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Does methadone show up on a drug test?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on June 15, 2020.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com
  • Methadone is not usually tested for on a standard 5- or 7-panel drug test unless it has been specifically requested.
  • Specific methadone tests are expensive, and not usually requested by employers.
  • Extended drug panels, such as 10- or 12-panel tests do normally test for methadone.
  • If you are legitimately taking methadone as part of an addiction recovery program, you cannot legally be terminated from employment if methadone does show up in your test results.
  • As part of your treatment program, you will normally be routinely tested for methadone and other drug use by the treatment center.

Methadone is a long-acting synthetic opioid that is used to treat opioid addiction and chronic pain. It helps reduce withdrawal symptoms for people who have become addicted to narcotics, such as heroin, and satisfies cravings without producing a high. Methadone can only be obtained through a certified opioid treatment program.

Although methadone is a synthetic opioid, it is sufficiently distinct in structure to morphine that it will not show up in standard urine drug tests or 5-panel or 7-panel tests that test for opiates such as morphine and heroin. Routine opiate tests and 5-panel and 7-panel tests reliably detect morphine, codeine, and heroin; however, they usually do not detect other opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl, buprenorphine, and tramadol, unless very high dosages have been taken.

However, extended drug testing panels, such as 10-panel or 12-panel tests usually do test for methadone. In addition, most drug testing panels can be tailored made depending on what the company determines is important to test for, and there is the possibility that any other type of opiate, such as methadone can be added to a testing panel separately if it is considered necessary. But specific methadone tests are costly and not usually included.

If you are legitimately taking methadone as part of an addiction recovery program, you cannot legally be terminated from employment if methadone does show up in your test results. Anybody recovering from drug or alcohol treatment that is undergoing medication-assisted treatment is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities making sure they have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

As part of your addiction program, your methadone use is usually monitored by your treatment center. Urine, saliva, hair, and blood tests have all been developed to test for the presence of methadone in the system.

  • Urine tests: These are the preferred way to test for methadone use with a detection window of one hour to two weeks
  • Saliva tests: Noninvasive, with a detection window of 30 minutes to a few days
  • Hair tests: Detection window of two weeks to many months
  • Blood tests: Detection window of 30 minutes to a few days. Expensive but highly accurate.

How long does methadone stay in your body?

There are a number of different factors that determine how long methadone stays in your body. These include:

  • Age
  • How alkaline the urine is
  • Interacting medicines
  • Metabolism – methadone is metabolized through the liver so it will stay around for longer in people with liver disease
  • Repeated dosing
  • Weight.

Methadone has a half-life of 8 to 59 hours in adults. Generally, it takes four to five half-lives for a drug to be totally eliminated from the body.

In most healthy people, no trace of methadone would be found after 40 to 295 hours (5 to 12.3 days). Most experts agree methadone is typically processed out of your system within two weeks; however, very specific drug tests may detect traces of the drug for longer.

Some over the counter drugs, such as diphenhydramine, have reportedly show false-positive results for methadone.

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