Although methadone is used to help addicts to quit other opioids without the severe side effects, it is possible to develop an addiction to it after a period of long use. As a long-acting opioid, it doesn’t clear out of the bloodstream quickly, so the typical methadone withdrawal timeline is longer. In fact, it may run into many months for those that have been abusing methadone for a relatively long time.
If you or any of your loved ones are going through methadone dependence or addiction after long periods of using it, we know it can be unpleasant, scary, and confusing, especially when you are trying to stop. Methadone is a central nervous system acting drug and withdrawing from it by yourself is probably something you can’t handle.
However, it’s good to know that there’s help. What’s more, understanding what you or your loved one are going through and knowing others have successfully dealt with it can be comforting. This article will help comprehend what withdrawal from methadone means, how long it lasts, the symptoms that follow, and of course, how to seek help.
Methadone Withdrawal – How Long Does It Last?
Methadone is a synthetic drug under the umbrella of drugs called opioids. In clinical settings, it is administered to patients with severe pain. Methadone is also used in the management of long-existing chronic pain that has remained untreated with other pain killers.
Even though methadone is an opioid, in the class of heroin and morphine, it doesn’t produce the usual high/euphoria feeling if it is properly used. Therefore, doctors commonly adopt the drug in medication-assisted treatments to help people get through the process of quitting other opioids after developing dependence or addiction. What’s more, it also reduces the unpleasant symptoms that follow other opioid withdrawal, making the journey of quitting less uncomfortable.
Sadly, methadone users are not free from developing dependence or addiction after periods of long use. The simple reason was mentioned earlier in this article, i.e., methadone is an opioid itself. All opioids do what they know how to do best; they bind to the receptors of the brain as a mechanism of relieving pain. However, this mode of action causes the brain to get used to methadone, which leads to asking for more doses, to produce the same effect the body began with. This is where dependence starts to set in.
In 2014, more than four million people in the United States were reportedly using methadone for non-medical purposes. Furthermore, a 2017 CDC study reported an over 600% increase in the number of methadone overdose deaths.
It doesn’t even matter whether the use is prescribed by doctors or not, a person can become addicted over periods of very long usage. If you get addicted to methadone while trying to stop another opioid, it’s like trading one addiction to another. Therefore, the best way to get off methadone or other opioid is to seek medical help/supervision.
So what exactly is methadone withdrawal? Withdrawal is when a methadone user decides to abruptly disengage from using the drug. Because the body gets used to methadone or has developed dependence over time, the body will react. The reaction of the body to the drug’s unavailability is called withdrawal symptoms.
How long methadone lasts in the body varies in different persons. The following factors are the reasons people display different symptoms.
- How long has methadone usage/abuse been going on?
- What way is methadone consumed, i.e., orally, intravenously, etc?
- Simultaneous abuse of multiple addictive substances with Methadone.
- History of addiction or mental illness
- What dose of methadone is consumed daily?
Note that while methadone breakdown in a person may be influenced by only one of the factors above, for another person, the influence will come from a combination of multiple factors. For example, a person may be a long-term methadone user, high dose-consumer, and also combine methadone with other addictive substances. Altogether, a typical addict may not feel withdrawal symptoms until 24- 70 hours after the last dose.
Symptoms of Methadone Withdrawal
If you are on methadone therapy and thinking of discontinuing its use, the best option is to seek professional help. Many addicts have delayed getting help because they are afraid of going through the same not-so-good experiences they’ve heard from others.
While it’s not as horrible as some portray, still, it’s not a journey you want to walk alone. Even if you don’t have a prior addiction to other opioids like heroin or morphine, quitting methadone after developing dependence can be equally frustrating and uncomfortable.
The symptoms you will likely experience depend on a number of factors earlier mentioned. Some people naturally think their withdrawal symptoms will be a nightmare, but end up being mild. On the other hand, others that go into it thinking it’ll be a walk in the park experience very severe physical symptoms.
Whichever way it goes, the symptoms of methadone withdrawal often follow a similar pattern. It usually starts as mild physical reactions and gradually diverges to a more severe symptom as time progresses. The symptoms will eventually peak and start to decline. Some usual symptoms of methadone withdrawal to expect include:
- Bone and joint pains
- Severe flu-like feeling
- Heavy sweating
- Runny nose
- Uncontrollable tears
- False skin-crawling feeling
The above are acute short-term methadone withdrawal symptoms, which usually clears off within two weeks to say the least. If you are entering a supervised addiction treatment program, chances are your symptoms will be relatively milder because you may be given medications to help circumvent the most severe symptoms. What’s more, the entire methadone withdrawal journey might be shorter.
Still, it is possible for some people to experience symptoms beyond 2 weeks from the last methadone dose or detox. This scenario is common among long-term methadone abusers.
After withdrawal or detox, the brain of a long-term addict operates with relatively less presence of neurotransmitters compared to the regularly “high” state. Naturally, it will take many months for the brain to return to its normal operating state. If you happen to be in this boat, here are a few long-term methadone withdrawal symptoms to expect.
- Memory problems or difficulty in concentrating
It’s not uncommon to find recovering addicts with partial memory loss and other forms of memory challenges. The memory challenges can range from a lack of ability to remember long/short term memories to an inability to concentrate. It could also be in the form of confusing or false memories. With time, supervision, and perhaps, medication, things should likely return to normal
Long-term methadone withdrawal symptoms have been reported to manifest in some patients as an inappropriate reaction to daily engagement. Some people have little to no reaction to a raised passionate conversation, yet become agitated by the sudden drop of a glass. People suffering from these symptoms may display quick emotional breakdown, finding it challenging to maintain closeness with loved ones. What’s more, a sudden burst of anger without any provocation is also common.
- Diminished interest in sex & inability to experience pleasure from anything
Sexual dysfunction is also common with long opioid withdrawal symptoms. People may experience difficulty in being aroused or an inability to attain sexual satisfaction. The reason is usually being used to having sex under the influence of opioids. Therefore, a feeling of sex not being enough due to the absence of methadone is not uncommon.
A common symptom here is depression. This may be associated with feelings of isolation and being ashamed. Some addicts slip back into their past opioid use lifestyle, remaining under continuous supervision is necessary.
- Low energy
Low drive or zeal is also common with long-term methadone withdrawals. The usual feeling is being tired and uninterested in almost anything fun or energy-demanding.
Methadone Withdrawal Timeline
As mentioned earlier, methadone is a long-acting opioid. Meaning it has a long plasma half-life, which makes the withdrawal period relatively longer than most opioids, like morphine and heroin.
In reality, the timeline of withdrawal varies in different people. Irrespective of the condition, a typical withdrawal journey will likely follow or fall within the following timeline.
Contrary to other central nervous system-acting opioids, methadone doesn’t clear out of the bloodstream quickly. The first symptoms usually kick in as early as 20-24 hours and may not even show up until almost the third day after the last dose.
Seven to ten days after the last methadone dose, all withdrawal symptoms would have manifested. You should expect the symptoms to progress and hit their peak around day 14. This is the period of almost uncontrollable cravings. Without assisted treatment, many addicts are at risk of relapse at this stage of the methadone withdrawal timeline if there’s access to methadone or other similar opioids.
Around this stage, physical symptoms would have slightly reduced and become less hard to manage. However, the physiological symptoms of methadone withdrawal will likely remain.
At this point, the worst of the symptoms will have passed or become easier to manage. They can also fade away completely. Psychological symptoms like depression and anxiety, however, most likely will persist.
A month and over
For most people, especially short-term methadone abusers, symptoms would be likely, not present. However, for those that may have been on methadone therapy or abuse for a long time, psychological symptoms may likely still be evident and persist into many months. This is known as a post-acute withdrawal symptom.
Can I Withdraw From Methadone Alone?
If you would like to quickly overcome the physical dependence on methadone, you might have figured out by now that It’s not the best idea to initiate self-detox or an abrupt stop of methadone.
While the symptoms may not be directly lethal, it’s undoubtedly unpleasant and uncomfortable. What’s more; if you have a respiratory deficiency, ulcers, hepatic impairment, cardiac issues, or a history of mental disorder, managing methadone or any opioid withdrawal by yourself may result in serious complications.
Many addicts have displayed withdrawal symptoms they found difficult to manage, which made them surrender to relapsing. Others experience an overwhelming feeling of depression that led to suicidal thoughts.
Methadone Withdrawal Help: Find Addiction Rehabs is Here to Help You
Successful methadone withdrawal is possible, even if experience reports in relevant forums are not only encouraging. No doubt, the withdrawal is repeatedly described as lengthy and difficult with repeated (and abandoned) attempts or fleeing into other dependencies (shifts in addiction) are not uncommon.
Nevertheless, one can assume that anyone who is thinking about withdrawal from methadone usually knows why they want it—despite all bad experiences. That being said, starting methadone withdrawal should not be a spontaneous decision. This can only go wrong. But if you make a few preliminary considerations about the right time and the appropriate framework conditions, success is quite realistic.
What’s more, with an assisted detox or withdrawal management, detox and medical professionals will not only assist you with moral support, but will be available to administer medications if there’s need. They’ll come in handy for those who have previously been confronted with unpleasant side effects of methadone withdrawal. This includes the agonizing withdrawal symptoms and insomnia which sometimes lasts for days or even weeks which led many to remain dependent on the drugs.
You’ll also have the chance to be treated symptomatically. Meaning, as each withdrawal symptoms manifest during the timeline, medical professionals will treat them.
This way, there will be less chance to experience flu-like symptoms, tremors, cold, etc., all at once. Even after you are out of the woods, a treatment facility can offer you post treatment support to guide you in making better choices that doesn’t involve relapsing.
If you’re finding it hard to withdraw from methadone, there’s hope. What helps methadone withdrawal is to seek help quickly before it gets worse. The good thing is, help is within your reach.
At Find Addiction Rehabs, We have a database of treatment centers and detox facilities across the country that help patients overcome addiction. Every detox facility location is equipped to handle both diagnosis and treatment. What’s more, the facilities provide care for people with mental health disorders. For more information about addiction treatment services, don’t hesitate to call (877-579-5233).