The history of methadone goes back to Germany during the time of World War II and was originally designed to be a pain killer. First synthesized in 1939, the drug was set aside until after the war when the United States began testing the chemical. In 1968, after years of trials as a pain killer and with the drug having had many brand names, the history of methadone shows that it was used successfully to treat opiate dependence in the U.S. Over the history of methadone, the medication has evolved from an injectable drug to a tablet and then to a liquid.
In 1930s-era Germany, scientists worked on a potential drug that would ease the pain of battlefield injuries and help manage pain while evacuating the casualties from the battlefield. The history of methadone shows that these tests were cut short and eventually halted by the advent of the war, leaving the testing and trials of the drug incomplete. With the end of World War II, the Americans found themselves in possession of the building that housed the patent and the records of the drug, which at that time was called Polamidon. The Americans began testing the drug in 1947 and eventually renamed the chemical Dolophine.
According to accounts detailing the history of methadone, an American pharmaceutical company, Eli-Lilly, conducted the earliest American tests of the drug under the name Dolophine from the Latin word for pain, "dolor," and the French word for end, "fin." Several people believed, albeit incorrectly, that the history of methadone naming used Dolophine as a sort of credit to Adolph Hitler. During the 1950s, it is shown in the history of methadone that there was nearly no use or interest in the drug at all. It was not until the 1960s that Dr. Marie Nyswander and Dr. Vincent Dole discovered the drug in medical journals and decided to try it on heroin addicted patients.
The drug, now named methadone, appeared to fight the withdrawal symptoms of a heroin-addicted individual while not becoming addictive itself. Tolerance was also slow to develop when using the methadone on opiate addicts, and the methadone appeared to be gentler on the liver, kidneys and other areas of the human body than not only the heroin, but the other drugs used to combat the addiction. Given as a drink, the methadone tablets or crystals are dissolved in a glass of water or flavored drink and ingested orally by the patient.