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Is Methadone an Opiate or a Narcotic?

When choosing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to treat opioid misuse, patients are commonly given methadone to help manage recovery. MAT programs may raise some questions about what methadone is and how it works. Some patients are especially curious about whether the medication is a narcotic or an opiate. Learn more here.

What Is a Narcotic?

A narcotic is a medication used to treat pain, especially moderate to severe pain. Today, narcotics are called opioids. They work by binding to the central nervous system’s opioid receptors. They effectively block pain signals before they can travel from the body to the brain. In addition to blocking pain, narcotics can make people feel relaxed. Their main difference from opiates is that they don’t consist of opium.

What Is an Opiate? 

Opiates are also used for pain management for mild to severe pain. These substances are derived from opium, a chemical naturally found in poppy plants, including the seeds.

Opiate vs. Narcotic: What Is Methadone? 

Methadone is a man-made narcotic or opioid. It helps treat severe pain and can also be used as part of medication-assisted treatment to treat opioid misuse. Unlike opioids that are commonly misused, such as oxycodone or fentanyl, methadone is long-lasting. With fentanyl, someone may need to use it three times a day to avoid withdrawal. Methadone can inhibit withdrawal symptoms for 24-36 hours. This characteristic allows someone to seek recovery and rebuild their life while reducing some of the harm associated with opioid misuse.

Methadone is usually used as a long-term treatment. If a patient and doctor decide the patient needs to stop taking methadone, the dose is gradually reduced over time to reduce the risk of symptoms.

Taking methadone can lead to less sleepiness. However, it can produce side effects, such as nausea, weight gain, constipation, dry mouth and sweating. A doctor can help a patient manage these symptoms.

Methadone is typically used with supportive care and medical care for people living with opioid use disorder. Together with other forms of support, such as counseling, it has a good track record for recovery.

Is Methadone Right for Me?

If you are seeking recovery from opioid misuse, methadone may be one solution. However, there are other medication-assisted treatment options. To determine whether methadone might work for you, contact BAART Programs for an appointment. At our facilities, our counseling, medical and nursing staff can evaluate your needs. We will help you find the right MAT options based on your medical history and other factors.

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