headache, dizziness, sweating, and stomach pain.

5

In some cases, methadone can cause serious side effects. These can include trouble breathing, shortness of breath, fast pulse, chest pain, lightheadedness, or feeling faint.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

FDA warning

This drug has a black box warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Addiction and abuse warning. Methadone comes with a risk of addiction even when it’s used the right way. This can lead to drug abuse. Being addicted to and abusing this drug can increase your risk of overdose and death.

Breathing problems warning. Taking long-acting opioids, such as methadone, has caused some people to stop breathing. This can be fatal (cause death). This can happen at any time during treatment, even if you use this drug the right way. Your risk may be higher if you are a senior or already have breathing or lung problems.

Overdose in children warning. Children who accidentally take this drug have a high risk of death from overdosing. Children shouldn’t take this drug.

Heart rhythm problems warning. This drug can cause serious heart rhythm problems, especially if you take doses greater than 200 mg per day. However, this can happen at any dose. It can even occur if you don’t already have heart problems.

Pregnancy and neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome warning. Children who are born to mothers who used this drug for a long time during pregnancy are at risk of neonatal withdrawal syndrome. This can be life-threatening to the child.

Drowsiness

This drug can make you very drowsy. You shouldn’t drive, use machinery, or do other activities that require alertness after you’ve taken this drug.

Stopping this drug

Never stop taking this drug without talking to your doctor first. This drug can cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it suddenly. These can include restlessness, trouble sleeping, sweating, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and irritability.

What is methadone?

Methadone is a prescription, controlled substance drug. It’s available as an oral tablet, oral dispersible tablet (tablet that can be dissolved in liquid), oral concentrate solution, and oral solution. The concentrate solution contains a greater amount of the drug in a smaller amount of liquid than the oral solution. It’s also available in an intravenous (IV) form, which is only given by a healthcare provider.

Methadone is available as the brand-name drugs called Methadose and Dolophine. It’s also available as a generic drug. Generic drugs usually cost less. In some cases, they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand-name version.

Why it's used

Methadone is used to manage moderate to severe pain. It’s only given when other short-term or non-opioid pain drugs don’t work for you or if you can’t tolerate them.

See Details

How it works

Methadone belongs to a class of drugs called opioids (narcotics). A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

See Details

Why it's used

Methadone is used to manage moderate to severe pain. It’s only given when other short-term or non-opioid pain drugs don’t work for you or if you can’t tolerate them.

This drug is also used to manage drug addiction. If you’re addicted to another opioid, your doctor may give you methadone so you don’t have severe withdrawal symptoms.

How it works

Methadone belongs to a class of drugs called opioids (narcotics). A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

Methadone works on pain receptors in your body. It reduces how much pain you feel.

Methadone can also replace another opioid drug that you’re addicted to. This will keep you from having severe withdrawal symptoms.

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SECTION 2 of 5

methadone Side Effects

Oral tablet

More common side effects

The more common side effects of methadone can include:

  • constipation

  • nausea

  • sleepiness

  • vomiting

  • tiredness

  • headache

  • dizziness

  • stomach pain

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious side effects

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 9-1-1 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Respiratory failure (not being able to breathe). Symptoms can include:

    • shortness of breath
    • chest pain
    • lightheadedness
    • feeling faint
    • slowed breathing
    • very shallow breathing (little chest movement with breathing)
    • dizziness
    • confusion
  • Orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when getting up from sitting or lying position). Symptoms can include:

    • low blood pressure
    • dizziness or lightheadedness
    • fainting
  • Physical dependence and withdrawal when stopping the drug. Symptoms can include:

    • restlessness
    • irritability or anxiousness
    • trouble sleeping
    • increased blood pressure
    • fast breathing rate
    • fast heart rate
    • dilated pupils (enlargement of the dark center of the eyes)
    • teary eyes
    • runny nose
    • yawning
    • nausea, vomiting, and a loss of appetite
    • diarrhea and stomach cramps
    • sweating
    • chills
    • muscle aches and backache
  • Abuse or addiction. Symptoms can include:

    • taking more of the drug than prescribed
    • taking the drug regularly even if you don’t need it
    • continuing to use the drug despite negative outcomes with friends, family, your job, or the law
    • ignoring regular duties
    • taking the drug secretly or lying about how much you’re taking
  • Seizures

Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Methadone can cause extreme drowsiness and slowed breathing. This is more likely to occur during the first few hours after you take it and when your doctor increases your dose.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
SECTION 3 of 5

methadone May Interact with Other Medications

Oral tablet

Methadone can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well.

To help avoid interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Alcohol interaction

The use of drinks that contain alcohol can increase your risk of sedation, slowed breathing, coma (being unconscious for a long time), and death from methadone. If you drink alcohol, talk to your doctor. You may need to be monitored for low blood pressure, breathing problems, and sedation.

Medications that might interact with this drug

Drugs that you should not use with methadone

Do not take these drugs with methadone. Doing so can cause dangerous effects in the body. Examples of these drugs include:

  • Pentazocine, nalbuphine, butorphanol, and buprenorphine. These drugs may reduce methadone’s pain-relieving effects. This might cause withdrawal symptoms.

Interactions that increase your risk of side effects
  • Increased side effects from other drugs: Taking methadone with certain medications raises your risk of side effects from those drugs.  Examples of these drugs include:
    • Zidovudine.  Side effects include headache, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Side effects from methadone: Taking methadone with certain medications raises your risk of side effects from methadone. This is because the amount of methadone in your body is increased. Examples of these drugs include:
    • Cimetidine. Taking this drug with methadone may cause more drowsiness and slowed breathing. Your doctor might adjust your dose of methadone, depending on how severe your side effects are.
    • Antibiotics, such as clarithromycin and erythromycin. Taking these drugs with methadone may cause more drowsiness and slowed breathing. Your doctor might adjust your dose of methadone, depending on how severe your side effects are.
    • Antifungal drugs, such as ketoconazole, posaconazole, and voriconazole. Taking these drugs with methadone may cause more drowsiness and slowed breathing. Your doctor might adjust your dose of methadone, depending on how severe your side effects are.
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drugs, such as ritonavir or indinavir. Taking these drugs with methadone may cause more drowsiness and slowed breathing. Your doctor might adjust your dose of methadone, depending on how severe your side effects are.
  • Increased side effects from both drugs:Taking methadone with certain medications raises your risk of side effects. This is because methadone and these other medications can cause the same side effects. As a result, these side effects can be increased. Examples of these drugs include:
    • Allergy drugs, such as diphenhydramine and hydroxyzine. Taking these drugs with methadone may cause urinary retention (not being able to fully empty your bladder), constipation, and slowed movement in your stomach and bowels. This can lead to a severe bowel obstruction.
    • Urinary incontinence drugs, such as tolterodine and oxybutynin. Taking these drugs with methadone may cause urinary retention (not being able to fully empty your bladder), constipation, and slowed movement in your stomach and bowels. This can lead to a severe bowel obstruction.
    • Benztropine and amitriptyline. Taking these drugs with methadone may cause urinary retention (not being able to fully empty your bladder), constipation, and slowed movement in your stomach and bowels. This can lead to a severe bowel obstruction.
    • Antipsychotics, such as clozapine and olanzapine. Taking these drugs with methadone may cause urinary retention (not being able to fully empty your bladder), constipation, and slowed movement in your stomach and bowels. This can lead to a severe bowel obstruction.
    • Heart rhythm drugs, such as, quinidine, amiodarone, and dofetilide. Taking these drugs with methadone may increase your risk of longer QT intervals and cause heart rhythm problems.
    • Amitriptyline. Taking this drug with methadone may increase your risk of longer QT intervals and cause heart rhythm problems.
    • Diuretics, such as furosemide and hydrochlorothiazide. Taking these drugs together can change your electrolyte levels. This can cause heart rhythm problems.
    • Laxatives. Taking these drugs together can change your electrolyte levels. This can cause heart rhythm problems.

Interactions that can make your drugs less effective
  • When methadone is less effective: When methadone is used with certain drugs, it may not work as well to treat your condition. This is because the amount of methadone in your body may be decreased. Examples of these drugs include:
    • Anticonvulsants, such as phenobarbital, phenytoin, and carbamazepine. These drugs can cause methadone to stop working. This could cause withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor may change your dose of methadone.
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drugs such as abacavir, darunavir, efavirenz, nelfinavir, nevirapine, ritonavir, and telaprevir. Your doctor will monitor you closely for symptoms of withdrawal. They’ll adjust your dose as needed.
    • Antibiotics, such as rifampin and rifabutin. These drugs can cause methadone to stop working. This could cause withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor may change your dose of methadone.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.
Methadone warnings
kidney warning
People with kidney problems

If you have kidney problems or a history of kidney disease, you may not be able to clear this drug from your body well. This may increase the levels of methadone in your body and cause more side effects. Your doctor should watch you closely if you take this drug.

liver warnings
People with liver problems

If you have liver problems or a history of liver disease, you may not be able to process this drug well. This may increase the levels of methadone in your body and cause more side effects. Your doctor should watch you closely if you take this drug.

breathing problem warning
People with breathing problems

This drug can cause breathing problems. It can also make breathing problems you already have worse. This can be fatal (cause death). If you have breathing problems, severe asthma, or have an asthma attack, you should talk to your doctor about whether this drug is safe for you.

GI obstruction warning
People with a gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction

This drug can cause constipation and increase your risk of a GI obstruction. If you have a history of GI obstructions or you currently have one, you should talk to your doctor about whether this drug is safe for you. If you have a paralytic ileus (lack of muscle tone in the intestines that can cause GI obstructions), you shouldn’t take this drug.

seizure warning
People with seizures

This drug may cause more seizures in people with epilepsy. If your seizure control gets worse, call your doctor.

head injury warning
People with a head injury

This drug may cause increased pressure in your brain. This can raise your chance of complications or cause death. If you have a recent head injury, it increases your risk of having breathing problems from methadone. Talk to your doctor about whether this drug is safe for you.

pregnancy warning
Pregnant women

Methadone is a category C pregnancy drug. That means two things:

  1. Research in animals has shown adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.
  2. There haven’t been enough studies done in humans to be certain how the drug might affect the fetus.

Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. This drug should only be used if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

Children who are born to mothers who used this drug for a long time during pregnancy are at risk of neonatal withdrawal syndrome. This can be life-threatening to the child.

breast feeding warning
Women who are breast-feeding

Methadone may pass into breast milk and may cause side effects in a child who is breast-fed. These side effects include slowed breathing and sedation. 

Talk to your doctor if you breast-feed your child. You may need to decide whether to stop breast-feeding or stop taking this medication.

senior warning
For seniors

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This raises your risk of side effects.

children warning
For children

The safety and effectiveness of this drug haven’t been established in children. It shouldn’t be used in people younger than 18 years.

Children who accidentally take this drug have a high risk of death from overdosing.

call your doctor
When to call the doctor

Call your doctor if the dose you’re taking doesn’t control your pain.

Call your doctor right away if you become pregnant while taking this drug. 

allergy warning
Allergies

Methadone can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:

  • trouble breathing
  • swelling of your throat or tongue

If you have an allergic reaction, call your doctor or local poison control center right away. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).

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How to Take methadone (Dosage)

Oral tablet

All possible dosages and drug forms may not be included here. Your dosage, drug form, and how often you take the drug will depend on:

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What are you taking this medication for?

Short-term moderate to severe pain

Brand: Methadose

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg
Form: Oral concentrate solution
Strengths: 10 mg/mL
Form: Oral dispersible tablet
Strengths: 40 mg

Brand: Dolophine

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg

Generic: methadone

Form: Oral solution
Strengths: 5 mg/mL, 10 mg/5 mL
Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg
Form: Oral concentrate solution
Strengths: 10 mg/mL
Form: Oral dispersible tablet
Strengths: 40 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18–64 years)
  • Typical starting dose: 2.5 mg taken every 8–12 hours.
  • Dose increases: Your doctor will slowly increase your dose every 3–5 days or more.
Child dosage (ages 0–17 years)

The safety and effectiveness of this drug hasn’t been established in children. It shouldn’t be used in people younger than 18 years.

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This raises your risk of side effects.

Warnings

Don’t crush, dissolve, snort, or inject methadone oral tablets because this may cause you to overdose. This can be fatal.

Detoxification of opioid addiction

Brand: Methadose

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg
Form: Oral concentrate solution
Strengths: 10 mg/mL
Form: Oral dispersible tablet
Strengths: 40 mg

Brand: Dolophine

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg

Generic: methadone

Form: Oral solution
Strengths: 5 mg/mL, 10 mg/5 mL
Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg
Form: Oral concentrate solution
Strengths: 10 mg/mL
Form: Oral dispersible tablet
Strengths: 40 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18–64 years)
  • Typical starting dose: 20–30 mg
  • Dose increases: After waiting 2–4 hours, your doctor may give you an extra 5–10 mg of methadone.
  • Typical dose: For short-term detoxification, the typical dose is 20 mg taken 2 times per day for 2–3 days. Your doctor will slowly decrease your dose and watch you closely.  
  • Maximum dose: On the first day, you shouldn’t take more than 40 mg total.
Child dosage (ages 0–17 years)

The safety and effectiveness of this drug hasn’t been established in children. It shouldn’t be used in people younger than 18 years.

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This raises your risk of side effects.

Warnings

Don’t crush, dissolve, snort, or inject methadone oral tablets because this may cause you to overdose. This can be fatal.

Maintenance of opioid addiction

Brand: Methadose

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg
Form: Oral concentrate solution
Strengths: 10 mg/mL
Form: Oral dispersible tablet
Strengths: 40 mg

Brand: Dolophine

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg

Generic: methadone

Form: Oral solution
Strengths: 5 mg/mL, 10 mg/5 mL
Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg
Form: Oral concentrate solution
Strengths: 10 mg/mL
Form: Oral dispersible tablet
Strengths: 40 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18–64 years)

The standard dose ranges between 80–120 mg per day. Your doctor will decide a dose that’s right for you.

Child dosage (ages 0–17 years)

The safety and effectiveness of this drug hasn’t been established in children. It shouldn’t be used in people younger than 18 years.

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This raises your risk of side effects.

Warnings

Don’t crush, dissolve, snort, or inject methadone oral tablets because this may cause you to overdose. This can be fatal.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Methadone comes with serious risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If you stop taking the drug suddenly or don’t take it at all

Your pain may not be controlled and you may go through opioid withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • tearing of your eyes
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • yawning
  • heavy sweating
  • goose-bumps
  • fever
  • chills alternating with flushing (reddening and warming of your face or body)
  • restlessness
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • tremors
  • cramps
  • body aches
  • involuntary twitching and kicking
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • weight loss

If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule

Your medication may not work as well or may stop working completely. You might also experience withdrawal symptoms if you don’t take it on schedule.

If you take too much

You could have dangerous levels of the drug in your body. Symptoms of an overdose of this drug can include:

  • loss of muscle tone
  • cold, clammy skin
  • constricted (small) pupils
  • slow pulse
  • low blood pressure, which may cause dizziness or fainting
  • slowed breathing
  • extreme sedation leading to coma (being unconscious for a long time)

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

What to do if you miss a dose

Pain: Don’t take more than your prescribed dose in 24 hours. If you take this drug for pain and miss a dose, take it as soon as possible. Then take your next dose 8–12 hours later as directed by your doctor. If it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule.

Detoxification and maintenance of addiction: If you take methadone for opioid addiction and miss a dose, take your next dose the following day as scheduled. Don’t take extra doses. Taking more than the prescribed dose may cause you to overdose because this drug builds up in your body over time.

How to tell if the drug is working

You should have decreased pain or your withdrawal symptoms should go away.

Methadone is used for short-term treatment.

Take methadone with or without food

Taking it with food may help to reduce upset stomach.

You can cut the dispersible tablet into halves or quarters

You can also cut or crush the regular tablet.

Store this drug carefully

Oral tablet, concentrate solution, and solution:

  • Store methadone at room temperature. Keep it between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C). Keep it away from light.
  • Don’t store this medication in moist or damp areas, such as bathrooms.

Oral dispersible tablet:

  • Store methadone at room temperature. Keep it at 77°F (25°C). You can store it briefly between 59°F and 86°F (15°C and 30°C).

A prescription for this medication is not refillable

You or your pharmacy will have to contact your doctor for a new prescription if you need this medication refilled.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry your medication with you. When flying, never put it into a checked bag. Keep it in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport x-ray machines. They can’t hurt your medication.
  • You may need to show airport staff the pharmacy label for your medication. Always carry the original prescription-labeled box with you.
  • Don’t put this medication in your car’s glove compartment or leave it in the car. Be sure to avoid doing this when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Self-management

Don’t swallow the dispersible tablet before it has been dissolved in a liquid. You should mix it with 3–4 ounces (90–120 ml) of water or citrus fruit juice before you take it. This takes about 1 minute to mix.

You should measure the oral concentrate solution using the measuring device that comes with it. This solution can numb your mouth or upset your stomach. To prevent this, you can mix it with 3–4 ounces (90–120 ml) of water or citrus fruit juice before you take it.

Clinical monitoring

You and your doctor should monitor certain health issues. This can help make sure you stay safe while you take this drug. These issues include:

  • Kidney function
  • Liver function
  • Respiratory (breathing) rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Pain level (if you’re taking this drug for pain)

Insurance

There are restrictions on dispensing methadone for detoxification or maintenance programs. Not every pharmacy can dispense this medication for detoxification and maintenance. Talk to your doctor about where you can get this drug.

Are there any alternatives?

There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be better suited for you than others. Talk to your doctor about other drug options that may work for you.

What does the pill look like?

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SECTION 5 of 5

How Much Does methadone Cost?

Oral tablet

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Lowest price for methadone

Walgreens $12.79
Duane Reade $12.79
Walmart $14.50
These prices represent the lowest priced national pharmacies for methadone on GoodRx. They may be lower than your insurance.

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These prices represent the lowest priced national pharmacies for methadone on GoodRx. They may be lower than your insurance.

Show Sources

Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on December 14, 2015

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
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