Methadone Detox and Withdrawal

While methadone can help the user’s overall quality of life because it helps deal with an addiction to drugs like heroin or other prescription pain medicines, it also very addictive. Becoming dependent is one of the most prevalent long-term impacts of using methadone, and if someone suddenly stops taking it, they will experience withdrawal symptoms, particularly if they’re a long-term user. While there are detox and withdrawal symptoms affiliated with methadone, they’re typically not as severe as what’s seen with the use of other opioids, including heroin, but they may last for a longer duration. The best way to alleviate the severity of methadone withdrawal symptoms is usually a gradual reduction in dosage.
Methadone withdrawal is also called methadone detox, and often symptoms will begin within 30 hours of the last time you were exposed to the drug.

The withdrawal process with methadone is slow and may last anywhere from a few weeks, to possibly longer.

Some of the signs of a methadone withdrawal that you’ll start to initially experience may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Teary eyes or a runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Insomnia

When someone is initially experiencing the first signs of a methadone withdrawal, it can feel like having the flu, but unlike a case of the flu, the symptoms can linger for quite a few days. Most often, specific symptoms of a methadone withdrawal peak at around three days after the last exposure.

These symptoms can include muscle aches and pain, severe nausea and vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, cravings for drugs and depression.

When someone is exploring how to get off methadone or looking for methadone success stories, they’ll likely a variety of possible scenarios. When someone is prescribed this drug, their health care professional can help show them how to get off methadone successfully. Many health care providers will start a detox that includes a prescription of 10 to 20 mg of methadone daily for the first few days.

Then, that dose can be lowered gradually, until the person is down to 2 mg per day, although of course, this is just an example. This method of gradually tapering off the dosage of methadone is a good way to limit some of the most severe symptoms including anxiety, aches, and nausea, as well as cravings for other opioids.

In some cases, other medications such as buprenorphine can be used to treat opioid dependency including methadone. Doctors and care providers can prescribe buprenorphine for people as they transition from a methadone dependency since it’s a partial opioid. Suboxone is one type of buprenorphine.

When people are wondering what to expect when detoxing with Suboxone or general buprenorphine therapy, it’s usually somewhat easier than simply tapering off methadone. The reason is that buprenorphine and Suboxone bind to the opioid receptor, which is where all other opiates bind. These medicines can be used to help avoid a cold turkey method of going off methadone.

Buprenorphine therapy can be utilized successfully in some instances to assist in the process of tapering off opioids. Buprenorphine therapy can also work for some people because it tends to have less of an impact in how they feel overall. For example, it can help them feel less medicated and more normalized as compared to the effects of methadone.

With buprenorphine therapy or Suboxone, there are benefits including the fact that there is a much lower likelihood of overdose as compared to methadone, and there’s less potential for dependence with these medications.

The federal government does outline treatment guidelines for methadone as well as buprenorphine therapy, and the requirements tend to be less stringent for buprenorphine as compared to methadone. For example, patients can get take-home prescriptions of buprenorphine regardless of whether they’ve had a period of negative drug and alcohol tests.

Standard Detox from Methadone Detoxing with Buprenorphine/Suboxone
Can take up to 72 hours for peak withdrawal symptoms to be experienced May be prescribed during the process to wean off methadone, and it can be taken at home, unlike methadone which is given only in a structured clinical setting.
When someone is prescribed methadone, they can work with a health care provider to gradually reduce doses Buprenorphine/Suboxone may help lessen withdrawal symptoms
When weaning off methadone, a doctor may prescribe doses of 10 to 20 mg for the first few days, until the dose is gradually lowered to 2 mg per day These therapies can also be used to prevent methadone from binding to the same receptor sites.
Withdrawal symptoms with methadone can include flu-like feelings such as muscle aches and nausea. Anxiety may also occur. These may also be used in conjunction with other medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medicines, but have to be done so carefully under medical supervision



methadone detox
Trying to detox at home from a methadone dependency can be not only incredibly uncomfortable but also dangerous. First, methadone is a medication that needs to be carefully regulated and controlled by a health care professional to prevent overdose or other serious situations that can occur from taking the wrong dosages.

Also, detoxing from methadone or any opioid at home can lead to extremely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Along with physical withdrawal symptoms like nausea, sweating, and vomiting, there can also be mental symptoms such as anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts.

Within about 36 hours after the last exposure to methadone, most people will start experiencing withdrawal symptoms, and the process to end the habit can vary significantly, from a few weeks for some people to a few years for others. The longer someone has used methadone, the more slowly the tapering process should be to stop using the drug, and patients who aren’t addicted should try to cut their usage by anywhere from 20% to 50% per week.

For those people who are addicted, the timeline can look somewhat like this:

Time Off Methadone What to Expect
Initial 24 hours During the first 24 hours of not using methadone, some of the symptoms are likely to begin and can include things like rapid heartbeat, clamminess, cold sweats and chills
At around 36 hours During this time some of the most uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms may begin and can include physical things such as nausea and vomiting, as well as psychological withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety
First 2-3 weeks The first 2-3 weeks of coming off methadone are called the acute methadone withdrawal stage. Symptoms of withdrawal accompanying this part of the process can start to get better around day 10.
Following weeks or months The stage after acute withdrawal is called post-acute withdrawal, and this can last for weeks or months. Many of the post-acute withdrawal symptoms are emotional and can include depression, irritability, and anxiety. Cognitive symptoms during this period can include difficulty concentrating, and physical problems can include fatigue.
When detoxing from methadone, it’s not usually recommended that someone do it cold turkey, particularly if you’re a long-term or heavy user. The withdrawal symptoms can be very severe and trying to quit cold turkey can not only lead to extreme physical and emotional discomfort, but it can also be difficult to achieve success with this method.

It’s recommended that every person who uses methadone do so with the supervision of a doctor. This can help prevent severe withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threating in some instances.

When you’re attempting to detox and stop using most opiates, the withdrawal process isn’t necessarily one that can be life-threatening, but methadone represents an exception to this. When people have taken methadone in large quantities or for long periods of time, stopping can lead to serious breathing difficulties, heart problems or seizures.

That’s why completing a medically supervised detox program is so important, particularly with methadone. A supervised withdrawal is the best way to make sure you’re properly taken care of, and coming off methadone in the safest way possible, to avoid the potential for severe health problems or death.

Methadone represents a unique problem regarding drug addiction and treatment. It’s often used to help heroin addicts and people who are addicted to other opiates stop using these drugs by alleviating withdrawal symptoms, but ultimately what often happens is that they then become addicted to the methadone itself.

When someone is attempting to stop taking methadone, some withdrawal medications can help.

Medication Why It’s Used Benefits
Buprenorphine/Suboxone These drugs are synthetic opioids like methadone, but they can lessen symptoms and reduce the length of withdrawal Buprenorphine and Suboxone work well to help make patients more comfortable during withdrawal, and they can lessen the risk for future dependencies
Clonidine Clonidine is often used to reduce emotional symptoms during withdrawal from methadone and other opiates This can contribute to reducing anxiety and agitation, and it’s also beneficial for some physical symptoms like aches and runny nose
Zofran Treatment for nausea and vomiting Nausea and vomiting are common during withdrawal and Zofran may be used to help prevent these symptoms. This can also help patients avoid dehydration resulting from vomiting.
Baclofen Muscle pain and spasms To make patients more comfortable, Baclofen may be used to alleviate muscle aches and pains.
Naltrexone To prevent relapse Following treatment, Naltrexone may be used to help patients avoid the potential for relapse. It works by reducing cravings and blocking the effect of opioids.

Also important to note is the relationship between buprenorphine and Suboxone. Suboxone is made up of buprenorphine, but also something called naloxone. The beneficial ingredient of Suboxone is the buprenorphine because it reduces opioid cravings.

Methadone Detox & Withdrawal
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Methadone Detox & Withdrawal was last modified: July 8th, 2017 by The Recovery Village