Detoxing at home without medical supervision can be dangerous when done incorrectly and increases the chance of relapse. Medical detox is safer and often more effective.

Article at a Glance:

  • If a person is addicted to methadone, it can be extremely difficult to stop using the drug without medical support.
  • Quitting cold turkey greatly increases the chance of withdrawal symptoms, and the strategy is often not effective.
  • Medical detox allows a person to receive support and medications that reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms and relapse.

Methadone is a long-term medication used to treat opioid use disorder. However, since it’s an opioid itself, there is a chance for abuse. It is generally only recommended to stop using methadone with the help of an addiction professional, but some people try to stop using this drug at home without any help.

Quitting Methadone Cold Turkey

Quitting cold turkey is a decision that could lead to extremely severe withdrawal symptoms. It is not recommended to do it alone or without medical supervision. Methadone detox symptoms are the most severe the first week of quitting cold turkey. However, withdrawal symptoms can last for much longer since the drug remains in the body for up to two weeks.

It is important for people taking methadone to seek professional help if they decide to quit methadone cold turkey for support and medical attention if conditions do not improve.

The Methadone Detox Process

Because methadone is an opioid, it can be addictive. It is not common for people to become dependent on methadone while using it to detox from other drugs, but it can happen. People can experience methadone withdrawal symptoms within 20 days of the last dose.

Methadone detox affects people differently, and symptoms greatly depend on how long a person has been addicted to methadone, how high their doses have been, and whether they have been weaned off of the drug versus quitting cold turkey.

Within the first 30 hours of methadone detox, symptoms may resemble the flu and can become extremely uncomfortable. Some of the initial symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Teary eyes
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

After 72 hours of methadone detox, other symptoms can peak, becoming more severe as the body weans itself from the drug. More severe symptoms of methadone detox include:

  • Intense drug cravings
  • Body and muscle aches
  • Body shakes
  • Concentration issues
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression

Methadone can remain in your body for up to two weeks after discontinuing the drug, but it may take even longer for a person to feel back to normal. If symptoms become too severe, consult a medical professional on alternative treatment or better ways to cope with the detox process.

Choosing to Detox at Home

People may try to detox at home for a variety of reasons. While it may provide some comfort and privacy, home detox can pose serious health risks and negatively impact your recovery.

Detoxing alone or without medical supervision can be dangerous and sometimes fatal when done incorrectly. The withdrawal process is difficult, so it is easy to resort to old habits and drugs when the pain becomes insurmountable.

Without consistent support, it can also be hard to stick to a healthy regimen, increasing the chance of relapse.

Methadone detox can be challenging when withdrawal symptoms are severe. In addition to being extremely uncomfortable, the symptoms can be fatal if they lead to severe dehydration.

Many physicians recommend detoxing in a licensed facility because they provide inpatient treatment closely monitored by trained professionals. Licensed physicians at the facility can prescribe medications to help minimize withdrawal symptoms and ensure continued success.

Medical detox is safer and more effective than trying to stop methadone cold turkey. If you are trying to stop using methadone, speak with your doctor or seek out a treatment center that offers medical detox.

If you or someone you know is struggling with methadone addiction, The Recovery Village is ready to help guide you to the best treatment. With our trained medical professionals and individualized support, you will learn to resist cravings and begin your recovery. Don’t go another day without treatment. Your journey starts today.

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Editor – Melissa Carmona
Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

Darke, Shane, et al. “Yes, People Can Die From Opiate Withdrawal.” August 2016. Accessed September 12, 2021. “Methadone.” National Institutes of Health, February 15, 2021. Accessed September 20, 2021.

Roxane Laboratories, Inc. “Methadone Package Insert.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration., 2006. Accessed September 12, 2021.

World Health Organization. “Withdrawal Management.” 2009. Accessed September 12, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.