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Methadone Withdrawal

Methadone is a medication that has been utilized for decades as a substitute opioid to treat opioid addiction. It is not viewed as a cure, but it can suppress withdrawal symptoms, which makes it easier to stop abusing dangerous substances like heroin.

Although methadone maintenance is a highly sought out therapy option, the medication itself has the potential to be highly addictive because it is an opiate. Any drug that you become dependent on will become challenging to stop, but quitting methadone can intimidate those who fear the withdrawals. 

It is possible to stop using methadone with the right treatment, and advancements in addiction recovery make it easier. Medical detox allows you to transition comfortably off methadone as you start the next chapter in your life. 

What Are Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms?

Methadone is commonly used to minimize withdrawal symptoms that result from heroin addiction or the use of other opioid drugs. Methadone is used in place to stop the effects that other drugs produce. The purpose of a methadone detox program is to provide clients with a comfortable and safe space, so they gradually taper off opioids. Other medications may be provided in addition to methadone as a means to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.The most common symptoms of methadone withdrawal include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fever
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia

The more severe addiction someone may experience as a result of methadone abuse, the more intense they can expect their withdrawal symptoms to be. It will be in your best interest to seek professional help if you’ve become dependent on methadone. You must enter into a detox facility that can help you overcome your dependency on the substance.

What Are the Stages of Methadone Withdrawal Timeline?

The symptoms of methadone withdrawal will vary according to the person and based on different factors. You might experience the effects for a few weeks, while someone else has to battle the symptoms for months or years before they start to improve.

Some factors that can affect the methadone withdrawal timeline include:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • The dose of methadone you’ve become accustomed to taking
  • The severity of your addiction
  • History of relapse
  • Whether you abuse other drugs
  • Genetics
  • Stress levels
  • Overall health condition
  • Support network
  • Home environment
  • How long you’ve used methadone

The methadone timeline looks like this:

  • Day 1: You may experience withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours after your last dose of methadone. The most common withdrawal symptoms include flu-like symptoms, such as fevers, muscle aches, sweating, and chills. It’s possible to develop anxiety while you anticipate the more severe withdrawal symptoms to come. 
  • Days 2-10: The first few days are going to be the most challenging of the withdrawal process. During this stage, you must secure a proper support system, such as entering into a detox treatment program that helps you overcome the most severe side effects. Your experience is going to depend on the factors listed above, but the majority report feeling extremely uncomfortable. The most common symptoms include insomnia, cravings, hallucinations, anxiety, and irritability. 
  • Days 11-21: For a majority of those going through methadone withdrawal, the worst symptoms will disappear after day 10. Some signs will still be present, such as cravings, mood swings, agitation, depression, or fatigue. You must have a support system that can help you overcome your desire to use again, which is a relapse. 
  • Days 22 and beyond: Symptoms may continue for weeks or months for those who have used large doses of methadone (40 mg or more). Someone who uses smaller doses will notice their symptoms disappear by the third week. The most common side effects include depression, cravings, and fatigue.

Should I Detox?

If you have developed methadone addiction, you must seek help from a medical detoxification facility so that the substance and other toxins can be safely removed from your body. By doing this, you will notice a reduction in cravings to the drug. 

Methadone is used to treat withdrawal symptoms for prescription painkillers or heroin, which is known as opioid replacement therapy, but it’s possible to become dependent on methadone. When you attempt to stop cold turkey, it can be dangerous. A gradual taper is recommended because methadone is a potent opioid. During detox, you will have access to mental health professionals that will help you start your path to recovery.

What Is the Next Treatment Step?

Detox is only the first step in the long process of overcoming addiction. A treatment stay can last anywhere from 30 to 90 days. You could be placed into a residential treatment center or outpatient facility. While detox can help you get off methadone, addiction treatment can help you understand why you start abusing the drug in the first place. It will also equip you with the tools to overcome triggers in the future.

Sources

Mitchell, S. G., Kelly, S. M., Brown, B. S., Reisinger, H. S., Peterson, J. A., Ruhf, A., . . . Schwartz, R. P. (2009, June). Incarceration and opioid withdrawal: The experiences of methadone patients and out-of-treatment heroin users. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2838492/

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification

Methadone maintenance treatment. (1970, January 01). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310658/

Methadone: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682134.html

Withdrawal Management. (1970, January 1). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310652/

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