Gut motility and transit changes in patients receiving long-term methadone maintenance

J Clin Pharmacol. 1998 Oct;38(10):931-5. doi: 10.1002/j.1552-4604.1998.tb04389.x.


This study was conducted to survey gut motility and transit in 19 volunteers receiving methadone maintenance who were opioid-dependent, and to measure the oral-cecal transit time in these individuals using the lactulose hydrogen breath test. None of these patients reported constipation problems before use of illicit drugs. During current long-term methadone therapy, 58% of patients experienced some degree of constipation, and two of these 19 patients reported that constipation was a very serious problem. Mean +/- standard deviation (SD) oral-cecal transit time in these individuals was 159+/-49.2 minutes, which is significantly longer than the transit time recorded in two previous studies of healthy volunteers (P < 0.01). These results indicate that tolerance to opioids does not appear to extend to gastrointestinal motility and transit. It seems that patients receiving long-term methadone therapy are a good model for use in evaluating gastrointestinal effects of opioid antagonists.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breath Tests
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Constipation / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Transit / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / analysis
  • Male
  • Methadone / adverse effects
  • Methadone / pharmacology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Hydrogen
  • Methadone