Methadone is a long-acting synthetic opioid that is used for pain relief, and as a replacement therapy for maintenance treatment of opioid addiction. While it is generally safe when used in a stabilized dose it also has a very extreme and difficult withdrawal syndrome associated with its dependence. When an individual uses methadone regularly their body adjusts and becomes dependent on the drug to function. When the dependent person stops taking the medication abruptly they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms.
Detoxification from methadone involves managing the symptoms of withdrawal in order for the client to reach an abstinent state. Since the drug is long-acting this process takes a longer amount of time than other traditional opiates of abuse. Methadone detox generally takes about 2 weeks and the most common physical symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Runny nose
- Aches and pains
- Elevated sensitivity to pain
- Increased blood pressure
Methadone withdrawal also produces a number of mental symptoms which can include depression, prolonged insomnia, delirium, hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety, agitation, delusions, and panic. During methadone detox different individuals experience different levels of severity of both physical and mental symptoms based on a number of factors which include dosage and history of use.
Methadone detox is primarily focused on the acute phase of withdrawal, and is often used in combination with other long-term forms of treatment. These additional programs address the lingering post-acute withdrawal symptoms that can plague users for months into abstinence.
Withdrawal and Detox Services
Many opioid addicts are introduced to methadone in methadone maintenance therapy clinics. These services transition addicts from street drugs such as heroin, and other fasting-acting narcotics to a stabilized dose of methadone. In methadone maintenance therapy the addict experiences the ability to function but also forms an addiction to the medication. This means their use will lead to a complicated and difficult withdrawal in situations where they don’t slowly decrease their dosage over a long period of time.
Due to this long-term use, physiological changes occur that lessen the effect of methadone over time. The user experiences tolerance which can lead to using increased doses of the drug to avoid withdrawal. As the dose is increased the negative effects on the user’s body are increased, and the period of withdrawal is prolonged. For this reason, the acute methadone withdrawal symptoms are some of the most severe for any drug, and can last for several weeks.
The prolonged nature of methadone withdrawal and its severe symptoms mean that almost all of its addicts require detox services to quit for good. Methadone withdrawal is nearly impossible to overcome without help, and treatment is not only suggested but is generally required. This can be the case even in methadone maintenance treatment clinics where the dose is decreased over time.
Fortunately, there are a wide variety of methadone withdrawal and detox services available to get addicts through this difficult phase of recovery. With the help of the right program addicts can overcome methadone withdrawal and recover completely.