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How to Detox From Methadone

Last Updated on May 22, 2024
adam zagha of numa detox and rehab in los angeles
Writer: Adam Zagha
Clinical Reviewer: Ariana Gravanis

Methadone detox is a critical step toward a long-term recovery from methadone addiction. This process involves tapering off methadone use under medical supervision, which helps manage opioid withdrawal symptoms. This article discusses how to detox from methadone, its withdrawal symptoms, and how methadone treatment can be used in treating opioid use disorder.

NUMA Recovery Centers provides a comprehensive methadone treatment plan tailored to the needs of every patient. Our healthcare providers and mental health professionals guide individuals through the detox process and offer them medical supervision and support to manage withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse. Empower yourself by reclaiming your life from methadone addiction. Contact NUMA Recovery Centers today.

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Quick Points

  • The WHO, APA, and SAMHSA recommend methadone treatment for chronic opioid use, as it effectively manages withdrawal symptoms and reduces relapse risk.

  • While methadone is used for treating chronic pain and opioid addiction, it can also lead to dependency if misused because of its highly addictive properties which are similar to other opioids.

  • Methadone is a long-acting opioid that is used in medication-assisted treatment and medication maintenance treatment. These treatment programs are designed to help manage addiction to opioid use by reducing drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

  • Methadone withdrawal symptoms peak in intensity within 3 to 5 days after the last dose and gradually decrease over weeks.

  • Methadone is safe for pregnant women struggling with opioid dependence. However, precautions are necessary to ensure maternal and fetal health.

  • If conducted with medical supervision, tapering off methadone is considered safe and effective in managing withdrawal symptoms. A personalized treatment plan is necessary to avoid instances of quitting cold turkey or quick tapering, which can aggravate the withdrawal symptoms experienced during detox.

What is Methadone?

Considered a long-acting opioid, methadone is commonly used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help individuals manage opioid addiction. It works by interacting with opioid receptors in the brain, reducing drug cravings and minimizing withdrawal symptoms associated with other opioids. Consequently, methadone is frequently prescribed in opioid addiction treatment programs to support individuals on their journey toward long-term recovery from substance abuse.

Why Is Methadone Treatment Advisable for Treating Opioid Use Disorder?

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recommend the use of methadone treatment programs for individuals struggling with chronic opioid use. This is because methadone treatment has been proven effective for patients experiencing withdrawal symptoms and reduces the risk of relapse.

Moreover, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends the use of methadone for medication-assisted treatment programs. MAT is a comprehensive approach to treating opioid use disorder. By integrating methadone treatment with counseling and behavioral therapies, healthcare providers can offer a holistic approach to managing the withdrawal symptoms of opioid use and promoting long-term recovery.

How Can Methadone Treatment Be Used to Treat Opioid Addiction?

Methadone treatment plays a key role in managing illicit opioid use through a comprehensive approach that addresses both the physical aspects of the disorder and related mental health issues. By stabilizing the brain’s chemistry through the opioid receptors, methadone reduces opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings. This treatment also allows individuals to focus on their recovery without experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) is part of a personalized treatment plan that includes counseling and behavioral therapies, which are essential for addressing the underlying causes of substance abuse. Through proper medical supervision, MMT helps prevent relapse and supports long-term recovery. Additionally, this method enables individuals to regain control over their lives while reducing the health risks associated with illicit opioid use.

Can Methadone Misuse Lead to Opioid Use Disorder?

As a synthetic opioid, methadone is often used in the treatment of chronic pain and opioid addiction, including the management of detox symptoms. However, misuse of methadone can lead to its own set of challenges. 

Despite its use in treatment, methadone has addictive properties and can lead to dependency if not used as prescribed. Misuse of methadone can result in similar sedative or pleasurable effects as other opioids, and it can potentially lead to chronic opioid use. 

Methadone treatment should be administered under medical supervision as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, which includes therapy and support groups. It’s crucial to underscore the importance of proper use and adherence of treatment guidelines when using methadone as treatment for opioid use. Otherwise, methadone misuse can contribute to the cycle of addiction.

What is The Methadone Detox Process?

The methadone detox process involves the gradual reduction of the dose of methadone to minimize the withdrawal symptoms and manage methadone dependency safely. It works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain, which reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings without producing the euphoria associated with opioid misuse.

However, chronic use of methadone can lead to methadone addiction. This is because, like other opioids, methadone use can change the brain's chemistry over time, which leads to tolerance and dependency. Tolerance refers to the instance when an individual needs a higher dose of methadone to achieve the same effect. On the other hand, dependency refers to the instance when the individual experiences withdrawal symptoms when stopping methadone use.

It is crucial to undergo methadone detox under medical supervision to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms and ensure a safe transition off the medication. Also, family members and medical professionals play a vital role in supporting individuals going through methadone detox to prevent relapse and ensure a successful recovery.

Do Patients Get Addicted to Methadone During the Detox Process?

Healthcare professionals play a critical role in preventing individuals from getting addicted to methadone during this process. They closely monitor the patient's progress and adjust the methadone dosage accordingly to ensure a gradual and safe tapering process. This tapering schedule helps prevent severe withdrawal symptoms and allows the body to adjust slowly.

Moreover, healthcare professionals provide counseling and support services to address the psychological aspects of addiction. This approach helps individuals cope with cravings and other challenges they may face during medical detox.

What Withdrawal Symptoms Should I Expect?

When recovering from opioid use disorder or chronic methadone use, the body undergoes a critical phase during this period. As such, the individual experiences a range of withdrawal symptoms which manifests in response to the absence of the drug.

Understanding these symptoms can help individuals prepare for the methadone detox process and manage expectations. Here are some common methadone withdrawal symptoms individuals may experience:

  • Muscle aches

  • Runny nose

  • Body aches

  • Nausea

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Anxiety

  • Sweating

  • Yawning

  • Dilated pupils

  • Goosebumps

  • Increased heart rate (tachycardia)

  • Abdominal cramping

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Fatigue

  • Irritability

  • Depression

  • Restlessness

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Drug cravings

Timeline of Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

Day 1-2 — Manifestation of Initial Symptoms

Within the first 24-48 hours after the last dose of methadone, individuals may start experiencing initial opioid withdrawal symptoms from opioid use.

Common methadone withdrawal symptoms experienced during this period include the following:

  • Anxiety

  • Agitation

  • Runny nose

  • Sweating

  • Muscle aches

  • Yawning

  • Increased tearing

  • Restlessness

Severe methadone withdrawal symptoms are as follows:

  • Mild stomach cramps

  • Slight nausea

  • Increased blood pressure

Days 3-5 — Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms Intensify

The opioid withdrawal symptoms normally peak during this period. The symptoms of methadone withdrawal become severe as a result.

Among the common symptoms experienced during this time include:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Body aches

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Abdominal cramps

  • Chills

  • Loss of appetite

Individuals may also have severe symptoms during this point, which include:

  • Intense cravings

  • Severe muscle and joint pain

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Intense anxiety

  • Panic attacks

  • Severe sweating

During this phase, close medical supervision is crucial to manage the symptoms of methadone withdrawal and prevent complications. Other medications may be administered to alleviate discomfort, ensuring that the medication stays effective and opioid withdrawal symptoms are minimized.

Days 6-10 — Gradual Reduction of all Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

After the peak period, the intensity of methadone withdrawal symptoms begins to decrease gradually. During this stage, monitoring and support should be observed. It should be accompanied by constant hydration, nutritional support, and other therapeutic interventions to ensure a successful recovery.

The common symptoms experienced during this phase are as follows:

  • Fatigue

  • Irritability

  • Insomnia

  • Mild anxiety

  • Decreased energy

On the other hand, severe symptoms include:

  • Residual abdominal cramps

  • Lingering nausea

  • Mild to moderate depression

Week 2 — Stabilization Phase

While methadone withdrawal symptoms will persist for up to two weeks, the most acute withdrawal symptoms will be significantly reduced.

The common symptoms experienced during this period include:

  • Mild irritability

  • Occasional anxiety

  • Insomnia

The severe symptoms are as follows:

  • Emotional instability

  • Occasional severe cravings

  • Intermittent depression

During this period, the patient is encouraged to engage in therapeutic activities, which include counseling, group therapy, and physical exercise. These activities help address mental health aspects of addiction and support overall well-being.

Weeks 3-4 — Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)

Some individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms that linger for several weeks, otherwise known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms. During this stage, counseling and support groups should be continuous to manage PAWS and prevent relapse.

The common methadone withdrawal symptoms experienced during this phase are:

  • Mood swings

  • Anxiety

  • Low energy

  • Sleep disturbances

Among the severe symptoms of methadone withdrawal that can manifest during this time include:

  • Chronic depression

  • Prolonged fatigue

  • Difficulty in managing stress

2 Months and Beyond —Journey Towards Long-Term Recovery Begins

In the second month and beyond, individuals enter the recovery phase. During this period, the patients focus on maintaining their sobriety and preventing relapse.

A comprehensive aftercare and treatment plan is crucial to their recovery process, and this includes continuous therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes. Regular follow-ups with healthcare providers ensure continued support and monitoring for long-term recovery.

Customized Tapering Schedule

For those who choose to taper off methadone, a personalized tapering schedule is developed based on the individual’s needs and response to dose reductions. This process can take several weeks to months, with gradual dose reductions to minimize methadone withdrawal symptoms.

During this period, patients may experience mild withdrawal symptoms which are as follows:

  • Irritability

  • Minor cravings

  • Slight insomnia

However, if the tapering was conducted quickly, severe withdrawal symptoms similar to acute detox may occur. Therefore, a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan is necessary during this phase.

Risk Management During Medical Detox

The implementation of coping strategies and relapse prevention techniques to maintain sobriety are critical while undergoing detox from methadone. Healthcare providers should observe for any co-occurring mental health issues and be address these concerns with appropriate interventions to ensure successful recovery.

Is Methadone Maintenance Treatment Safe for Pregnant Women?

Yes, methadone maintenance treatment is safe for pregnant women. It is the most widely used approach for managing opioid dependence during pregnancy. Methadone treatment during pregnancy has several benefits, such as:

  • Minimized risks of fetal exposure to cycles of intoxication and withdrawal from illicit opioid use

  • Improved obstetric care

  • Lower rates of HIV infection

  • Reduced risks of pre-eclampsia

However, precautions should be observed during the process to ensure the health of pregnant women and their babies and avoid instances of premature birth. These measures include the regular monitoring and careful titration of methadone doses, for the dosage may require adjustment as the pregnancy progresses. Additionally, insufficient methadone dosing can lead to fetal stress, and the mother may relapse into high-risk substance use.

Moreover, the risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) should be considered, as it can affect newborns exposed to methadone use in utero. NAS manifests within days after birth and may require pharmacological intervention.

How Long Will Methadone Stay in My System?

Methadone can stay in your system for up to two weeks after your last dose. However, this can vary based on factors like metabolism and dosage. Methadone misuse can often lead to opioid addiction because of its addictive nature and potential for drug abuse.

Methadone can be detected in urine for up to 7-10 days and in hair follicle tests for up to 90 days. Unlike heroin and morphine, methadone is a long-acting opioid, which means it can stay in the body longer. As a result, it is deemed effective for managing opioid use disorder by preventing symptoms during the withdrawal process. However, misusing methadone, such as taking higher doses than prescribed, can lead to addiction because it activates opioid receptors in the brain.

When used appropriately and as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, including counseling and behavioral therapies, methadone can be a valuable tool in opioid addiction recovery. Working closely with healthcare providers to determine the right dose and treatment plan is crucial, as abruptly stopping methadone can lead to withdrawal symptoms and increase the risk of relapse.

Is it Possible to Taper Off?

Yes, tapering off methadone is safe and possible. This process is done through the gradual reduction of the dosage over several days or weeks and under medical supervision. The use of a personalized methadone treatment plan helps the body adjust to low levels of methadone. This approach reduces the severity of the symptoms during the withdrawal process, such as irritability, muscle pains, nausea, and drug cravings.

Healthcare professionals can help minimize the symptoms experienced during the withdrawal process and support the long-term recovery of patients undergoing detox from methadone. Tapering off methadone is a common practice in several methadone treatment programs as it helps ensure a successful transition away from chronic opioid use and dependency.

What are the Risks?

Understanding the risks associated with methadone misuse and the withdrawal process can help ensure the individual has a safe and healthy journey toward long-term recovery from substance use disorder. Methadone can lead to chronic opioid use and dependency, especially if used in higher doses or for longer durations than prescribed.

Stopping methadone suddenly, or quitting "cold turkey," can result in severe withdrawal symptoms, such as muscle pains, nausea, and drug cravings. As a result, stopping methadone/cold turkey can make it challenging to quit without proper medical guidance.

Additionally, individuals with a history of substance use disorder are at a higher risk of experiencing these uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. It's crucial for those considering stopping methadone to seek medical advice and develop a tapering plan to safely manage withdrawal and reduce the risk of relapse.

Can Methadone Addiction Co-occur With Another Mental Health Problem?

Methadone addiction can often co-occur with other mental health problems. This is a situation known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. Individuals with methadone addiction may also struggle with conditions such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

These co-occurring disorders can complicate treatment and recovery because they often interact with and exacerbate each other. Other co-occurring mental health issues are as follows:

For individuals with methadone addiction and co-occurring mental health issues, it’s important that they receive integrated treatment that addresses both conditions simultaneously. This approach helps improve the outcomes and reduces the risk of relapse. Healthcare professionals can develop personalized treatment that includes therapy, support from peers and family members, and management of other medications to address both addiction and mental health concerns.

How Can NUMA Help?

NUMA Recovery Centers is dedicated to providing the treatment programs necessary for individuals experiencing methadone addiction. We have a network of experienced healthcare professionals who can develop personalized treatment programs for individuals experiencing withdrawal symptoms from methadone misuse.

Moreover, NUMA Recovery Centers has an abundant repository of information in our Blog Section. We have plenty of material that has everything you need to understand about detoxing and withdrawal symptoms from chronic opioid use and substance abuse.

If you or a loved one is struggling with methadone addiction or any type of drug abuse and needs help, we are always here to provide the support and guidance you need. Visit NUMA Recovery Centers today to find out how you can benefit from our expertise and experience on treating opioid addiction. Start your journey towards recovery with us.

Start Recovery Here.
Call (323) 970-9379
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adam zagha of numa detox and rehab in los angeles
Adam Zagha
Adam Zagha is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles with over a decade of experience in addiction treatment and recovery. He holds a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology and is certified in EMDR therapy, CBT, DBT, and ACT. Prior to Numa Recovery Centers, Adam was CFO and the Director of Clinical Outreach at Transcend Recovery Community. Adam is committed to providing top-quality care to individuals seeking treatment for addiction and mental health issues. He also provides trainings and workshops on addiction, mental health, and mindfulness.
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Numa Recovery Centers is a leading drug and alcohol detox and rehab company based in Los Angeles, providing evidence-based treatment for substance abuse and addiction. With a team of experienced professionals, Numa offers a comprehensive range of personalized services to help clients overcome addiction and achieve long-term recovery.
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    Numa Recovery Centers is a comprehensive drug and alcohol detox and rehab facility in Los Angeles, California dedicated to helping individuals overcome addiction and achieve lasting recovery. Our team of experienced professionals provides individualized care and support to address the physical, emotional, and psychological needs of those struggling with substance abuse.


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