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Drug Information



What is methadone?

Methadone is a synthetic drug developed in Germany during World War 2. It is only available on prescription. It is prescribed as a painkiller and is a controlled drug. Because it is an opiod, it produces similar effects to heroin, and so is used as substitute medication in methadone maintenance programmes.

How is it used?

Methadone is most commonly seen as a coloured liquid (linctus) and is taken orally, it is also available as a tablet. Injectable and tablet forms of methadone are available (under the trade name Physeptone), but it is very unusual for GPs to prescribe these.

What are the effects?

Methadone lasts a lot longer than heroin – you have just one dose every 24 hours. The effect is less intense and comes on more slowly than heroin. Although methadone might not result in the same rush as heroin, it does give stability and control, as a result of knowing exactly how much is being taken.

A lot of the effects of methadone are similar to any opiate – it can result in feelings of drowsiness, reduce physical pain and cause constipation. Methadone does NOT damage your heart, liver, brain or bones and can be prescribed safely for many years.

Methadone blocks the part of the brain that receives heroin and other opiates, the part that gives the user the effect. This means that if heroin is used on top of methadone it will not have much of an effect. If a user attempts to take enough heroin to get a buzz, the chances of overdosing are increased. Drugs like diazepam, and temazepam (and other sedatives) and alcohol taken at the same time as methadone can increase the risk of overdose.

Someone on a methadone prescription who has a drivinglicence is required by law to inform the DVLA of this. If a personwants to go abroad and take more than 500ml (or more than 15 days supply) with them, they must contact the Home Office for a licence (at least seven days before they intended leaving date) - a letter from the GP must be obtained. This licence means a person is allowed to take methadone out of the UK (and bring back any left over). It does not mean they are allowed to take it to the country they are visiting; this needs to be checked with that country’s Embassy before a person leaves.

Legal status

Methadone is a Class A drug - it can only be possessed if it has been prescribed for you.

  • The maximum sentence for unlawful possession is seven years in prison plus an unlimited fine.
  • The maximum sentence for supplying methadone is life imprisonment and an unlimited fine.


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