Methadone has been used for decades to treat those with opiate addiction, including pain medications and heroin. Though it’s not a cure, it can suppress withdrawal symptoms, making it easier to get off the more harmful drugs.
Still, even though methadone as maintenance therapy can help, it is also an addictive drug. As with any drug when you are addicted, it’s not always easy to stop using. However, it is possible.
The thought of quitting methadone scares some people because they don’t want to face the withdrawal symptoms. However, due to advancements in addiction recovery, even people who are on high doses of methadone can successfully get off the drug via the utilization of new medical detox protocols.
Methadone is an opioid-based medication which can help minimize the withdrawal symptoms that are associated with heroin addiction and other opioids, without causing the high that’s associated with such. The primary purpose of a methadone detox program is to provide patients with a safe, comfortable, and monitored environment so they can gradually come off of methadone. This means tapering off the drug over time.
In addition to monitoring the patient’s vital signs, various medicines may be provided to minimize withdrawal symptoms.
Common methadone withdrawal symptoms include:
It’s likely that the more severe the addiction to methadone, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms may be. In such cases, it’s best to seek professional care at a detox facility to manage withdrawal symptoms.
The time it takes you to get off of methadone, as well as the severity of withdrawal symptoms, will vary from person to person. It might take one person a couple of weeks to effectively get off methadone, while it might take another person months or years.
Various factors come into play when it comes to the withdrawal timeline, such as:
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Generally, the methadone withdrawal timeline is as follows:
You may begin to feel some withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours of the last dose, depending on the level of dependence. Common early withdrawal symptoms the first day include flu-like symptoms, including sweating, muscle aches, fever, and chills. You may also feel some anxiety, anticipating more severe withdrawal symptoms in the following days.
The first week to 10 days will likely be the toughest part of the withdrawal process. This is the time frame where you want to make sure you have a solid support network, such as professionals at a detox center or treatment program. The severity of symptoms will depend on the factors mentioned above. Some report really uncomfortable symptoms, while others report feeling like they have the flu, but it’s bearable.
Common symptoms during this time frame include trouble sleeping, strong cravings for methadone, flu-like symptoms, paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety, and irritability.
For many people, the worst of the symptoms will be over once they get past 10 days. However, there may still be symptoms felt, such as cravings, mood swings, depression, agitation, and fatigue. Again, having a support system in place can help you get through such symptoms.
For those that were taking extra high doses of methadone (above 40mg), symptoms can linger on for weeks or months. For those that were taking lower doses, by the third week, most, if not all, of the symptoms may have dissipated. Common lingering symptoms include cravings, depression, and fatigue.
If you’ve become dependent on methadone, it is important to detox in a medical detox facility so that your body can rid itself from the toxins associated with the drug.
This way, your body won’t crave the drug anymore. Methadone is often used to treat the withdrawal symptoms of drugs like heroin or pain medication, known as opioid replacement therapy. The issue is that some people end up getting addicted to the methadone while getting off the other opioid, such as heroin or pain pills.
Detoxing “cold turkey” or abruptly is dangerous, regardless of how one gets addicted to methadone. Instead, a gradual taper of the drug should be done preferably under the care of an addiction specialist or physician.
To contend with some of the uncomfortable symptoms, you may be prescribed certain non-habit-forming medications that can help sedate you and reduce or alleviate physical withdrawal symptoms.
There are also mental health professionals staffed that will discuss any issues necessary and help you create a long-term recovery plan that you can implement once you leave detox.
Detox is just the first step toward recovery from methadone addiction. If you’re detoxing in a medical detox facility or hospital, the next treatment step is to continue treatment in a drug treatment center. This way, you’ll be surrounded by addiction specialists, a psychiatrist, and physicians who can monitor you and help you create a personalized treatment plan.
Inpatient treatment is a common recovery path, as it’s helpful to leave your home environment and live at the facility to solely focus on you and your recovery. This has proven to be one of the best ways to ensure long-lasting freedom from drug addiction. You may opt to stay in treatment 30, 60, or 90 days, depending on the level of care you need. Some even choose to stay longer.
Or, you can move from inpatient treatment to outpatient treatment or an intensive outpatient program (IOP). This allows you to move back home and continue to attend sessions at a local facility several times throughout the week. The extra support and counseling can help you persue your successful recovery.
For those who are heavily addicted to methadone, inpatient treatment is recommended. For mild users of methadone, an outpatient program may be the route to go. The reality is that there are various options that can help in all different types of situations.
Good news is that there is help available to help you get free from methadone addiction. If you would like to know more about how a methadone detox program can help to get you or your loved one get off methadone, please contact us for more information. We’d be happy to discuss your options and help you find the best recover path for you that will ensure a successful recovery.
Medline Plus. (2019, October 15) Methadone. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682134.html
American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2020, August 19) Methadone. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/methadone
US National Library of Medicine. Western Journal of Medicine. (2000 January) Use of methadone. Anderson, I., Kearney, T. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1070723/
NIDA. (2020, May 29) . Is there a difference between physical dependence and addiction?. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/there-difference-between-physical-dependence-addiction
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Methadone. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/methadone