• Article

Methadone disposition in oral fluid during pharmacotherapy for opioid-dependence

Oral fluid testing is widely used for detecting drug exposure, but data describing methadone and metabolites in oral fluid during pharmacotherapy for opioid-dependence are relatively limited.

414 oral fluid specimens from 16 opioid-dependent pregnant women receiving daily methadone were analyzed for methadone, 2-ethylidene-1,5-dimethyl-3,3-diphenylpyrrolidine (EDDP), and methadol by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.

All oral fluid specimens contained methadone greater than 1 ng/mL; 88% were positive for EDDP and 12% for methadol. Over 95% of oral fluid specimens exceeded the 20 ng/mL methadone cutoff set by the European Driving Under the Influence of Drugs, Alcohol and Medicines (DRUID) study. Methadone and EDDP oral fluid concentrations were highly variable within and between participants, did not predict methadone dose, but were negatively correlated with pH.

Methadone was readily identified in oral fluid at concentrations greater than 20 ng/mL following daily 30–110 mg/day methadone pharmacotherapy. As no specimens contained only EDDP or methadol, there was no advantage to including these analytes for identification of methadone exposure. As nearly all oral fluid specimens from methadone-maintained patients exceeded the DRUID guideline, the 20 ng/mL cutoff appears to be sensitive enough to detect daily methadone exposure; however, additional indicators of behavioral and/or motor impairment would be necessary to provide evidence of driving impairment.


Gray, TR., Dams, R., Choo, RE., Jones, H., & Huestis, MA. (2011). Methadone disposition in oral fluid during pharmacotherapy for opioid-dependence. Forensic Science International, 206(1-3), 98-102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2010.06.031