Methadone Withdrawal and Detox
Methadone misuse represents a unique problem regarding drug addiction and treatment because the drug is often used to help heroin addicts, as well as people who are addicted to other opiates, stop misusing drugs by alleviating the withdrawal symptoms that can trigger relapses during detox attempts. However, sometimes what happens is that the people using methadone to help quit one drug then become addicted to the methadone itself.
When a methadone addiction is recognized, someone attempting to stop methadone usage should know that there are withdrawal medications that can help ease their detox process.Buprenorphine and Suboxone are synthetic drugs like methadone. Their usage can lessen methadone withdrawal symptoms and reduce the length of the withdrawal process . These medications are designed to help patients remain comfortable during the withdrawal, which in turn lessens the risk of relapse.
Clonidine is a medication that is often used to reduce the emotional symptoms that can occur during opioid withdrawal. Clonidine use can reduce anxiety and agitation, and it’s also beneficial for physical symptoms like aches and runny noses.
During the withdrawal process, Zofran is sometimes used to treat physical withdrawal symptoms like nausea and vomiting. This also benefits the patient as they can avoid the dehydration that would result from excessive vomiting.
Baclofen is used to alleviate muscle aches, pains and spasms to make the patient more comfortable. By negating these symptoms, the patient can then focus on the mental challenges of withdrawal and detoxing, rather than being continually distracted by the physical discomfort.
Following detox treatment, Naltrexone may be used to help patients by reducing cravings and blocking the euphoric effect of opioids. Naltrexone use works to build a strong foundation for beginning recovery, as the chance of setbacks occurring is diminished
Attempting to detox from methadone at-home can not only be uncomfortable but also dangerous. First, methadone is a medication that needs to be carefully regulated and controlled by a healthcare professional in order to prevent overdose or other serious side effects that can occur from mismanaging the drug.
Along with physical withdrawal symptoms like nausea, sweating, and vomiting, there can also be mental symptoms such as anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts. At home, the individual will have to handle these symptoms without the proper care and supervision that medical professionals at a certified rehab facility would provide.
Detoxing from methadone “cold turkey” is not a recommended practice, particularly if the individual is a long term or heavy user. Withdrawal symptoms that come with long term or heavy drug misuse can be severe and trying to quit cold turkey can not only lead to extreme physical and emotional discomfort, but it’s more likely that setbacks occur.
Every person who uses methadone to assist with drug treatment should do so while under the supervision of a doctor. This can help prevent life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
- Teary eyes or a runny nose
When someone experiences the first signs of a methadone withdrawal, it can feel like having the flu. Specific symptoms of methadone withdrawal can peak at around three days and can include muscle aches and pain, severe nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, cravings and depression.
During the first few days following the last dosage of methadone, some symptoms are likely to include rapid heartbeat, clamminess, cold sweats and chills. During this time, some of the most uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms may begin and can include physical symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, as well as anxiety.
Usually, around the tenth day in the withdrawal process is when the severe symptoms start declining. This is known as the acute methadone withdrawal stage. During this time, emotional symptoms, like agitation, can appear and physical symptoms, like nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, may remain but they should lessen in severity at this point.
The stage after acute withdrawal is post-acute withdrawal. Many of the post-acute withdrawal symptoms are emotional and can include depression, irritability and anxiety. Difficulty concentrating and fatigue are symptoms that are likely to remain, and cravings for the drug can persist at this point, but symptoms like nausea and vomiting should disappear by this point in the detoxification process.
When a doctor prescribed methadone to a patient, they work with the patient to gradually lower their dosage amount over time, successfully tapering the patient off the drug. Tapering off methadone is a good way to hinder 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 an opioid dependency. Doctors 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 wonder what to expect when detoxing with Suboxone or general buprenorphine therapy, it’s usually somewhat easier than simply tapering off methadone. This is because buprenorphine and Suboxone bind to the opioid receptor, which is where all other opiates bind to.
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 by utilizing Suboxone, there is a much lower likelihood of overdose as compared to utilizing methadone, and there’s less potential for dependence with these medications.
The federal government outlines 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. During a standard detox from methadone:
- Peak withdrawal symptoms can take up to 72 hours to be experienced
- Patients can work with the prescribing doctor to reduce the doses gradually
- Doses can be reduced to as low as 2 mg
- Anxiety, muscle aches, nausea and flu-like symptoms can occur
During a detox from methadone with the help buprenorphine/suboxone:
- Buprenorphine/suboxone can be taken home, rather than the methadone, which is taken in a structured, clinical setting
- Withdrawal symptoms can be lessened
- Methadone can be prevented from binding to receptor sites
- Other medications can be used in conjunction with buprenorphine/suboxone, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Although, it is still recommended to take all of these together with the supervision of a doctor
- The Recovery Village: The Recovery Village, located in Umatilla, Florida, offers outpatient, partial hospitalization and inpatient treatment for patients.
- The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake: Located in Colorado, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake offers inpatient, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs for people looking to manage their addiction to methadone.
- The Recovery Village Columbus: The Recovery Village Columbus in Ohio offers intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization and inpatient treatment programs for those beginning recovery.
- The Recovery Ridgefield: Located in Washington, The Recovery Village Ridgefield offers outpatient and aftercare programs.
- Orlando Recovery Center: Found right in the heart of Orlando, the Orlando Recovery Center helps patients who are not just struggling to fight their addiction, but helps them with their mental health. This center offers inpatient, outpatient and partial hospitalization programs.
- IAFF Center of Excellence: This special center in Maryland serves firefighters and first responders struggling with PTSD, addiction and other behavioral health concerns. The IAFF Center of Excellence offers inpatient, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs.
- Next Generation Village: This Florida facility focuses primarily on assisting adolescents looking to manage their addictions. Next Generation Village offers intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization and inpatient programs to assist with recovery.
- Next Step Village: Another facility based in Florida, Next Step Village, works to help people transition into life after treatment. This center also offers outpatient and intensive outpatient programs to those looking for additional assistance.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.
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