Maybe you’ve been on MAT with methadone after treatment for heroin addiction, or maybe methadone was your drug of choice. Either way, you want off this drug and may wonder, “how long does methadone withdrawal last?”
Methadone is an opioid that is mostly used in medication assisted treatment (MAT) programs. These are drugs that replace heroin or other opioids. Methadone is prescribed for a minimum of one year, although some people may remain on the drug for years.
Even though you have replaced heroin with methadone, the problem is that you become dependent on this drug as well. At some point, you may decide to attempt total sobriety, or to replace methadone with another drug.
When the time comes that you wish to stop the MAT program and quit methadone you will need expert support. How long methadone withdrawal lasts, and how severe the symptoms will be, is unique to each person. Keep reading to learn more about methadone and going through methadone withdrawal.
What is Methadone?
Methadone is a synthetic opioid that is prescribed for people in recovery from a heroin or opioid use disorder. Methadone is a Schedule II controlled substance, requiring that maintenance therapy be tightly regulated. Methadone is dispensed from clinics using strict controls in order to reduce the risk of misuse.
As a drug that will replace the heroin, methadone satisfies the brain’s reliance on an opioid. It therefore thwarts withdrawal symptoms as the body adjusts to it. Unlike other opioids, methadone does not produce a euphoric effect. The treatment goal is that, over time, the person no longer exhibits drug-seeking behavior. This allows them to be more stable in recovery.
What is MAT?
Heroin addiction treatment now involves MAT. The treatment provides opioid antagonists and agonists to help control cravings and slowly reduce the desire for the drug. These drugs are prescribed for the purpose of helping someone in recovery have a better shot at a successful recovery. In most cases, the drugs are prescribed for a limited time, such as 3-12 months, before starting a taper. However, in some cases long-term use of these drugs is warranted.
MAT is always closely monitored, as these drugs themselves are prone to abuse. Some people may begin to use them illicitly. They may crush the drug and snort it or liquefy the drug and inject it. These drugs are always prescribed as one part of an aftercare program. It should include outpatient therapy and support groups.
Methadone is the most strictly controlled drug of all the MAT options. By replacing heroin, it tricks the brain into thinking it is getting the heroin. Methadone is only to be obtained through a special clinic.
Long-Term Effects of Methadone
While methadone is used for at least a one-year period, there are risks involved with long-term use of methadone. Some of the adverse events that can occur when this drug is used for a protracted time period may include:
- Becoming dependent or addicted to methadone.
- Damage to sexual function.
- Lasting changes in menstrual cycles of women.
- Memory impairment.
- Cognitive changes.
- Lung damage.
- Problems related to neglect of personal hygiene, such as tooth decay.
What to Expect in Methadone Detox and Withdrawal?
When you decide to stop taking daily methadone and wish to achieve total sobriety it is important to have medical support. Withdrawal symptoms may be anywhere from mild to severe.
There are some factors that will influence how severe the methadone withdrawal symptoms will be. These include:
- How long you have been on methadone.
- Your age.
- The dose of methadone you were on.
Before stopping this drug you will need a tapering plan in place. This allows you to slowly adjust to lower and lower doses of methadone. By doing a taper you greatly reduce cravings, the pain of the symptoms, as well as the risk of relapse.
The onset of withdrawal symptoms is slower than with other drugs. This is due to the long half-life of this drug. It means that the symptoms emerge later and last longer. During detox a doctor provides meds for the symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea, high blood pressure, pain, and anxiety.
The detox process will progress in three stages:
Stage 1. The withdrawal symptoms start off mild. Expect to feel light flu-like symptoms, such as chills, fever, or muscle aches. It is common to feel a little fuzzy headed on the first day, as well as having excess yawning. Anxiety is also present in many people.
Stage 2. During this stage, days 2-3 of detox, the symptoms become more intense. The flu-like symptoms will become more pronounced, along with irritability and insomnia. There are strong drug cravings present during this phase of withdrawal. Many have psychological symptoms like hallucinations and paranoia.
Stage 3. The final stage, days 4-10 of detox, sees the symptoms starting to subside. When wondering how long does methadone withdrawal last, most symptoms will resolve by day 7, but those with a longer history of methadone use or higher doses take longer. During this stage, depression is quite common, as are cravings.
During stages 2 and 3 of detox there is a high risk of relapse. Without expert support, the symptoms and cravings can overpower your desire for sobriety and you just give up. This is why it is so important to have detox support throughout the process.
For some people, the methadone addiction is due to misuse and not the effects of a MAT program. If so, you will follow up the detox phase with a treatment program. Treatment will involve a multi-pronged approach of many types of therapy, classes, and 12-step programming.
How long methadone withdrawal lasts depends on several factors. Knowing what to expect during detox can help you get in the right frame of mind before starting the withdrawal process.
Bodhi Addiction Provides Safe Methadone Detox Services
Bodhi Addiction Treatment offers on-site medical detox support for those wishing to stop the methadone MAT program. At Bodhi we strive to provide the utmost in comfort as you progress through the detox process. If you have questions about methadone detox, please give our team a call today at (877) 328-1968.