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Methadone tablets

Updated 2 Feb 2023 | Opioid analgesics


Tablets containing methadone.

Drugs List

  • methadone 5mg tablets
  • Therapeutic Indications


    Pain - moderate to severe


    Use caution with repeated doses in elderly and ill patients due to its long plasma half-life.


    Initial dose is usually 5 to 10mg, every 6 to 8 hours, later adjusted to the degree of pain relief obtained.

    Patients with Renal Impairment

    The Renal Drug Handbook offers the following dosages in renal impairment:

    GFR 20-50ml/minute - Dose as in normal renal function

    GFR 10-20ml/minute - Dose as in normal renal function

    GFR less than 10ml/minute - 50% to 75% of normal dose, and titrate according to response.


    Acute alcohol intoxication
    Children under 18 years
    Risk of paralytic ileus
    Within 2 weeks of discontinuing MAOIs
    Acute asthma
    Acute respiratory depression
    Head trauma
    Long QT syndrome
    Obstructive pulmonary disease
    Raised intracranial pressure
    Severe hepatic impairment
    Torsade de pointes

    Precautions and Warnings

    Family history of long QT syndrome
    Severe illness
    Adrenal insufficiency
    Benign prostatic hyperplasia
    Biliary tract disorder
    Drug misuse
    Electrolyte imbalance
    Gastrointestinal obstruction
    Glucose-galactose malabsorption syndrome
    Hepatic impairment
    History of drug misuse
    History of torsade de pointes
    Lactose intolerance
    Psychiatric disorder
    Reduced respiratory reserve
    Renal impairment

    Correct electrolyte disorders before treatment
    May exacerbate asthma
    Reduce dose in hypothyroidism
    Reduce dose in patients with hepatic impairment
    Reduce dose in patients with renal impairment
    Advise impaired alertness may affect ability to drive or operate machinery
    Advise patient not to drive until they know how the medicine affects them
    Advise patient this medicine is subject to driving restrictions
    Contains lactose
    Perform ECG before and during treatment
    If adrenal insufficiency occurs, consider corticosteroid cover
    May cause respiratory depression
    Monitor blood glucose periodically
    Monitor serum electrolytes
    Monitor serum prolactin during long-term use
    Neonate exposed in utero: Monitor for neonatal withdrawal syndrome
    Reassess need for continued treatment at regular intervals
    Tolerance and dependence may occur
    Consider dose reduction or change in opioid if evidence of hyperalgesia
    May induce or worsen existing constipation
    Predisposition QT prolongation: Counsel patient on symptoms of arrhythmias
    Prolonged use at high doses may result in hyperalgesia
    May affect results of some laboratory tests
    Avoid abrupt withdrawal
    Reduce dose in elderly
    Advise patient to avoid alcohol during treatment
    Advise that effects are potentiated by CNS depressants (including alcohol)
    Advise patient grapefruit products may increase plasma level

    Before commencing treatment with methadone, a strategy should be constructed with the patient for ending treatment in order to reduce the risk of addiction and drug withdrawal syndrome.

    A full patient history should be established to document concomitant medications and past and present medical and psychiatric conditions. The risk of developing tolerance to methadone should be explained to the patient prior to treatment. All patients should be closely observed for signs of misuse, abuse or addiction. Patients at risk of opioid misuse may require additional support and monitoring.

    Long-term use of opioid analgesics may be associated with decreased sex hormone levels and increased prolactin.

    Pregnancy and Lactation


    Use methadone with caution during pregnancy.

    The manufacturer advises caution if methadone is used during pregnancy. Use of methadone throughout pregnancy often leads to drug dependence in the foetus. 60%-90% of infants exposed in utero to methadone experience withdrawal symptoms which becomes evident shortly after birth, usually within 48 hours but can be delayed up to 7-14 days (Briggs, 2015). In such cases, advise the mother of the risk of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and ensure necessary treatment will be available.

    Animals studies have shown reproductive toxicity. Detoxification of the mother from methadone should be avoided, especially after the 20th week of pregnancy. The manufacturer recommends administering maintenance treatment with methadone.


    Use methadone with caution during breastfeeding.

    The manufacturer advises caution if methadone is used when breastfeeding. Methadone is known to be excreted into breastmilk at low levels. When considering breastfeeding, clinical specialist advice should be taken into account. If breastfeeding is considered, the dose should be as low as possible. The breastfeeding mother should be advised to monitor the infant for sedation and difficulties breathing and to seek immediate medical care at the first instance.

    It has been noted that breastfeeding may reduce the withdrawal response of the infant from methadone during pregnancy. If discontinuing breastfeeding is necessary, it should be gradual to avoid increased withdrawal symptoms in the infant.

    Effects on Ability to Drive and Operate Machinery

    This class of medicine is in the list of drugs included in regulations under 5a of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (England and Wales). This medicine may be subject to police testing and has specified maximum blood levels for driving. When prescribing this medicine: Advise patient the medicine can affect cognitive function and is likely to affect ability to drive. Advise patient not to drive until they know how the medicine affects them. It is an offence to drive while under the influence of this medicine. However, a patient is not committing an offence (called 'statutory defence') if: 1.The medicine has been prescribed to treat a medical or dental problem and 2.The medicine has been taken according to the instructions given by the prescriber and/or in the information provided with the medicine and 3.The medicine was not affecting the ability to drive safely. For further guidance see

    Side Effects

    Anti-diuretic effect
    Bile duct dyskinesia
    Blurred vision
    Facial flushing
    Fluid retention
    Prolongation of QT interval
    Pulmonary oedema
    Raised intracranial pressure
    Reduced libido
    Reduction of male potency
    Respiratory depression
    Torsades de pointes
    Urinary retention
    Weight gain

    Effects on Laboratory Tests

    Opioid analgesics delay gastric emptying, thereby affecting test results. Delivery of technetium Tc 99m disofenin to the small bowel may be prevented and plasma amylase and plasma lipase activity may increase because opioid analgesics may cause constriction of the sphincter of Oddi and increased biliary tract pressure; in consequence delayed visualisation and thus resemble obstruction of the common bile duct is observed.

    The diagnostic utility of determinations of these enzymes may be compromised for up to 24 hours after the medication has been administered.

    Withdrawal Symptoms and Signs

    Some or all of the methadone withdrawal syndrome side effects are:

    Restlessness, lacrimation, rhinorrhoea, yawning, perspiration, chills, myalgia, mydriasis and palpitations. Other symptoms may also develop including irritability, agitation, anxiety, hyperkinesia, tremor, weakness, insomnia, anorexia, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased blood pressure, increased respiratory rate or heart rate.

    When a patient no longer requires treatment, it is advisable to taper the dose gradually to minimise symptoms of withdrawal. Tapering from a high dose may take weeks to months.


    It is strongly recommended that the UK National Poisons Information Service be consulted on cases of suspected or actual overdose where there is doubt over the degree of risk or about appropriate management.

    The following number will direct the caller to the relevant local centre (0844) 892 0111

    Information may be obtained if you have access to ToxBase the primary clinical toxicology database of the National Poisons Information Service. This is available via password on the internet ( ) or if this is unavailable at the backup site ( ).

    Further Information

    Last Full Review Date: September 2021

    Reference Sources

    Drugs During Pregnancy and Lactation: Treatment Options and Risk Assessment, 3rd edition (2015) ed. Schaefer, C., Peters, P. and Miller, R. Elsevier, London.

    Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation: A Reference Guide to Fetal and Neonatal Risk, 10th edition (2015) ed. Briggs, G., Freeman, R. Wolters Kluwer Health, Philadelphia.

    Summary of Product Characteristics: Methadone tablets. Martindale Pharma. Revised May 2020.

    The Renal Drug Handbook. Fifth Edition (2019) ed. Ashley, C. and Dunleavy, A. Radcliffe Publishing Ltd, London. Government departments. Department for Transport. Publications. Drug driving and medicine: Advice for healthcare professionals. Drug driving: Guidance for healthcare professionals on drug driving. Available at: Last accessed: 11 April 2019

    NICE Evidence Services Available at: Last accessed: 17 September 2021

    US National Library of Medicine. Toxicology Data Network. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed).
    Available at:
    Methadone. Last revised: 21 June 2021
    Last accessed: 17 September 2021

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