Methadone Withdrawal and Detox

Modified: 4th Jul 2019

Last updated on July 4th, 2019 at 02:09 pm

Methadone is a pain medication that’s intended to help users of heroin and other opiates deal with withdrawals. It’s a very effective way to cope with the pain of getting off difficult drugs to quit.

It should not be used alone, though, as it’s much more effective when coupled with counseling and treatment. Methadone is prescribed by a physician and should be taken exactly as directed. Some patients aren’t required to take the drug in the presence of a physician, being able to take it at home. 

In those cases where the methadone is consumed remotely, it’s very important to stick to the prescribed dosage because it can be very addictive. 

What Causes Methadone Withdrawal

Methadone can lead a person to develop a dependence very quickly. Because it’s effective as a way to lessen the withdrawals of other drugs, users can trade in a methadone addiction for the one they had before. 

As time goes on, some people will require more and more methadone if they don’t use it as prescribed. This also leads to users having withdrawals from methadone itself, which means they’re back where they started in terms of addiction. 

The addiction is powerful because methadone also falls into the opioid category. The body grows dependent on the effects that it has, and withdrawals occur while the body is trying to function in the absence of the drug. The degree to which a person experiences withdrawals will depend on how much they are using and the particulars of their own body. 

Effects also vary if a person is using other drugs at the time they’re using methadone. Mental health issues that predate or result from drug use will also change the experience of someone who has abused methadone. Finally, if a person has used methadone in a previous attempt to get sober, the withdrawal effects may be milder. 

Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

Again the symptoms of withdrawal will vary, but the following are common. A runny nose is one symptom resulting from the disruption of the immune system. Users may lose their appetite as well as a result of the physical symptoms of withdrawal. 

Other symptoms are vomiting and nausea, shakiness, anxiety, hot and cold sweats, general chills, achiness, inability to sleep, and increased irritability. The symptoms generally start appearing about 12 hours after the most recent dose of methadone that was taken. 

Methadone Withdrawal Timeline

If they go untreated, they could last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The duration will depend, again, on the specifications of the person who’s suffering. These symptoms can be mediated through treatment, however.

The addiction doesn’t take a long time to start, so it’s often surprising how little methadone it takes to spark a long-term withdrawal process. The symptoms typically begin within those first 12 hours, but some people don’t experience them until a few days after their last dose. 

The first week is typically the most intense as far as pain and struggling go. The symptoms are the most severe in that time period, and it can be overwhelming to deal with them all at once. After the initial period, the physical symptoms begin to subside. 

The cravings, however, do not. Cravings remain intense for the first two to three weeks. Additionally, the lack of methadone can incite depression in some people, sometimes becoming severe. As a result, the first three weeks lack pleasure and motivation for most people. 

Beyond that point, there may be some lingering depression. Physical symptoms may come and go intermittently as cravings arise.

Detoxing from Methadone on Your Own

Detoxing from methadone on your own is extremely difficult but possible. If you’re not in the position to get medical help in your efforts to stop, make sure that you do so carefully. 

First, it’s essential that you taper down from your normal dosage. Abruptly stopping could lead to serious health problems in addition to withdrawals. Slowly taper down your dosage until you are taking none at all. The initial stages of tapering shouldn’t be too difficult as far as withdrawals and cravings go. 

Just make sure that you’re determined to taper. After that point, make sure that you have a good environment to experience the first week of physical withdrawals. Whether you have a friend or parent who can house and support you during this time, or you’re forced to face it alone, try to make yourself comfortable. 

Do your best to get off of work or school, and make sure you have everything you need. At the same time, don’t stay cooped up at home for the entire week. Try to get out and do something every day. Being confined to one space while experiencing physical withdrawals could be too difficult, resulting in possible relapse. 

Medical Detox for Methadone

If you’re fortunate enough to have medical access, treatment is very effective.

How Medical Detox Works and What to Expect

Medical detox from methadone often involves an inpatient setting where the person can be monitored. Again, there may be severe physical responses that could put a person in danger. 

Doctors will typically taper the person off of methadone. The pace of the taper will ease psychological symptoms in addition to physical ones. 

Medications Available for Methadone Detox

Doctors will typically prescribe a couple of medications during a methadone detox. Medications shouldn’t be mixed while the person is tapering off of methadone, however.

Once the person is completely off of methadone, a doctor may prescribe naltrexone and buprenorphine. There may also be the addition of some anti-anxiety medications. These medications work to affect the opioid receptors in a way that prevents withdrawals. 

Interested in Methadone Detox?

If you or someone you know is experiencing a methadone addiction, it’s important that you find the right help.

If you have the option, it’s highly recommended that you detox from methadone under the supervision of a doctor. If you’re interested in learning more about your options, contact us.