The History Of Methadone
Methadone is a handmade drug and was invented in Germany during the Second World War. The scientists behind methadone had discovered pethidine some years earlier and had been developing something using similar compounds. Although invented during the War, methadone wasn’t brought into commercial production until some time after. When it was first invented it was given the name Polamidon.
After the War had ended the factory where methadone (as we now know it) was invented came under American control and so it was they who carried out the first trials of the drug in 1947. The American pharmaceutical company who took control of the trials, Eli-Lilly, renamed it Dolophine (not after Adolf Hitler as was first believed). It was most likely named after a combination of words; the Latin word dolor means pain and the French word fin means end.
At first it was viewed by many as a breakthrough in medicine and hailed as a revolutionary new painkiller. However by the early 1950s it was hardly being used at all. It wasn’t until 1964 that Doctor Vincent Dole, an expert in metabolic disorders, and Doctor Marie Nyswander, a psychiatrist who had worked at the U.S. Public Health Hospital/Prison for addicts in Lexington, Kentucky, discovered methadone’s true purpose. Along with the assistance of Mary Jeanne Kreek, in New York’s Rockefeller University they had begun conducting experiments with several heroin addicts. Upon trying to discover an aid for heroin users they happened to read about methadone in medical literature. They soon found that methadone could act as a potential substitute for heroin.
They had given the volunteers nearly everything to cope with the withdrawal symptoms from morphine to dilaudid, but found that it was extremely difficult to stabilise the subjects. The doctors were close to ending their experiment and concluding that it had been a failure. After deciding this they thought of detoxing the patients before releasing them from hospital. This is when they turned to methadone. After their intake of methadone the patients displayed very different behaviour to when they were on the other medicated narcotics. Their focus changed away from drugs completely whereas before they all continually complained of their desire for more narcotics.
The doctors’ studies eventually proved to change opinion that drug addiction was merely a character flaw, but rather a disorder that needed to be treated like any other disease.
Methadone maintenance treatment was thus born.