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Methadone Withdrawal and Treatment

What is Methadone?

Methadone is commonly prescribed to treat intense pain, but it is also used as a treatment medication during the detoxification process for people with a dependence on opioid drugs. However, methadone is also an opiate medication that has the potential to cause physical dependency and addiction when taken over a period of time. Unfortunately, come people become addicted to methadone as they undergo withdrawal from another opiate drug. In the event that a person does become addicted to this prescription medication, it’s strongly recommended that treatment is sought in a professional methadone detox facility.


What is Methadone Detox?

Methadone Withdrawal and TreatmentMethadone detox is the process of eliminating the physically addictive toxins of the drug from the body.  In most cases, methadone is prescribed for treating addiction to opioid drugs like heroin. At first, methadone is given as a substitute opioid drug to replace the original drug of addiction. Over a period of time, the dosage of methadone is gradually reduced until the person’s physical dependency on the opioid drugs is broken. Sadly, many people become addicted to the detox drug in the process.

The objective of a professional methadone withdrawal program is to taper the dosage of medication down over a period of time until the individual is no longer physically dependent. This process can be difficult, so the recommended course of treatment should involve a team of medical professionals who can help guide the addict through each step and provide the support and supervision needed. 


How Long Does Methadone Withdrawal Last?

In some cases, methadone detox can occur quickly over a period of four or five weeks. In other cases, treatment may extend for as long as six months. The length of methadone withdrawal will vary, dependent on a number of factors, including:

  • Severity of the person’s addiction
  • The amount of time they have been using 
  • How much they typically consume 
  • Their level of tolerance 
  • If they are addicted to multiple drugs 
  • The person’s current health 
  • How many times the person has attempted to detox in the past

The withdrawal process will differ for each individual person, as will the length of time it takes to completely detox. In the event that the person is addicted to more than one substance simultaneously, the withdrawal process can be longer and more intense.Methadone Withdrawal Timeline

Typically, the symptoms of methadone withdrawal with begin within 24-30 hours after the person’s last dose. They can experience physical symptoms, such as fever, chills, rapid heartbeat, and muscle aches. Over the course of the next few days and weeks, symptoms only get stronger, and can include hallucinations, paranoia, flu-like symptoms, anxiety and insomnia. For this reason it is of vital importance that you seek help from a professional and accredited rehabilitation center that provides medical detoxification programs.

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Dangers of Detoxing without Professional Help

Many people who develop an addiction to methadone are already receiving intensive outpatient treatment for addiction to another type of opiate drug. If a person stops taking the treatment medication suddenly it’s likely that withdrawal symptoms will emerge. 

Methadone is a slow-acting opioid medication with a longer-lasting action than other morphine-based drugs. The symptoms of withdrawal from methadone are similar to those caused by other opiate drugs but are often less intense.

Common symptoms of methadone withdrawal include:

  • Intense cravings
  • Severe Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Chills and cold sweats
  • Muscle aches and joint pain
  • Flulike symptoms
  • Restlessness
  • Goosebumps
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Depression

Symptoms of methadone withdrawal can be avoided by continuing with the correctly-tapered doses through a medically-supervised detox program. The safest option is to complete the detox process with assistance from a professional inpatient addiction treatment center or with supervision from an intensive outpatient drug treatment facility.


What Medications Are Used During Methadone Withdrawal?

During the detox process, it’s likely that methadone in carefully tapered doses will be administered. Benzodiazepine drugs, such as Valium (diazepam) may also be prescribed to reduce the severity of any other symptoms that may emerge, such as anxiety or insomnia. Pain relief medications may also be administered, including aspirin or ibuprofen. Other medications like Buprenorphine, clonidine and naloxone  are used to shorten the withdrawal process and ease other symptoms of withdrawal.

While the physical symptoms of methadone withdrawal should fade within eight days, some of the psychological symptoms can persist for several weeks, such as anxiety, paranoia or depression. Prescription antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication may be given to reduce or effectively manage symptoms.


Why Should Someone Seek Professional Help for Methadone Withdrawal?

Seeking professional help for methadone detox is the first step to successful recovery from addiction. Trying to quit methadone ‘cold turkey’ can cause painful withdrawal symptoms to emerge, so it’s recommended to remain in treatment while the dosage is reduced gradually over a period of time.

Residential drug treatment centers will also provide behavioral therapy and individual counseling sessions to help address the underlying triggers behind the psychological side of the addiction. People in recovery also learn strong relapse prevention strategies to reduce the risk of returning to a pattern of addictive drug use once treatment is complete.