Methadone was first synthesized in Germany at the laboratories of the pharmaceutical giant, IG Farben. Two German scientists, Max Bockmühl and Gustav Ehrhart, patented it in September 1941. Bockmühl and Ehrhart were attempting to find an opioid pain killer which would be structurally dissimilar to morphine, non‐addictive, and would escape the strict legal controls placed on opioids at that time. Ironically, methadone was not much used in Germany. It was only after World War II, that methadone was recognized as both a pain medicaion and a substance very useful in the treatment of opioid abuse.
In 1947, Harris Isbell and his colleagues, who had been experimenting extensively with methadone, discovered that methadone was beneficial in the treatment of opiate‐dependent patients. Several studies from the United Kingdom in the 1940s described methadone’s efficacy in reducing heroin withdrawal symptoms. Ingeborg Paulus and Dr. Robert Halliday, working with the Narcotic Addiction Foundation in Vancouver, established the first methadone maintenance treatment program in the world and published their findings in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 1967. In the United States, Dr. Vincent Dole and Dr. Marie Nyswander confirmed the feasibility of using methadone as a maintenance medication for heroin dependence.