What Is Methadone, and How Does it Work?
Methadone is a synthetic analgesic, a term describing a human-made pain reliever. Its primary use is as an addiction treatment medication, but doctors sometimes dispense it for general pain relief. As an opioid, methadone is in the same family as other drugs such as oxycodone, morphine and even heroin.
Opioids are a group of drugs that interact with a specific set of receptors in the brain and the rest of the body. These receptors allow compounds in opioids to latch on, and those opioid compounds then create a variety of effects across the whole body. Different opioid drugs vary greatly in potency, so they result in a range of changes in the body. The most common responses are reductions in the ability to feel pain, as well as a feeling of euphoria.
Methadone, however, does not result in euphoria on the level of drugs like heroin or even prescription painkillers like OxyContin. While it binds to the same receptors as other opioid medications, methadone takes longer to take effect, and it doesn’t produce euphoria in someone who is already addicted to other opioids. Instead, it helps block the effects of other opioids, while preventing the worst of the pain of withdrawal.