Origins of Methadone

Origins of Methadone

Methadone is an opioid narcotic that treats heroin addiction

Methadone is an opioid narcotic that treats heroin addiction. Methadone reduces the withdrawal symptoms caused by other narcotics, but it does not cause the same high that is associated with other drugs. Methadone was first synthesized in Germany in 1939 in the laboratories of a large pharmaceutical company called IG Farben. It is believed that Hitler used the newly-synthesized drug as a way to be independent from other countries. Although commercial manufacturing of methadone grew after its creation, some reports indicate that the drug was sparingly used due to the reported side effects. Methadone caused nausea and overdose, and, in some cases, the drug produced euphoria, inflammation of the skin and signs of toxicity. The drug was advertised as having little risk for addiction, although studies at the time showed methadone had high risk for certain health problems, including addiction.

At the end of World War II, German patents were distributed between the allies, and the IG Farben’s research and developments were confiscated by the US Department of Commerce Intelligence Division. In 1947, the drug was approved as a painkiller in the US, and by 1955 there were 21 methadone addicts in the United Kingdom; by 1960 there were 60 known addicts. In the US, methadone was approved as a painkiller and eventually as a treatment for opiate addicts. The drug began being used to treat heroin addicts during detox, but it was quickly discovered that addicts returned to heroin abuse as soon as detox ended.

After World War II, the number of heroin addicts rose dramatically. Between 1950 and 1961, the death rate from heroin addiction rose from 7.2 deaths per 10,000 to 35.8 deaths per 10,000; with the average death for a heroin abuse at the age of 29. Diseases from the use of contaminated needles also rose during this time. Large metropolitan areas, where the problem was the worst, developed systems for heroin abusers to receive treatment for addiction through the use of methadone. Methadone clinics distributed doses of methadone through clinics to those in treatment. This provided a way for heroin abusers to get daily treatment to deal with withdrawals while continuing with their lives. By 1998, there were 44,000 methadone patients in New York, and 79,000 patients nationwide.

Find Help for Methadone Abuse

Methadone can be an important part of treatment for opiate addiction, but using the drug in larger amounts or for longer periods of time than prescribed can lead to a secondary addiction. If you or a loved one struggles with methadone addiction, we are here to help. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to speak to an admissions coordinator about treatment options.