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Methadone Addiction Withdrawal and Detoxification

Even though methadone is a drug of choice to treat certain addictions, its addictive potential is the biggest drawback associated with its use. Negligence in its use may end up with user replacing one addiction with another. Once the addiction has been developed, proper detoxification program is needed to help the patient recover. Withdrawal symptoms start to appear as soon as the drug is quit that can be highly unpleasant. These symptoms may be similar to that of other opioids but usually less in intensity.  However, some users may go through more intense symptoms than the others.

Methadone Addiction Withdrawal and Detoxification

Table of Contents:

  • Withdrawal symptoms for methadone
  • Detoxification process for methadone
  • Withdrawal timeline for methadone
  • Is it possible to die of methadone withdrawal?
  • Medications used to ease methadone withdrawal

Withdrawal Symptoms for Methadone:

Methadone withdrawal symptoms start to appear within a few hours of quitting the drug and can prove to be highly uncomfortable. Some of the common symptoms associated with methadone withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Laziness
  • Flu like symptoms such as teary eyes and runny nose
  • Body aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea

Along with these symptoms, excessive cravings start to kick in forcing the user to go back to drug.

Detoxification Process for Methadone:

Detoxification is a natural process by which body gets rid of harmful chemicals accumulated due to years of abuse. It starts as soon as the methadone abuse is quit. Detoxification process can be dangerous because body uses all the possible means to remove toxins such as vomiting, diarrhea and excessive sweating. It is highly recommended to go through detoxification process in a specifically designed facility to ensure a quick and safe recovery. Also, an expert can devise a proper recovery plan for methadone detoxification. Usually, the process of getting of methadone is gradual and the patient is given a few milligrams of drug every day. The amount is reduced with time and eventually, it is completely withdrawn. The gradual withdrawal can help to decrease the intensity of withdrawal symptoms making the process less painful for the patient. It also greatly increases the chance for recovery.

In some cases, the patient may be given Buprenorphine/Suboxone during withdrawal. The process becomes easier with the help of Suboxone. With Suboxone therapy, there is a greater likelihood of recovery and less likelihood of failure. Also, it a safer process since there is no risk of overdosing on methadone.

Withdrawal Timeline for Methadone:

The symptoms of methadone withdrawal start to appear within a few hours and reach to their peak values within a few days before they finally start to wean off. Here is a withdrawal timeline for methadone addiction:

  • First 24 hours:
    Symptoms start to appear within the first 24 hours when the drug is quit. At this point, physical symptoms are more dominant such as rapid heartbeat, body aches, fever etc.
  • Days 2 to 10:
    Withdrawal symptoms start to become more severe and reach to their peak value within the first week. Carvings also start to kick in and the user feels extreme need to take the drug. Psychological withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, hallucination and paranoia also start to appear. The patient feels anxious and irritated. These symptoms start to become better after the first week.
  • Days 11 to 21:
    By this time, most of the physical symptoms start to disappear. However, psychological symptoms may still persist. More extreme symptoms like depression and extreme drug cravings also start to kick in. depression can greatly affect the ability of the user to perform his day to day task.
  • Day 22 and further:
    All the symptoms disappear by this time in most of the cases. However, some mild symptoms may persist. Psychological symptoms like depression can stay for a number of weeks as the body learns to function without the drug. If psychological symptoms do not get better, it is important to seek help.

Is it Possible to Die of Methadone Withdrawal?

Although, withdrawal from other opioids does not prove to be fatal but methadone is an exception. The reason is the damaged caused to the body by the long term use of methadone. Methadone can induce serious respiratory and heart problems that can be deadly.

This is the reason a supervised medical detox is recommended. There are a number of detox centers that can be helpful in this regard. The patient may need constant care throughout the process.

Medications Used to Ease Methadone Withdrawal:

There are a number of medications that can be taken during methadone withdrawal to ease the symptoms such as:

  • Buprenorphine: It is another synthetic opioid that can make the process of methadone withdrawal easier by reducing the cravings.
  • Clonidine: Clonidine can be immensely helpful to decrease withdrawal symptoms associated with methadone. Symptoms like anxiety and irritation become better with its use.
  • Naltrexone: Once the patient has recovered, naltrexone can help the patient avoid a relapse.

Other than these, a number of OTC drugs are used to treat other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, body aches etc. A medically aided detoxification process greatly increases the chances of recovery by making the process less painful for the patient. It is highly recommended to seek a medically aided and supervised detox program at a detox center if a loved one is battling methadone addiction.


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