For decades, methadone has been used to treat opioid use disorder (opioid addiction) and pain relief from long-term illnesses, injuries, or surgery. For people with opioid addiction like heroin, methadone works by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Methadone does not show up on a standard urine drug test, but there are specific methadone drug tests available that look for that particular chemical makeup.  Most employers require a drug test before hiring or for their current employees. Employers use generalized urine tests to detect opiate drug use for morphine, codeine, and heroin. Some over-the-counter drugs can show a methadone false-positive such as Benadryl, Tylenol PM, or Advil PM.

Why Is Methadone Testing Done?

Methadone testing can be used to detect opioid use or abuse for various circumstances, such as:

  • Part of rehabilitation: To monitor proper levels or ensure sobriety
  • Workplace setting: To regularly determine job eligibility during or after an accident.  
  • Clinical setting: To determine a suspected overdose and to monitor analgesia levels

When using methadone as part of an addiction therapy program, you are legally protected. You cannot be terminated from your job should the medication appear in your test results. You may be routinely tested for methadone and other drugs as part of your treatment program.

What Are the Side Effects of Methadone Use?

Methadone is part of a comprehensive treatment plan in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction recovery. Methadone side effects include:

• Difficulty sleeping

• Dizziness

• Nausea and vomiting

• Chest pain and difficulty breathing

• Tiredness

• Sweating

• Swollen legs

• Rash or hives

• Confusion

• Arms swelling

• Hallucinations

• Constipation

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your Body?

How quickly methadone is processed in your body system is determined by the following factors:

  • Weight
  • Age
  • How alkaline is your urine 
  • Repeated dosing
  • Liver function  
  • Duration of methadone use
  • Dosage amount
  • Interacting medicines
  • Metabolism (methadone is metabolized through the liver and stays longer in people with liver disease)

There are various opinions about how long methadone stays in your body, and the duration can last anywhere from two to thirteen days. Methadone stays active in your system for up to 60 hours, which means that the drug might still be detectable in your body for a long duration, but the effects will be completely worn off after two or three days.

Typically, it takes four to five half-lives or a drug to be eliminated from your system. Methadone’s half-life is 8 to 59 hours but can vary depending on tolerance to opioids. With those taking opioids such as heroin, methadone’s half-life is about 24 hours, while for those not used to opioids, their half-life can be about 55 hours. Traces of methadone can show for longer than two weeks, depending on the type of drug test used.

What Drug Tests Are Used to Detect Methadone?

There are various tests used to detect methadone in the system, with the most common being the urine test. The Urine test is minimally invasive and more accurate in detecting substances. Types of drug tests used to detect methadone and detection times include:

Hair test: They are best used to test the long-term use of methadone. The drug can be seen after several months after the last use.

Urine test: This is the most common test for methadone use and can detect the drug after one hour of ingestion. Methadone can remain detectable in the urine for up to two weeks after the last intake.

Blood Tests: This can detect methadone in the blood within 30 minutes of taking it and can remain detectable for a few days.

Saliva test: This can detect methadone in the saliva within 30 minutes of intake, and the drug can remain there for several days after the last use.