Methadone is an opiate or narcotic pain relief agent. It is also used in the treatment of narcotic addiction as a substitute for other drugs, allowing the patient to slowly wean off of narcotics without severe and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Like the drugs it's meant to treat, methadone is potentially addictive and habit-forming. Methadone tests are used to measure the amount of methadone in a person's system to determine whether or not that person is using or has recently used the drug.
There are six basic types of methadone tests: urine tests, blood tests, hair tests, saliva tests, sweat tests and the analysis of stomach contents. Of these drug screening methadone tests, urine and blood testing are most common due to their comparatively low cost and low level of invasion to the test subject. The methodology and process for each test is slightly different.
The urine test for methadone measures the amount of the drug in the test subject's urine. The urine is then tested against a control strip to confirm the presence of opiates in the test subject's system. If the urine tests positive, further testing can isolate the findings to the exact chemical.
Drug testing based on the amount of methadone in a person's bloodstream requires a blood sample. A trained phlebotomist extracts a sample from the patient's veins using a needle and syringe. The test is then analyzed for chemical content. Official methadone testing performed by a government agency or other authoritative entity is usually done via blood, as it is more conclusive than urine testing.
Sweat testing is performed by obtaining a sample of the person's sweat. A patch is attached to the person's skin to absorb sweat over a period of one to four hours. An analysis is then performed. Sweat testing is preferred in situations where methadone use over a long period of time would render other testing methods impractical. Methadone tests utilizing a saliva sample are similar to sweat tests. Kits made for at-home tests for methadone typically utilize saliva or urine testing, as both require minimal instruction to collect a sample.
Hair sample testing is utilized when a more comprehensive drug use history is needed. Hair tests look at a strand of hair for drug residue. The length of time covered by a hair test depends on how long the hair has been growing. A hair test can reveal methadone use several months to several years prior to the test period.
The analysis of stomach contents is the most invasive methadone test. Samples of the test subject's stomach contents are obtained. If the test subject is alive, the stomach is pumped, forcibly extracting the contents of the stomach. The stomach contents can also be obtained after death during an autopsy. The stomach contents are then analyzed for the presence of methadone and other substances.