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Is Methadone an Opiate, Opioid, Narcotic or Opiate Blocker? Is It Illegal?



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Methadone Is an Opioid

An opioid is a substance that works by binding to opioid receptors in your brain and gut. Methadone works on opioid receptors, so it is an opioid. Methadone, like other opioids, can dull feelings and relieve pain. Methadone has about the same effects as heroin, except it does not cause initial euphoria after taking, and has less severe side effects as heroin, so it is sometimes used to prevent heroin withdrawal symptoms. Methadone can be also used as an opioid analgesic for chronic pain.

Methadone Is Not an Opiate

Opiates are natural or semi-synthesized opioids derived from opium poppy (a plant). For example, morphine is a natural and heroin is semi-synthesized opiate. Methadone is neither extracted nor synthesized from opium, so it is not an opiate. Methadone is a completely synthetic (man-made) opioid.

So, opiates are one subgroup of opioids, and methadone is an opioid, but not opiate.

Methadone Is a Narcotic

A term narcotic (Gk. narke = sleepiness, numbness) has became a synonym for opioid drugs (legal or illegal). Any opioid that can reach the brain and induce sleepiness is a narcotic, so methadone is a narcotic.

Is Methadone an Opiate Blocker or Antagonist?

The answer is yes and no. When a patient who is on a high-dose methadone maintenance takes heroin, methadone blocks an euphoric effect of heroin, and thus often discourages further heroin use. On the other hand, in the opiate (heroin, morphine) overdose, it is naloxone (like Suboxone) used as an opioid blocker (antagonist) and not methadone.

Methadone is actually an opioid agonist (stimulant) with about the same, but milder effects as heroin, and it blocks only the euphoric effect of heroin.

Is Methadone Legal or Illegal?

Methadone (brand names examples: Diskets, Dolophine, Methadose) is legal only when prescribed by a doctor. It is illegal to buy methadone from non-doctor persons.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) categorizes methadone as a Schedulle II drug; these drugs have a high potential for abuse, but have proved and safe medical use. In the U.S. possesing of non-prescribed methadone may give you 20 years (or more) of prison or $1 million (or more) fine.

In the U.K. and New Zealand, methadone is classified as a Class A drug, and as such illegal, except if prescribed. Methadone possession can get you up to 7 years prison, and supplying or manufacturing can get you life prison.

Examples of other Schedulle II drugs: amphetamine, alphaprodine, cocaine, codeine, fentanyl, methamphetamine, morphine, opium, oxycodone, pentobarbital.

 

 

References:

  1. High-dose methadone may help prevent heroine abuse (drugpolicy.org)
  2. Definition of Schedule 2 drugs (tsbp.state.tx.us)
  3. Methadone is a Schedule 2 drug (justice.gov/dea)
  4. Methadone possession penalties (justice.gov)
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