What are methadone withdrawal symptoms?
Methadone is a prescription drug used to treat severe pain. It’s also used to treat addiction to opioid drugs, such as heroin. It’s often a very helpful and effective treatment for those who need it for this purpose.
Methadone is an opioid and can be addictive. It’s possible for some people to become addicted to methadone as they use it to wean themselves off of another prescription painkiller. When you stop taking methadone after you’ve been taking it for a while, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Getting through methadone withdrawal can be a painful experience. You should discuss the risks and benefits associated with methadone treatment with your doctor. They can help you decide whether long-term therapy or discontinuation of methadone is right for you.
Timeline and methadone withdrawal symptoms
Methadone withdrawal symptoms, also sometimes referred to as methadone detox, typically start to appear approximately 24-36 hours after you last took the drug. The methadone detox process is supervised by a physician. The duration of the process varies 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 experience:
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Trouble sleeping
At first, symptoms of withdrawal may feel like the flu. But unlike with the flu, methadone withdrawal symptoms can remain severe for several days. Certain symptoms may peak after about three days. These include:
- Muscle aches and pains
- Severe nausea
- Drug cravings
Methadone withdrawal symptoms will likely be at their worst during the first week. Some symptoms can last even longer than a week. These include low energy levels, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and depression.
Methadone withdrawal symptoms can cause much discomfort, and the risk of returning to the use of other opiates can increase. Therefore, some people discuss remaining on methadone treatment but at lower doses, if tolerated. Once a person becomes stable at a lower dose, another attempt at tapering can be discussed with your doctor.
Days 1-2: Symptoms of withdrawal usually don’t begin until at least 30 hours after the user’s last dose of Methadone, and it may take even longer depending on the amount used. Physical symptoms, such as chills, fever, rapid heartbeat, and muscle aches, will begin during this time.
Days 15+: Withdrawal symptoms from methadone such as low energy levels, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and cravings typically persist for 2-3 weeks. After the 3-6 week detox process is over, many former Methadone users will experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms, or PAWS. PAWS may continue for many months, and in some cases for up to 2 years. PAWS may include irritability, anxiety, depression, the inability to feel pleasure, difficulty sleeping, and poor concentration.
Days 3-8: Over the next week or so, Methadone cravings will be strong. Users may face anxiety, body aches and pains, nausea, and insomnia, as well as irritability and anxiety. Flu-like physical symptoms will persist. Due to how long Methadone stays in the body, it often takes between 3 and 8 days for symptoms to peak. At this point, additional symptoms such as depression, vomiting, and cramps begin to appear.
Days 9-15: After withdrawal peaks, symptoms will begin to subside, although some will remain such as irritability, diarrhea, and physical discomfort. Users may still feel strong drug cravings and depression may set in. Depression can become severe and some patients may have difficulty feeling pleasure or getting motivated.
Help for methadone withdrawal symptoms
Methadone withdrawal is difficult, so it’s best not to attempt to do it on your own. Let your doctor know any troubles you are having so that they can help treat your withdrawal symptoms if they arise. Support groups can connect you with others who understand what you’re going through.
Drug treatment for methadone withdrawal symptoms
Your doctor can provide treatments to ease methadone withdrawal symptoms. These treatments make it much more likely that you’ll recover fully. Buprenorphine, naloxone, and clonidine are drugs used to shorten the withdrawal process and relieve some of the related symptoms.
Guided methadone therapy
Due to the risk of methadone misuse and overdose, methadone therapy is only available to people who are enrolled in a government-approved treatment program. A doctor monitors your methadone intake and response to make sure that the withdrawal process is safe and effective. The doctor continues the therapy until your body no longer needs methadone at all.
Group support can be crucial for long-term recovery. In some cases, you may not find a lot of support from your family because they may not be able to understand. Seeking out other recovering methadone users can help you find people who understand what you’re going through and help you stay on track with your recovery.
The importance of preventing relapse
Once you’re no longer taking methadone, it’s critical that you don’t return to previously used opiates or opioids again. People recovering from opioid misuse are at higher risk of death than the general public. For support in getting away and staying away from these drugs, Narcotics Anonymous can help.
Talk with your doctor
Opiate and opioid misuse can be life-threatening. Taking steps toward recovery is admirable and will improve your long-term health. While withdrawal from any addictive substance may be difficult, the long-term benefits far outweigh the risks.
Talk to your doctor as methadone therapy may be beneficial as you discontinue the misuse of other opioid drugs. Your doctor will keep an eye on your progress as you taper off methadone and can help ease the withdrawal process to improve your chances of recovery. They can also answer any questions you may have about addiction and withdrawal. These might include:
- Is there a medication that might help me get through withdrawal?
- Would you recommend guided methadone therapy for me?
- Where can I find a support group?
Methadone detox is safest and most efficient when completed in a drug treatment facility or hospital. Methadone users should always detox under the supervision of a doctor to ensure the patient completes detox safely and comfortably and improves their chances of a successful recovery. Most medical detoxes provide a tapering off of the drug or reduce the user’s dosage over a period of weeks. This method reduces the severity of withdrawal symptoms and is usually recommended over quitting “cold turkey.” However, tapering off the drug takes longer.
Treatment for Methadone Addiction
Drug treatment centers utilize the expertise of physicians and therapists to develop a personalized treatment plan for each patient. In almost all cases, an inpatient treatment program will give moderate to severe methadone addicts their best chance at a successful recovery. Inpatient programs, also sometimes referred to as residential, provide the patient with around-the-clock medical treatment, a variety of therapy programs, and valuable life skills training. Although each specific treatment program varies tremendously, there are thousands of options available, meaning there is a good match for every patient.
Outpatient treatment is also an option for those whose methadone addictions have been diagnosed as minor by a substance abuse professional. Outpatient treatment is also generally recommended for those who have completed an inpatient program but are still new to sobriety. There are a number of levels of outpatient care, including Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs), Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs), and Standard Outpatient Programs (OPs), so it is important that each patient gets professional assistance in determining what is the proper level of care.
Reclaim Your Life From The Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms
Methadone Addiction is a chronic disease that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from this condition with a professional and safe detox process that helps ease methadone withdrawal symptoms. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
 Kampman K, et al. (2015). American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) national practice guideline for the use of medications in the treatment of addiction involving opioid use.
 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2013). “Postmarket Drug Safety Information for Patients and Providers”. Retrieved on September 23, 2015.