Methadone (Molecule of the Month for February 2004)
Methadone is a synthetic opioid analgesic synthesized in 1937 by German scientists Max Bockmühl and Gustav Ehrhart at IG Farben (Hoechst-Am-Main) who were searching for an analgesic that would be easier to use during surgery and also have low addiction potential. On September 11, 1941 Bockmühl and Ehrhart filed an application for a patent for a synthetic substance they called Hoechst 10820 or polamidon and whose structure had no relation to morphine or the opioid alkaloids (Bockmühl and Ehrhart, 1949). Although chemically unlike morphine or heroin, methadone also acts on the opioid receptors and thus produces many of the same effects. Chemically, methadone is the simplest of the opioids.
Methadone was introduced into the United States in 1947 by Eli Lilly and Company as an analgesic. Since then, it has been best known for its use in treating narcotic addiction, though it is also used in managing chronic pain due to its long duration of action and very low cost
Methadone has a slow metabolism and very high lipid solubility making it longer lasting than morphine-based drugs. Methadone has a typical half life of 24 hours or more, permitting the administration only once a day in heroin detoxification and maintenance programs. The most common mode of delivery at a Methadone clinic is in an oral solution. Methadone is almost as effective when administered orally as by injection. Just like heroin, tolerance and dependence frequently develop. Withdrawal symptoms are generally less acutely severe than those of morphine and heroin, but are usually more prolonged. Considered generally effective in management of heroin addiction and harm reduction (reduction of HIV rates, etc...), some heroin addicts feel that it is actually harder to quit methadone than heroin itself. Treatment at a methadone maintenance clinic is intended to be for an indefinite duration, as the treatment is not curative.
Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)
Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for February 2004 )