Methadone was developed in 1937 in Germany by scientists working for the Nazi conglomerate I G Farbenindustie. The reason for its swift abandonment as an alternative to morphine was due to the adverse effects it had in early trials. The doses used were however colossal by modern standards.

After the war, all German patents, trade names and research records were requisitioned and expropriated by the Allies, as reparations.

Despite some early trials, It was not until studies in New York City by Professor Vincent Dole along with Marie Nyswander that methadone was systematically studied as a potential substitution therapy. Their studies introduced a sweeping change in the notion that drug addiction was not necessarily a simple character flaw, but rather a disorder to be treated in the same way as other diseases. Dole and Nyswander are seminal figures in the history of drug treatment. Sadly, methadone rather than taking a place in the armatorium of possible pharmacological treatments for  opiate dependence it has emerged as the treatment of choice (alone with Subutex/Suboxone), at the expense of a wider range of choices amongst which it once stood.