Methadone is a medication commonly used to help people recover from heroin and opioid use disorders. Though methadone is a treatment retention drug, this medication is habit-forming and can lead to physical dependence when used for some time. With proper treatment at a drug and alcohol rehab center, those who use methadone can safely withdraw from this medication and overcome physical dependence.
Here’s more about how methadone works, and what to expect when you’re ready to stop using this medication.
How Is Methadone Used?
Methadone has been used since the 1950s to help people stop using heroin and other opioid drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine. The medication works by binding to the same opioid receptors in the brain as other opioids, but without producing the same euphoric effects. Preventing euphoria allows people to safely and comfortably overcome opioid dependence without suffering related withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, muscle aches, and bone pain.
Methadone is generally dispensed at drug and alcohol detox centers where patients can be supervised and monitored as they take their daily dosages, reducing potential abuse opportunities. Patients can take methadone for as long as they need, given the medication helps them stay sober. Some patients end up taking methadone for a lifetime to prevent relapse and the risk of a fatal overdose.
Many drug rehab centers offer methadone as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program, which combines the medication with counseling and behavioral therapy. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), MAT has been shown to improve patient survival, increase retention in treatment, reduce illicit opioid use, and improve birth outcomes among pregnant women with opioid use disorders. When taken as properly prescribed, methadone is safe and effective and helps patients with drug use disorders achieve more excellent health and well-being.
What Are the Effects Of Methadone Withdrawal?
Just like all other opioids, methadone produces withdrawal symptoms when patients abruptly stop using this drug or start using it in lower amounts. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, methadone withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Tearing eyes
- Runny nose
- Stomach cramps
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Widened pupils
If you use methadone and want to stop taking your medication, consult with your doctor or a drug detox center before making any changes to your medication regimen. A doctor can help you safely withdraw from methadone while reducing the severity of your withdrawal symptoms.
How Long Does Methadone Stay In the Body?
Methadone has a half-life of between eight and 59 hours, reports the FDA. The half-life of a drug is defined as the length of time it takes to reduce a drug in the body to be reduced by 50%. The rate at which methadone leaves the body depends on metabolism, age, diet, and activity level.
What Is the Best Way to Detox From Methadone?
Patients with a high desire to stay sober and who want to be completely drug-free may ask their doctors if they can stop using methadone. The safest and most effective way to detox from methadone is to taper off this medication gradually over several weeks or months. Tapering involves reducing the daily dosage over some time until patients are no longer physically dependent on the medication and no longer experience any withdrawal symptoms.
Methadone detox generally occurs at a drug detox or drug rehab center where patients can be closely monitored as they withdraw from the medication. A detox or rehab center can help minimize the risk of relapse if opioid withdrawal symptoms come back. Doctors can also adjust patients’ dosages of methadone to ensure they feel comfortable and experience minimal symptoms.
Here is the recommended tapering schedule for methadone, according to the World Health Organization (WHO):
- Reduce methadone by 10 mg per week until the patient reaches a dose of 40 mg per day.
- From that point forward, reduce methadone by 5 mg per week until the patient reaches zero doses.
- Reduce methadone doses once per week or less often.
Patients who experience withdrawal symptoms while tapering off methadone should stay on that particular dosage until symptoms reduce in severity. Tapering schedules often vary from one patient to the next based on treatment response and symptom severity.
How Does Medical Detox Help People Get off Methadone?
Medical detox is a treatment in an inpatient or residential rehab setting where patients receive 24/7 medical support as they go through withdrawal. During medical detox, patients are monitored closely for complications and can have their methadone dosages adjusted as needed to minimize symptoms.
Medical detox treatments are often tailored to each patient based on their unique treatment and recovery needs. An individualized treatment protocol ensures that each patient receives quality medical care and can safely withdraw from methadone without complications. Medical detox can occur at a drug rehab center or dedicated drug detox center and may be combined with alternative therapies, including acupuncture, daily massage, and nutrition therapy.
How Long Does It Take To Detox From Methadone?
According to the WHO, patients who withdraw from methadone at a drug detox center may spend between 10 and 20 days going through withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal usually set in within 12 to 48 hours after the last dose of methadone. The length of time it takes to detox from methadone entirely often depends on factors including the patient’s age, health status, metabolism, and severity of drug dependence.
Can I Quit Methadone Cold Turkey?
Quitting methadone cold turkey is not recommended, as doing so increases the risk for severe withdrawal-related complications, including relapse and overdose.
The WHO states that opioid withdrawal isn’t life-threatening, but can be uncomfortable and difficult for the patient. Symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, and muscle pain can often be so severe that patients resume taking methadone or other opioids to relieve their symptoms. Continuing opioid use after stopping for a few days is hazardous and dangerous, as a person’s tolerance level can decrease during the short discontinuation period. Patients who go back to using the same amount of opioids they used before can end up taking more than their bodies can handle — accidentally triggering a potentially fatal overdose.
Don’t quit methadone cold turkey — even if you feel confident, you can tough it out and get through withdrawal on your own without professional treatment. Working with a doctor or drug rehab center is the safest way to withdraw from methadone and reduce your risk of complications.
Should I Try Detoxing From Methadone At Home?
Some patients receive methadone maintenance treatment in an outpatient setting —meaning they can live at home or in a sober living community while using methadone to recover from an opioid use disorder. However, patients who take methadone in an outpatient setting must visit a methadone clinic or detox center to receive their daily dosage. Methadone is not available as a take-home prescription due to the potential for abuse and is currently only dispensed by nurses and doctors at methadone clinics.
Methadone Detox at Summer House Detox Center
Summer House Detox Center offers drug and alcohol detox in Florida for people who want to recover from their substance use disorder in a relaxing and therapeutic environment. If you or a loved one is currently dependent on methadone, our addiction treatment center in Florida can help facilitate a safe, comfortable recovery.
Contact Summer House Detox Center today at 800-719-1090 to speak with a qualified addiction specialist and learn more about our available detox treatments. Or fill out our free insurance verification form to determine whether treatment at Summer House can be covered by your health plan.