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Methadone is a prescription drug for severe pain.  It’s further used to treat addiction to opioid drugs, such as heroin.  It’s often a helpful and effective treatment for those who need it for this purpose.  However, methadone is itself an opioid and can be addictive.  As a result, some people can shift addicted to methadone as they use it to wean themselves off another prescription painkiller.  When you stop taking methadone after you’ve been taking it for a while, you may encounter withdrawal symptoms.  The best way to discontinue this drug is to undergo methadone detox with professional help to assist you to be relieved with the symptoms.

Methadone Withdrawal
Like any other opiate, methadone can lead to severe complications if used long-term and should be adequately and safely detoxed.

Getting through methadone withdrawal can be a painful experience.  It would be best if you discuss the risks and benefits associated with methadone treatment with your doctor.  They can help you determine whether long-term therapy or discontinuation of methadone is best for you.

Because methadone is such a long-acting drug designed to relieve symptoms in people addicted to heroin for 1-2 days, it can build up quickly in the body and remain in the bloodstream for a long time.  Therefore, it is crucial for individuals with methadone prescriptions to use it correctly and not alter their dose without a doctor’s advice and oversight.  In addition, it is easy to overdose on methadone due to the strength of one dose.

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Methadone Withdrawal Timeline and Symptoms

Symptoms of methadone withdrawal, also sometimes referred to as methadone detox, typically begin to appear roughly 24-36 hours after you last used the drug. A physician supervises the detox process.  The duration of the process differs from person to person but may last anywhere from 2-3 weeks up to 6 months.

You may be having withdrawal if, within the first 30 hours that you stop taking methadone, you might struggle with:

  • Tiredness
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Watery Eyes
  • Runny Nose
  • Yawning
  • Trouble Sleeping

At first, symptoms of withdrawal may seem like the flu.  But unlike with the flu, withdrawal symptoms can persist severe for several days.  Specific symptoms may peak after about three days. These include:

  • Muscle Aches and Pains
  • Goosebumps
  • Severe Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Drug Cravings

The symptoms will likely be at their worst throughout the first week.  However, some symptoms can last even longer than a week.  These include low energy levels, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and depression.

Withdrawal can cause much distress, and the risk of returning to the use of other opiates can increase.  Therefore, some people discuss continuing on methadone treatment but at lower doses, if permitted.  Once a person becomes stable at a lower amount, another effort at tapering can be discussed with your doctor.

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Methadone Withdrawal or Taper

Whether you’ve been on methadone for an extended period or a short period, a taper protocol is the choicest way to come off of methadone.   A taper means to lessen doses in a scheduled time.  The prescribing physician will develop a taper schedule based on what is most suitable for you, your current dose, and how long you’ve been on methadone.  It’s essential to follow your provider’s taper schedule and instructions to avoid any adverse symptoms from detoxing too suddenly.

Medical Methadone Detox

Medical detox in a treatment facility can aid in the process of detoxing or tapering methadone.

The physicians in the treatment facility will monitor your symptoms and vitals during the process.  They can also prescribe non-narcotic medication to relieve some of the signs that may manifest due to the detox.

As part of medical detox, clients are engaged in clinical treatment to start to address the underlying issues of their addiction.

On-Going Care and Support

Because of the withdrawal process and the possible presence of PAWs (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome)  with methadone detox, someone must engage in continued care beyond the initial detox process.  To get proper support through this process, they should engage in residential treatment after detox, supported by continued outpatient care.  This clinical care can help when someone feels triggered or wants to use the drug again and provide the means and resources needed to explore the addiction and underlying issues.

Whether you’ve been on methadone for a long or short time, it is possible to come off it with the proper support and medical assistance.  Although the withdrawal and post-acute withdrawal process can sound daunting, scary, or challenging to get through, it is possible to effectively and safely detox from methadone with the proper support.

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Quitting Cold Turkey

Many people try to ride out methadone withdrawal on their own.  Though opioid withdrawal may not be life-threatening in most cases, it can be excruciating.  It can also lead to cravings and a return to drug use if left untreated.  One of the most significant risks of trying to stop using methadone cold turkey is relapse. [1]

In addition, other health complications may occur in connection with withdrawal sickness that may necessitate immediate medical attention, including:

  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance from vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Aspiration from breathing stomach contents into the lungs, which can cause lung infection.

The lack of medical care to manage withdrawal effects and any significant health issues, and the strong possibility of relapse due to the distress make cold turkey an unwise detox method.

A schedule for decreasing methadone dosing will be best determined and potentially regulated by your treating physician.

Notwithstanding how someone becomes dependent on methadone, the most secure way to quit is to slowly lessen the dose over time—a process known as tapering.  A taper can help prevent severe withdrawal symptoms and decrease the risk of potential withdrawal-associated medical problems.

Weaning or tapering should only occur under the supervision of a medical professional, who can assess withdrawal progress and best help the individual regulate doses.

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Methadone Detox Methods for Safe Methadone Withdrawal

Methadone, when prescribed for opiate addiction, is eventually tapered down after a lengthened time.  It is known in the opiate family for having the most prolonged detox, which also makes the typical taper a lengthy period, sometimes extending for over a year.

At We Level Up NJ Treatment Center, we believe in making our clients substance-free as soon as possible so that they can return to their everyday lives.  Although most methadone detox plans include a long-drawn-out taper, the goal at We Level Up Detox Facilities is to speed up this process and give the individual a fair chance at a life in recovery.

If you or someone you know is struggling with methadone withdrawal or abuse, help is just a phone call away.  So call us now here at We Level Up New Jersey. We are here to help you.

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Sources:

[1]  Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal – U.S. National Library of Medicine