Beating opioid addiction is especially challenging because of the intense drug cravings and painful withdrawal symptoms that occur when you stop taking opioids. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several medications to treat opioid use disorder, some of these medications are opioids themselves and can be physically addictive. For example, methadone (Dolophine), an opioid drug used to treat opioid dependence and addiction, can be physically addictive if used for a long period of time and habit-forming if abused.
If you or someone you love has become addicted to methadone, the first step toward recovery involves detoxification. Methadone withdrawal is similar to withdrawal from other opioids, but it can last longer because methadone is a long-acting opioid. Understanding what happens during the methadone withdrawal timeline and how a medical detox center can help will prepare you for starting your recovery journey.
Symptoms of Methadone Withdrawal
Although methadone is used to treat symptoms of opioid withdrawal, long-term methadone use can lead to physical dependence which results in withdrawal symptoms upon sudden cessation. People can also abuse and get addicted to methadone, causing them to experience withdrawal if they suddenly stop taking the drug.
Methadone is a Schedule II controlled substance because it has a significant potential for abuse and physical dependence. In high doses, it can also lead to overdose. In 2017, 3,194 drug overdose deaths were attributed to methadone abuse.
Methadone withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Abdominal cramps
- Body aches
- Muscle and joint pain
Methadone withdrawal is generally not life-threatening, however, relapse, dehydration, and other complications are possible. As a result, it’s always best to detox from methadone and any other opioid while under medical supervision.
How Long Does Methadone Withdrawal Last?
Methadone is a long-acting opioid that has a long half-life, so symptoms of withdrawal may take 1-2 days to develop. Symptoms are usually at their most severe between days 3 and 8 and begin to lessen in severity after 9 days. After 10-14 days, most acute symptoms will subside, but some people may experience lingering symptoms of withdrawal such as irritability, sleep disturbances, and cravings.
Factors that Impact the Methadone Withdrawal Timeline
While most people experience a similar set of symptoms, the duration of withdrawal may vary from one person to the next. How long methadone withdrawal lasts varies based on unique factors such as:
- How long you’ve been taking methadone
- How often you take methadone
- What dose you regularly take
- Your age, weight, and sex
- Overall health and metabolism
- Whether or not you used methadone with other drugs
Taking methadone more often, in higher doses, or for extended periods of time can lead to longer-lasting and more severe withdrawal symptoms.
Methadone Withdrawal Timeline: What to Expect
While personal experiences may vary, a general timeline for methadone withdrawal is as follows:
Symptoms begin 30+ hours after taking the last dose and may include chills, muscle aches, and anxiety.
Symptoms peak between days 3-8 and may be very intense. Cravings will be strong as well as body aches, anxiety, flu-like symptoms, and gastrointestinal upset.
Symptoms usually subside during this type but may still produce irritability, discomfort, poor appetite, depression, and more. Symptoms may also come and go.
Most acute withdrawal symptoms will subside but some symptoms, such as low energy levels, difficulty sleeping, cravings, and mood changes may linger for several weeks or months.
Detox & Tips for Coping With Methadone Withdrawal
Detoxing under medical supervision is the safest and most effective way to start your recovery. Drug detox centers can slowly reduce your methadone dose to taper you off of the drug and avoid intense withdrawal symptoms. Tapering occurs over a period of days or weeks and some mild withdrawal symptoms may appear on the days that the dose is lowered. This approach is usually preferred over the “cold-turkey” method. Doctors can also prescribe symptom-specific medication to alleviate symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, or body aches.
During detox, there are several self-care practices you can take advantage of that may help soothe your symptoms. For example:
- Drinking plenty of water and stay hydrated
- Eating a balanced, nutritious diet, staying away from too much sugar and processed foods
- Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or yoga
- Talking about your difficulties and your emotions with your support group
- Getting plenty of quality sleep
- Staying busy and keeping your mind occupied by doing things like reading, watching a movie, or journaling
- Engaging in light exercises such as walking, swimming, stretching, or yoga
Rehab & Treatment Options for Methadone Addiction
After detoxing, it’s important to attend an addiction treatment program that can help you embrace a sober lifestyle. Drug and alcohol rehab centers combine behavioral therapy, counseling, and peer support to help individuals overcome their addictions. Treatment options for methadone may include:
- Inpatient rehab
- Day treatment
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
- Outpatient program (OP)
Find Help Today
If you or a loved one are struggling with methadone dependence or addiction, know that there is help available. At Woburn Wellness, we work with some of the most highly-rated drug and alcohol detox centers in Massachusetts. Our qualified admissions counselors can verify your insurance coverage, get you admitted to a detox center, and make a plan for you to transition to one of our outpatient substance abuse treatment programs when you’re done detoxing.
All calls are risk-free and confidential. A team member is available now to help you get started. Call today to begin your journey toward a life beyond addiction.