Respiratory Depression, Incomplete Cross-Tolerance, and Iatrogenic Overdose
Respiratory depression is the chief hazard associated with methadone hydrochloride administration. Methadone's peak respiratory depressant effects typically occur later, and persist longer than its peak analgesic effects, particularly during the initial dosing period. These characteristics can contribute to cases of iatrogenic overdose, particularly during treatment initiation or dose titration.
Patients tolerant to other opioids may be incompletely tolerant to methadone. Incomplete cross-tolerance is of particular concern for patients tolerant to other mu-opioid agonists who are being converted to treatment with methadone, thus making determination of dosing during opioid treatment conversion complex. Deaths have been reported during conversion from chronic, high-dose treatment with other opioid agonists. Therefore, it is critical to understand the pharmacokinetics of methadone when converting patients from other opioids ( see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Table 1, for appropriate conversion schedules). A high degree of "opioid tolerance" does not eliminate the possibility of methadone overdose, iatrogenic or otherwise.
Respiratory depression is of particular concern in elderly or debilitated patients as well as in those suffering from conditions accompanied by hypoxia or hypercapnia when even moderate therapeutic doses may dangerously decrease pulmonary ventilation.
Methadone should be administered with extreme caution to patients with conditions accompanied by hypoxia, hypercapnia, or decreased respiratory reserve such as: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cor pulmonale, severe obesity, sleep apnea syndrome, myxedema, kyphoscoliosis, and CNS depression or coma. In these patients, even usual therapeutic doses of methadone may decrease respiratory drive while simultaneously increasing airway resistance to the point of apnea. Alternative, non-opioid analgesics should be considered, and methadone should be used at the lowest effective dose and only under careful medical supervision.
Cardiac Conduction Effects
Laboratory studies, both in vivo and in vitro, have demonstrated that methadone inhibits cardiac potassium channels and prolongs the QT interval. Cases of QT interval prolongation and serious arrhythmia (torsades de pointes) have been observed during treatment with methadone. These cases appear to be more commonly associated with, but not limited to, higher dose treatment (> 200 mg/day). Most cases involve patients being treated for pain with large, multiple daily doses of methadone, although cases have been reported in patients receiving doses commonly used for maintenance treatment of opioid addiction. In most of the cases seen at typical maintenance doses, concomitant medications and/or clinical conditions such as hypokalemia were noted as contributing factors. However, the evidence strongly suggests that methadone possesses the potential for adverse cardiac conduction effects in some patients.
Methadone should be administered with particular caution to patients already at risk for development of prolonged QT interval (e.g., cardiac hypertrophy, concomitant diuretic use, hypokalemia, hypomagnesemia). Careful monitoring is recommended when using methadone in patients with a history of cardiac conduction abnormalities, those taking medications affecting cardiac conduction, and in other cases where history or physical exam suggest an increased risk of dysrhythmia. QT prolongation has also been reported in patients with no prior cardiac history who have received high doses of methadone. Patients developing QT prolongation while on methadone treatment should be evaluated for the presence of modifiable risk factors, such as concomitant medications with cardiac effects, drugs which might cause electrolyte abnormalities, and drugs which might act as inhibitors of methadone metabolism. For use of methadone to treat pain, the risk of QT prolongation and development of dysrhythmias should be weighed against the benefit of adequate pain management and the availability of alternative therapies.
Methadone treatment for analgesic therapy in patients with acute or chronic pain should only be initiated if the potential analgesic or palliative care benefit of treatment with methadone has been considered to outweigh the risk of QT prolongation that has been reported with high doses of methadone.
The use of methadone in patients already known to have a prolonged QT interval has not been systematically studied.
In using methadone an individualized benefit to risk assessment should be carried out and should include evaluation of patient presentation and complete medical history. For patients judged to be at risk, careful monitoring of cardiovascular status, including QT prolongation and dysrhythmias and those described previously should be performed.
Misuse, Abuse, and Diversion of Opioids
Methadone is a mu-agonist opioid with an abuse liability similar to that of morphine and is a Schedule II controlled substance. Methadone, like morphine and other opioids used for analgesia, has the potential for being abused and is subject to criminal diversion.
Methadone can be abused in a manner similar to other opioid agonists, legal or illicit. This should be considered when prescribing or dispensing Methadose in situations where the clinician is concerned about an increased risk of misuse, abuse, or diversion. Concerns about abuse, addiction, and diversion should not prevent the proper management of pain.
Healthcare professionals should contact their State Professional Licensing Board, or State Controlled Substances Authority for information on how to prevent and detect abuse or diversion of this product.
Interactions with other CNS Depressants
Patients receiving other opioid analgesics, general anesthetics, phenothiazines, other tranquilizers, sedatives, hypnotics or other CNS depressants (including alcohol) concomitantly with methadone may experience respiratory depression, hypotension, profound sedation, or coma (see PRECAUTIONS).
Interactions with Alcohol and Drugs of Abuse
Methadone may be expected to have additive effects when used in conjunction with alcohol, other opioids, or illicit drugs that cause central nervous system depression. Deaths associated with illicit use of methadone frequently have involved concomitant benzodiazepine abuse.
Head Injury and Increased Intracranial Pressure
The respiratory depressant effects of opioids and their capacity to elevate cerebrospinal-fluid pressure may be markedly exaggerated in the presence of head injury, other intracranial lesions or a pre-existing increase in intracranial pressure. Furthermore, opioids produce effects which may obscure the clinical course of patients with head injuries. In such patients, methadone must be used with caution, and only if it is deemed essential.
Acute Abdominal Conditions
The administration of opioids may obscure the diagnosis or clinical course of patients with acute abdominal conditions.
The administration of methadone may result in severe hypotension in patients whose ability to maintain normal blood pressure is compromised (e.g., severe volume depletion).
When treating pain, methadone given on a fixed-dose schedule may have a narrow therapeutic index in certain patient populations, especially when combined with other drugs, and should be reserved for cases where the benefits of opioid analgesia with methadone outweigh the known potential risks of cardiac conduction abnormalities, respiratory depression, altered mental states and postural hypotension. Methadone should be used with caution in elderly and debilitated patients; patients who are known to be sensitive to central nervous system depressants, such as those with cardiovascular, pulmonary, renal, or hepatic disease; and in patients with comorbid conditions or concomitant medications which may predispose to dysrhythmia.
Selection of patients for treatment with methadone should be governed by the same principles that apply to the use of other opioids (see INDICATIONS AND USAGE). Physicians should individualize treatment in every case (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION), taking into account the high degree of interpatient variability in response to and metabolism of methadone.
In vitro results suggest that methadone undergoes hepatic N-demethylation by cytochrome P450 enzymes, principally CYP3A4, CYP2B6, CYP2C19 and to a lesser extent by CYP2C9 and CYP2D6. Coadministration of methadone with CYP inducers of these enzymes may result in a more rapid metabolism and potential for decreased effects of methadone, whereas administration with CYP inhibitors may reduce metabolism and potentiate methadone's effects. Although antiretroviral drugs such as efavirenz, nelfinavir, nevirapine, ritonavir, lopinavir + ritonavir combination are known to inhibit CYPs, they are shown to reduce the plasma levels of methadone, possibly due to their CYP induction activity. Therefore, drugs administered concomitantly with methadone should be evaluated for interaction potential; clinicians are advised to evaluate individual response to drug therapy.
Opioid Antagonists, Mixed Agonist/Antagonists, and Partial Agonists
As with other mu-agonists, patients maintained on methadone may experience withdrawal symptoms when given opioid antagonists, mixed agonist/antagonists, and partial agonists. Examples of such agents are naloxone, naltrexone, pentazocine, nalbuphine, butorphanol, and buprenorphine.
Abacavir, amprenavir, efavirenz, nelfinavir, nevirapine, ritonavir, lopinavir + ritonavir combination – Coadministration of these anti-retroviral agents resulted in increased clearance or decreased plasma levels of methadone. Methadone-maintained patients beginning treatment with these antiretroviral drugs should be monitored for evidence of withdrawal effects and methadone dose should be adjusted accordingly.
Didanosine and Stavudine – Experimental evidence demonstrated that methadone decreased the AUC and peak levels for didanosine and stavudine, with a more significant decrease for didanosine. Methadone disposition was not substantially altered.
Zidovudine – Experimental evidence demonstrated that methadone increased the area under the concentration-time curve (AUC) of zidovudine which could result in toxic effects.
Cytochrome P450 Inducers
Methadone-maintained patients beginning treatment with CYP3A4 inducers should be monitored for evidence of withdrawal effects and methadone dose should be adjusted accordingly. The following drug interactions were reported following coadministration of methadone with inducers of cytochrome P450 enzymes:
Rifampin – In patients well-stabilized on methadone, concomitant administration of rifampin resulted in a marked reduction in serum methadone levels and a concurrent appearance of withdrawal symptoms.
Phenytoin – In a pharmacokinetic study with patients on methadone maintenance therapy, phenytoin administration (250 mg b.i.d. initially for 1 day followed by 300 mg QD for 3 to 4 days) resulted in an approximately 50% reduction in methadone exposure and withdrawal symptoms occurred concurrently. Upon discontinuation of phenytoin, the incidence of withdrawal symptoms decreased and methadone exposure increased to a level comparable to that prior to phenytoin administration.
St. John's Wort, Phenobarbital, Carbamazepine – Administration of methadone along with other CYP3A4 inducers may result in withdrawal symptoms.
Cytochrome P450 Inhibitors
Since the metabolism of methadone is mediated primarily by CYP3A4 isozyme, coadministration of drugs that inhibit CYP3A4 activity may cause decreased clearance of methadone. The expected clinical results would be increased or prolonged opioid effects. Thus, methadone-treated patients coadministered strong inhibitors of CYP3A4, such as azole antifungal agents (e.g., ketoconazole) and macrolide antibiotics (e.g., erythromycin), with methadone should be carefully monitored and dosage adjustment should be undertaken if warranted. Some selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (e.g., sertraline, fluvoxamine) may increase methadone plasma levels upon coadministration with methadone and result in increased opiate effects and/or toxicity.
Voriconazole – Repeat dose administration of oral voriconazole (400 mg Q12h for 1 day, then 200 mg Q12h for 4 days) increased the Cmax and AUC of (R)-methadone by 31% and 47%, respectively, in subjects receiving a methadone maintenance dose (30 to 100 mg QD). The Cmax and AUC of (S)-methadone increased by 65% and 103%, respectively. Increased plasma concentrations of methadone have been associated with toxicity including QT prolongation. Frequent monitoring for adverse events and toxicity related to methadone is recommended during coadministration. Dose reduction of methadone may be needed.
Monoamine Oxidase (MAO) Inhibitors – Therapeutic doses of meperidine have precipitated severe reactions in patients concurrently receiving monoamine oxidase inhibitors or those who have received such agents within 14 days. Similar reactions thus far have not been reported with methadone. However, if the use of methadone is necessary in such patients, a sensitivity test should be performed in which repeated small, incremental doses of methadone are administered over the course of several hours while the patient's condition and vital signs are under careful observation.
Desipramine – Blood levels of desipramine have increased with concurrent methadone administration.
Potentially Arrhythmogenic Agents
Extreme caution is necessary when any drug known to have the potential to prolong the QT interval is prescribed in conjunction with methadone. Pharmacodynamic interactions may occur with concomitant use of methadone and potentially arrhythmogenic agents such as class I and III antiarrhythmics, some neuroleptics and tricyclic antidepressants, and calcium channel blockers.
Caution should also be exercised when prescribing methadone concomitantly with drugs capable of inducing electrolyte disturbances (hypomagnesemia, hypokalemia) that may prolong the QT interval. These drugs include diuretics, laxatives, and, in rare cases, mineralocorticoid hormones.
Interactions with Alcohol and Drugs of Abuse
Methadone may be expected to have additive effects when used in conjunction with alcohol, other opioids or CNS depressants, or with illicit drugs that cause central nervous system depression. Deaths have been reported when methadone has been abused in conjunction with benzodiazepines.
Anxiety – Since methadone as used by tolerant patients at a constant maintenance dosage does not act as a tranquilizer, patients who are maintained on this drug will react to life problems and stresses with the same symptoms of anxiety as do other individuals. The physician should not confuse such symptoms with those of narcotic abstinence and should not attempt to treat anxiety by increasing the dose of methadone. The action of methadone in maintenance treatment is limited to the control of narcotic withdrawal symptoms and is ineffective for relief of general anxiety.
Acute Pain – Maintenance patients on a stable dose of methadone who experience physical trauma, postoperative pain or other acute pain cannot be expected to derive analgesia from their existing dose of methadone. Such patients should be administered analgesics, including opioids, in doses that would otherwise be indicated for non-methadone-treated patients with similar painful conditions. Due to the opioid tolerance induced by methadone, when opioids are required for management of acute pain in methadone patients, somewhat higher and/or more frequent doses will often be required than would be the case for non-tolerant patients.
Risk of Relapse in Patients on Methadone Maintenance Treatment of Opioid Addiction
Abrupt opioid discontinuation can lead to development of opioid withdrawal symptoms (see PRECAUTIONS). Presentation of these symptoms have been associated with an increased risk of susceptible patients to relapse to illicit drug use and should be considered when assessing the risks and benefit of methadone use.
Tolerance and Physical Dependence
Tolerance is the need for increasing doses of opioids to maintain a defined effect such as analgesia (in the absence of disease progression or other external factors). Physical dependence is manifested by withdrawal symptoms after abrupt discontinuation of a drug or upon administration of an antagonist. Physical dependence and/or tolerance are not unusual during chronic opioid therapy.
If methadone is abruptly discontinued in a physically dependent patient, an abstinence syndrome may occur. The opioid abstinence or withdrawal syndrome is characterized by some or all of the following: restlessness, lacrimation, rhinorrhea, yawning, perspiration, chills, myalgia, and mydriasis. Other symptoms also may develop, including irritability, anxiety, backache, joint pain, weakness, abdominal cramps, insomnia, nausea, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, or increased blood pressure, respiratory rate, or heart rate.
In general, chronically administered methadone should not be abruptly discontinued.
Methadone should be given with caution and the initial dose reduced in certain patients, such as the elderly and debilitated and those with severe impairment of hepatic or renal function, hypothyroidism, Addison's disease, prostatic hypertrophy, or urethral stricture. The usual precautions appropriate to the use of parenteral opioids should be observed and the possibility of respiratory depression should always be kept in mind.
Information for Patients
- Patients should be cautioned that methadone, like all opioids, may impair the mental and/or physical abilities required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks such as driving or operating machinery.
- Patients should be cautioned that methadone, like other opioids, may produce orthostatic hypotension in ambulatory patients.
- Patients should be cautioned that alcohol and other CNS depressants may produce an additive CNS depression when taken with this product and should be avoided.
- Patients should be instructed to seek medical attention immediately if they experience symptoms suggestive of an arrhythmia (such as palpitations, dizziness, lightheadedness, or syncope) when taking methadone.
- Patients initiating treatment with methadone for opioid dependence should be reassured that the dose of methadone will “hold” for longer periods of time as treatment progresses.
- Patients seeking to discontinue methadone maintenance treatment of opioid dependence should be apprised of the high risk of relapse to illicit drug use associated with discontinuation of methadone maintenance treatment.
- Patients should be instructed to keep methadone in a secure place out of the reach of children and other household members. Accidental or deliberate ingestion by a child may cause respiratory depression that can result in death. Patients and their caregivers should be advised to discard unused methadone in such a way that individuals other than the patient for whom it was originally prescribed will not come in contact with the drug.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
Carcinogenesis – The results of carcinogenicity assessment in B6C2F1 mice and Fischer 344 rats following dietary administration of two doses of methadone HCl have been published. Mice consumed 15 mg/kg/day or 60 mg/kg/day methadone for two years. These doses were approximately 0.6 and 2.5 times a human daily oral dose of 120 mg/day on a body surface area basis (mg/m2). There was a significant increase in pituitary adenomas in female mice treated with 15 mg/kg/day but not with 60 mg/kg/day. Under the conditions of the assay, there was no clear evidence for a treatment-related increase in the incidence of neoplasms in male rats. Due to decreased food consumption in males at the high dose, male rats consumed 16 mg/kg/day and 28 mg/kg/day of methadone for two years. These doses were approximately 1.3 and 2.3 times a human daily oral dose of 120 mg/day, based on body surface area comparison. In contrast, female rats consumed 46 mg/kg/day or 88 mg/kg/day for two years. These doses were approximately 3.7 and 7.1 times a human daily oral dose of 120 mg/day, based on body surface area comparison. Under the conditions of the assay, there was no clear evidence for a treatment-related increase in the incidence of neoplasms in either male or female rats.
Mutagenesis – There are several published reports on the potential genetic toxicity of methadone. Methadone tested negative in tests for chromosome breakage and disjunction and sex-linked recessive lethal gene mutations in germ cells of Drosophila using feeding and injection procedures. In contrast, methadone tested positive in the in vivo mouse dominant lethal assay and the in vivo mammalian spermatogonial chromosome aberration test. Additionally, methadone tested positive in the E. coli DNA repair system and Neurospora crassa and mouse lymphoma forward mutation assays.
Fertility – Reproductive function in human males may be decreased by methadone treatment. Reductions in ejaculate volume and seminal vesicle and prostate secretions have been reported in methadone-treated individuals. In addition, reductions in serum testosterone levels and sperm motility, and abnormalities in sperm morphology have been reported. Published animal studies provide additional data indicating that methadone treatment of males can alter reproductive function. Methadone produces a significant regression of sex accessory organs and testes of male mice and rats. Additional data have been published indicating that methadone treatment of male rats (once a day for three consecutive days) increased embryolethality and neonatal mortality. Examination of uterine contents of methadone-naïve female mice bred to methadone-treated mice indicated that methadone treatment produced an increase in the rate of preimplantation deaths in all post-meiotic states.
Teratogenic Effects. Pregnancy Category C – There are no controlled studies of methadone use in pregnant women that can be used to establish safety. However, an expert review of published data on experiences with methadone use during pregnancy by the Teratogen Information System (TERIS) concluded that maternal use of methadone during pregnancy as part of a supervised, therapeutic regimen is unlikely to pose a substantial teratogenic risk (quantity and quality of data assessed as “limited to fair”). However, the data are insufficient to state that there is no risk (TERIS, last reviewed October, 2002). Pregnant women involved in methadone maintenance programs have been reported to have significantly improved prenatal care leading to significantly reduced incidence of obstetric and fetal complications and neonatal morbidity and mortality when compared to women using illicit drugs. Several factors complicate the interpretation of investigations of the children of women who take methadone during pregnancy. These include the maternal use of illicit drugs, other maternal factors such as nutrition, infection, and psychosocial circumstances, limited information regarding dose and duration of methadone use during pregnancy, and the fact that most maternal exposure appears to occur after the first trimester of pregnancy. In addition, reported studies generally compare the benefit of methadone to the risk of untreated addiction to illicit drugs; the relevance of these findings to pain patients prescribed methadone during pregnancy is unclear.
Methadone has been detected in amniotic fluid and cord plasma at concentrations proportional to maternal plasma and in newborn urine at lower concentrations than corresponding maternal urine.
A retrospective series of 101 pregnant, opiate-dependent women who underwent inpatient opiate detoxification with methadone did not demonstrate any increased risk of miscarriage in the 2nd trimester or premature delivery in the 3rd trimester.
Several studies have suggested that infants born to narcotic-addicted women treated with methadone during all or part of pregnancy have been found to have decreased fetal growth with reduced birth weight, length, and/or head circumference compared to controls. This growth deficit does not appear to persist into later childhood. However, children born to women treated with methadone during pregnancy have been shown to demonstrate mild but persistent deficits in performance on psychometric and behavioral tests.
Additional information on the potential risks of methadone may be derived from animal data. Methadone does not appear to be teratogenic in the rat or rabbit models. However, following large doses, methadone produced teratogenic effects in the guinea pig, hamster and mouse. One published study in pregnant hamsters indicated that a single subcutaneous dose of methadone ranging from 31 to 185 mg/kg (the 31 mg/kg dose is approximately 2 times a human daily oral dose of 120 mg/day on a mg/m2 basis) on day 8 of gestation resulted in a decrease in the number of fetuses per litter and an increase in the percentage of fetuses exhibiting congenital malformations described as exencephaly, cranioschisis, and “various other lesions”. The majority of the doses tested also resulted in maternal death. In another study, a single subcutaneous dose of 22 to 24 mg/kg methadone (estimated exposure was approximately equivalent to a human daily oral dose of 120 mg/day on a mg/m2 basis) administered on day 9 of gestation in mice also produced exencephaly in 11% of the embryos. However, no effects were reported in rats and rabbits at oral doses up to 40 mg/kg (estimated exposure was approximately 3 and 6 times, respectively, a human daily oral dose of 120 mg/day on a mg/m2 basis) administered during days 6 to 15 and 6 to 18, respectively.
Nonteratogenetic Effects – Babies born to mothers who have been taking opioids regularly prior to delivery may be physically dependent. Onset of withdrawal symptoms in infants is usually in the first days after birth. Withdrawal signs in the newborn include irritability and excessive crying, tremors, hyperactive reflexes, increased respiratory rate, increased stools, sneezing, yawning, vomiting, and fever. The intensity of the syndrome does not always correlate with the maternal dose or the duration of maternal exposure. The duration of the withdrawal signs may vary from a few days to weeks or even months. There is no consensus on the appropriate management of infant withdrawal.
There are conflicting reports on whether SIDS occurs with an increased incidence in infants born to women treated with methadone during pregnancy.
Abnormal fetal nonstress tests (NSTs) have been reported to occur more frequently when the test is performed 1 to 2 hours after a maintenance dose of methadone in late pregnancy compared to controls.
Published animal data have reported increased neonatal mortality in the offspring of male rodents that were treated with methadone prior to mating. In these studies, the female rodents were not treated with methadone, indicating paternally-mediated developmental toxicity. Specifically, methadone administered to the male rat prior to mating with methadone-naïve females resulted in decreased weight gain in progeny after weaning. The male progeny demonstrated reduced thymus weights, whereas the female progeny demonstrated increased adrenal weights. Further, behavioral testing of these male and female progeny revealed significant differences in behavioral tests compared to control animals, suggesting that paternal methadone exposure can produce physiological and behavioral changes in progeny in this model. Other animal studies have reported that perinatal exposure to opioids including methadone alters neuronal development and behavior in the offspring. Perinatal methadone exposure in rats has been linked to alterations in learning ability, motor activity, thermal regulation, nociceptive responses and sensitivity to drugs. Additional animal data demonstrates evidence for neurochemical changes in the brains of methadone-treated offspring, including changes to the cholinergic, dopaminergic, noradrenergic and serotonergic systems. Additional studies demonstrated that methadone treatment of male rats for 21 to 32 days prior to mating with methadone-naïve females did not produce any adverse effects, suggesting that prolonged methadone treatment of the male rat resulted in tolerance to the developmental toxicities noted in the progeny. Mechanistic studies in this rat model suggest that the developmental effects of “paternal” methadone on the progeny appear to be due to decreased testosterone production. These animal data mirror the reported clinical findings of decreased testosterone levels in human males on methadone maintenance therapy for opioid addiction and in males receiving chronic intraspinal opioids.
Clinical Pharmacology for Pregnancy – Pregnant women appear to have significantly lower trough plasma methadone concentrations, increased plasma methadone clearance, and shorter methadone half-life than after delivery. Dosage adjustment using higher doses or administering the daily dose in divided doses may be necessary in pregnant women treated with methadone (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
Methadone should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
Labor and Delivery
As with all opioids, administration of this product to the mother shortly before delivery may result in some degree of respiratory depression in the newborn, especially if higher doses are used. Methadone is not recommended for obstetric analgesia because its long duration of action increases the probability of respiratory depression in the newborn. Narcotics with mixed agonist-antagonist properties should not be used for pain control during labor in patients chronically treated with methadone as they may precipitate acute withdrawal.
Methadone is secreted into human milk. The safety of breastfeeding while taking oral methadone is controversial. At maternal oral doses of 10 to 80 mg/day, methadone concentrations from 50 to 570 mcg/L in milk have been reported, which, in the majority of samples, were lower than maternal serum drug concentrations at steady state. Peak methadone levels in milk occur approximately 4 to 5 hours after an oral dose. Based on an average milk consumption of 150 mL/kg/day, an infant would consume approximately 17.4 mcg/kg/day which is approximately 2 to 3% of the oral maternal dose. Methadone has been detected in very low plasma concentrations in some infants whose mothers were taking methadone. Women on high-dose methadone maintenance, who are already breast-feeding, should be counseled to wean breast-feeding gradually in order to prevent neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Methadone-treated mothers considering nursing an opioid-naïve infant should be counseled regarding the presence of methadone in breast milk.
Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from methadone, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother. In patients being treated for opioid dependence, this should include weighing the risk of methadone against the risk of maternal illicit drug use.
Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients below the age of 18 years have not been established.
Accidental or deliberate ingestion by a child may cause respiratory depression that can result in death. Patients and caregivers should be instructed to keep methadone in a secure place out of the reach of children and to discard unused methadone in such a way that individuals other than the patient for whom it was originally prescribed will not come in contact with the drug.
Clinical studies of methadone did not include sufficient numbers of subjects aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently compared to younger subjects. Other reported clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between elderly and younger patients. In general, dose selection for elderly patients should be cautious, usually starting at the low end of the dosing range, reflecting the greater frequency of decreased hepatic, renal, or cardiac function and of concomitant disease or other drug therapy.
The use of methadone has not been extensively evaluated in patients with renal insufficiency.
The use of methadone has not been extensively evaluated in patients with hepatic insufficiency. Methadone is metabolized in the liver and patients with liver impairment may be at risk of accumulating methadone after multiple dosing.
The use of methadone has not been evaluated for gender specificity.