Methadone is a synthetic opioid, used medically as an analgesic and in the treatment of narcotic addiction.
Methadone is a narcotic pain reliever, similar to morphine. Methadone also reduces withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin or other narcotic drugs without causing the "high" associated with the drug addiction. Although chemically unlike morphine or heroin, methadone also acts on the opioid receptors and thus produces many of the same effects. Heroin releases an excess of dopamine in the body and causes users to need an opiate continuously occupying the opioid receptor in the brain. Methadone occupies this receptor and is the stabilizing factor that permits addicts on methadone to change their behavior and to discontinue heroin use.
Methadone is used in managing chronic pain due to its long duration of action and very low cost. In late 2004, the cost of a one-month supply of methadone was $20, as compared to an equivalent analgesic amount of Demerol at $120. Methadone has a slow metabolism and very high fat solubility, making it longer lasting than morphine-based drugs. Methadone has a typical half-life of 15 to 60 hours, permitting the administration only once a day in heroin detoxification and maintenance programs.
Methadone was introduced into the United States in 1947 under the trade name Dolophine® Generally, one will only hear "dolophine" used by older addicts who used the product in the 1960s and 1970s. Persistent but untrue urban legend claims that the trade name "Dolophine" was coined in tribute to Adolf Hitler by its German creators, and it is sometimes even claimed that the drug was originally named "adolphine" or "adolophine".
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