Methadone Detox: Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment

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Methadone is a prescription medication that is often used to treat opioid withdrawal and dependence, however, methadone itself is an opioid that can be physically addictive. Users who take the medication too frequently or in too high of a dose may find themselves experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop taking methadone. Symptoms of withdrawal mimic those of opioids and can be painful to cope with in the absence of medical help. Methadone detox centers in New Jersey can help struggling individuals get off of this medication safely and comfortably.

What is Methadone?

Methadone is an opioid pain medication that is used to relieve severe pain in people who need around-the-clock pain management or those who cannot use other opioid medications. However, it is also approved by the FDA to be used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction.[1]

When taken directly as prescribed, methadone is a safe and effective prescription medication. It can help people cope with chronic pain as well as overcome addiction to more dangerous opioids like heroin or fentanyl. But, when abused or used for an extended period of time, methadone can be physically addictive.

What Causes Methadone Withdrawal?

Methadone is an opioid that binds to opioid receptors in the brain to alleviate pain. As an opioid, it can be extremely addictive — especially when taken too frequently or in high doses. If taken on a daily basis, tolerance can develop rapidly, meaning individuals will need to take higher doses of the drug to feel the same effects.

People who continue taking methadone to keep up with their growing tolerance may become reliant on the drug to function normally. At this point, physical dependence has developed, and individuals may experience withdrawal upon quitting methadone.

Methadone withdrawal can produce seriously uncomfortable symptoms, so it is always recommended to detox in a medical setting. Whether a person has become dependent on methadone after taking it as they were prescribed or someone has been abusing the substance, both inpatient and outpatient programs can provide support.

Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms of methadone withdrawal are exactly the same as those caused by other opioids like heroin, morphine, or oxycodone. The primary difference is that methadone stays in the body longer than most other opioids, so symptoms may last longer.

Symptoms include:

  • Cold chills or goosebumps
  • Sweats and hot flashes
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Stomach cramps
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Cravings
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability and agitation

How severe these symptoms become and how long they last depend on how long a person has been addicted to methadone and what dose their body is used to consuming. Withdrawal symptoms can also be reduced by using a methadone tapering schedule rather than quitting cold turkey.

Methadone Withdrawal Timeline

Symptoms of methadone withdrawal usually begin within the first 24 hours after taking the last dose. But, since methadone stays in the body for a long time, it can take anywhere from 15 to 60 hours for it to leave a person’s system completely.

Although the methadone withdrawal timeline varies significantly from one person to the next, here is a general breakdown of what users can expect when entering detox.

  • Days 1-2: Symptoms of withdrawal will just begin to set in on the first two days. Symptoms are usually mild and may consist of chills, fever, and muscle aches.
  • Days 3-8: Symptoms of withdrawal will peak at some point during this time. Individuals may face extreme anxiety and depression, drug cravings, and physical symptoms.
  • Days 9-14: Symptoms slowly begin to subside after peaking. Towards day 14, most physical symptoms should go away while emotional and mental symptoms linger.
  • Days 15+: Some users will experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS consists of lingering symptoms that, although mild, can last for several months and be difficult to deal with.

After completing the acute stage of withdrawal at a methadone detox in New Jersey, patients are encouraged to participate in some form of therapy and counseling to cope with PAWS and avoid relapse.

Clinical Management of Methadone Withdrawal and Detox

The safest way to stop taking methadone is to do so at a qualified detox facility under the close guidance of medical professionals. Depending on your treatment needs and the severity of your symptoms, detox centers in New Jersey may offer you one of two treatment routes.

  1. Methadone taper – This is the most popular option for people who are detoxing from methadone. A taper involves slowly reducing the dose of methadone consumed until a person is no longer physically dependent. Tapering can help individuals avoid severe withdrawal symptoms, however, it does make the detox process last longer.
  2. Medication management – Another faster way to detox from methadone is to do so medically. This involves taking prescription and over-the-counter medications to cope with sudden withdrawal. Medications that may be used to treat methadone withdrawal include buprenorphine, clonidine, and vitamin supplements. This method is quicker but is also more uncomfortable.[2]

Throughout the detox process, patients are encouraged to drink plenty of water, engage in light exercise only, and consume a healthy, balanced diet. In combination with monitoring and supervision, this approach can help people safely detox from methadone.

Find a Methadone Detox Program in New Jersey Today

Drug and alcohol detox centers in New Jersey have the experience and resources needed to help people overcome methadone withdrawal. Methadone detox can occur on an inpatient or outpatient basis to meet the needs of the individual.

If you or someone you know is struggling with methadone abuse or addiction, know that you don’t have to struggle alone. Pick up the phone and speak with one of our dedicated treatment professionals today to find detox programs in your area.

References:

  1. https://psychiatry.uams.edu/clinical-care/cast/what-is-methadone/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310652/

Medically Reviewed: July 6, 2021

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

About

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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