What Is Methadone Detox?
Methadone is a synthetic, long-acting Opioid, commonly used to reduce symptoms of withdrawal in Opioid-dependent individuals. In all but three states, Methadone is available in federally-approved medication-assisted treatment programs in the form of Dolophine® tablets or Methadose® oral concentrate liquids. Yet, despite its status as a Schedule II controlled substance and limited access to the drug, Methadone is the primary drug of abuse for some with an Opioid addiction. If not properly prescribed, Methadone can be physically addictive and Methadone detox may be required.
The main goals of Methadone detox are to:
- Free the body of Opioid withdrawal symptoms, including cravings
- Restore an individual to health
- Give the ability to avoid triggers
- Recognize addiction and motivate a lifestyle change
Following record high rates of Opioid abuse in the US, prescription and illicit Methadone diversion rates similarly increased. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Methadone was one of the top 3 prescription Opioids involved in overdose deaths in 2016 alongside Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. This is due in large part to the populations that are prescribed Methadone: individuals in recovery who may already have a high risk of relapse. Furthermore, Methadone can lower an individual’s tolerance to Opioids, meaning relapsing carries a greater risk of fatal overdose.
How Do I Know If I Need Methadone Detox?
Methadone detox is recommended for people who abuse Methadone illicitly and for individuals who exhibit symptoms of overmedication while on a Methadone prescription. Signs you’re Methadone dosage may be too high include:
- Flushed skin
- Itching or scratching
- Listless mental status
- Nodding off
- Pinpoint pupils
- Reduced heart beat and breathing
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As an Opioid, withdrawal symptoms from Methadone can be extremely difficult to bear but are not typically as harsh as symptoms of Heroin withdrawal. Due to potentially fatal complications caused by withdrawal (such as vomiting and diarrhea), medically-supervised detox is recommended for addiction sufferers.
Symptoms of Methadone withdrawal include:
- Anxiety or depression
- Aching muscles and joints
- Drug cravings
- Hot or cold flashes
Methadone Withdrawal Timeline
As opposed to short-acting Opioids like Heroin where withdrawal can set in after a few hours, the onset of Methadone withdrawal symptoms usually begins within 24 to 36 hours after the last dose. Symptoms vary from person to person but generally last between 2 to 3 weeks. However, some may experience withdrawal symptoms up to 6 months following detox. Individuals in withdrawal describe the feeling as a severe case of the flu, with symptoms peaking after about 3 days.
Below is an outline of symptoms commonly associated with each phase of Methadone withdrawal.
30 hours – 2 days
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Yawning frequently
3 – 5 days
- Abdominal cramps
- Drug cravings
- “Goose” flesh
- Muscle aches and pains
- Severe nausea
1 – 2 weeks
- Low energy levels
Once an individual completes Methadone detox, it’s vitally important he or she does not return to Opioid use. People in recovery are particularly vulnerable to fatal overdose because their drug tolerance has been reduced.
What Alternatives Are There to Methadone as an Addiction Treatment Medication?
For people who are hesitant to take Methadone as an Opioid treatment medication, there are a few alternatives. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) and LAAM (L-alpha-acetyl-methadol) as Opioid addiction treatment medications. However, both medicines can be addictive and require working with a doctor to determine the right prescription dosage for you. Buprenorphine is an Opioid that reduces pain and produces euphoric effects (though these effects have a “ceiling” much lower than other Opioids). LAAM is a synthetic Opioid similar to Methadone but deemed safer by the FDA.
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Finding Detox Support for Methadone Addiction
Methadone can be an effective treatment for those recovering from an Opioid addiction. Studies have shown that medication-assisted treatment programs provide a more tailored rehabilitation plan that improves the individual’s odds of recovery and should be used in conjunction with counseling and social services (such as employment or family support). By following a medication-assisted treatment plan, people may be more likely to maintain employment, avoid crime and violence, and reduce their risk of Hepatitis and HIV exposure.
If you need more information about Methadone detox, contact a recovery specialist today.
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