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Methadone Detox: How Long Does It Take?

Methadone is a unique drug in that while it can help with the recovery process from certain addictions, it is also a powerful enough substance that it can lead to addiction as well. Unfortunately, for those who get addicted to methadone, getting off of it can be a real challenge. The time it takes to withdraw and detox off of methadone can be a lengthy one as well as an uncomfortable and unpleasant one as well. The good news is, there are safe ways to go about doing it.

Let’s take a look at what methadone is, how people get addicted to it, and the methadone detox process.


What Is Methadone?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid that is traditionally prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. As mentioned in the intro, it is also commonly used to help in treating certain opiate addictions such as heroin.

Similar to other opioids, methadone attaches itself to the opioid receptors in the central nervous system. As a result, it can be highly addictive, and people using methadone can easily become dependent on the drug, even if they are using it as prescribed.

Methadone is considered a Schedule II drug, which is the same level as other opioids such as morphine and hydrocodone.


How Do People Become Addicted to Methadone?

There are two common ways in which someone can become addicted to methadone.

The first occurs when someone is prescribed methadone by a doctor for pain management. Since it is a powerful opioid, the body can quickly build up a dependence on the substance. This can result in the body needing more and more methadone to not only reach its desired effect but even just to function properly. When this happens, the body has developed an addiction to the substance.

Another common way in which someone becomes addicted to methadone is during treatment for another substance addiction. Methadone is used to treat those suffering from other extreme opioid addictions such as heroin. However, for someone who already finds themselves suffering from addiction, the chances that a methadone dependency and addiction develop are significantly higher. Since it curbs cravings and helps reduce the negative side effects associated with opioid withdrawal, the body can become dependent on it. As a result, the body thinks that it needs methadone in order to feel like it can function properly.


What Are the Signs of Methadone Addiction and Withdrawal?

When someone finds themselves addicted to methadone, the signs and symptoms are very similar to that of other opioids such as heroin or morphine. Unlike these other opioids, though, methadone tends to stay in the body longer. This makes the symptoms associated with methadone addiction and withdrawal more severe.

When someone who is addicted to methadone begins to withdrawal from the substance, they can expect to experience any of the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach issues
  • Sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Diarrhea
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Cravings

If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult with a medical professional. You will likely need to enter into a medically-supervised detox program in order to safely detox and withdraw from the methadone.


How Long Does It Take To Get Off Methadone?

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Because of the nature of methadone, the entire withdrawal and detox process can take significantly longer than with other opioids and other addictive substances. Symptoms can begin within the first 24 hours after you used methadone last, and the entire withdrawal process can last up to several weeks, depending on the severity of the addiction. Here is a breakdown of what you can expect during the first few weeks of the methadone withdrawal timeline:

Days 1 and 2

With the initial withdrawal symptoms not typically showing up for at least 24 hours after the last dose is taken, the first two days tend to be pretty normal. During the first two days, you may begin to experience the following symptoms:

  • Muscle aches
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Chills

Days 3 through 8

It’s during this time period when the methadone withdrawal symptoms will typically hit their peak. Depending on the severity of the addiction, the symptoms can be anywhere from relatively mild to extreme. This is also the time period when cravings will be the strongest. In addition to the symptoms that you might have begun feeling during the first two days, additional symptoms that you may experience during days 3 through 8 include:

  • Anxiety
  • Body aches
  • Nausea
  • Irritability,
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Flu-like physical symptoms

Days 9 through 15

Once you have hit day 9, you will likely notice that some of the symptoms have begun to subside. However, that doesn’t mean that you are in the clear yet. During this time, you will likely still experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Strong cravings
  • Physical discomfort
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression

Days 15 and On

Symptoms such as strong cravings, low energy levels, and trouble sleeping can persist for weeks after you have stopped taking methadone. In addition, in the weeks and months after stopping taking methadone, many people have reported experiencing post-acute withdrawal symptoms, otherwise known as PAWS. Those experiencing PAWS may continue to do so for months or even years after they have stopped taking methadone.

Some common symptoms associated with post-acute withdrawal include:

  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Poor concentration
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
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What Is the Best Way To Undergo Methadone Detox?

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Many people struggle when it comes to getting off methadone for a couple of reasons. They might be afraid of the symptoms that will come along with withdrawal. They might have even made an attempt to detox at home, and the side effects were so bad they decided to just continue using. If you’re someone who has attempted to get off of methadone and has struggled, the best and safest way to withdraw from methadone is by detoxing under the care and supervision of trained medical professionals.

Methadone detox can be done at several facilities. These include a medical facility such as a hospital, a dedicated detox center, or even a treatment facility that also provides detox services, such as Chapel Hill Medical Detox. Attempting to self-detox at home can be incredibly dangerous and even life-threatening. It can also increase the likelihood of a relapse.

One of the biggest benefits of undergoing a medical detox is the around-the-clock medical care and supervision. Because you have trained medical professionals constantly checking on you, they can make the entire withdrawal and detox process as painless and comfortable as possible. They will also make sure that you are slowly weaned off the methadone as opposed to just quitting cold-turkey.

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What Are My Treatment Options Once I Detox from Methadone?

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After you have successfully detoxed off of methadone, the next step is to undergo treatment for your addiction. The two most common types of treatment for methadone addiction are inpatient and outpatient treatment.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is ideal for those suffering from moderate to severe methadone addiction. Since participating in an inpatient treatment program means you live at the facility during the duration of your treatment, you have access to around-the-clock medical care and treatment. You’ll also have a variety of therapy programs including individual and group therapy, as well as many other valuable programs such as life skills training and access to aftercare programs as well.

Outpatient Treatment

For those who are suffering from a minor methadone addiction or for whatever reason can’t commit to living at the treatment facility, there is outpatient treatment. There are many different options when it comes to outpatient treatment. These include partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment, and standard outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment provides many of the same services that inpatient treatment does such as therapy sessions. The biggest difference is that you come to the facility during the day for treatment and then return home at the end of each day when your daily activities have been completed.

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Are You In Need of Methadone Detox?

Whether you became addicted to methadone through recreational use, a prescription, or even being given it to help with another opioid addiction, it’s important to know that you are not alone.

Getting off of methadone can make for a scary and uncomfortable time. That’s why at Chapel Hill Medical Detox, we provide a variety of treatment programs and services in order to make the entire withdrawal, detox, and treatment process as comfortable and painless as possible. We offer a variety of treatment options all aimed at getting you off methadone and getting your life back on track. We want everyone that enters our facility to go on to live a happy, healthy, and sober life.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a methadone addiction or dependency and could benefit from treatment, contact us today to learn more about the treatment options we have available, as well as our methadone detox programs.