Drug dependence and addiction is a serious issue. Handling it should be quick and done the right way. Many users that don’t get the proper care often suffer a relapse. Naturally, users increase their opioid dose to maintain or increase the high feeling they desire. Sometimes, this could lead to drug overdose, which is the cause of nearly 71,000 deaths in the United States during 2019, according to the Center for Disease Control.
If you or a loved one is dependent on methadone, we want to let you know that there’s hope. While it can be scary, unpleasant, and even confusing, many have weathered the storm and come out on the other side with the right help in their corner.
On that note, this article is here to help. You’ll understand more about methadone, including its uses, withdrawal symptoms, withdrawal length, and how to get help from a methadone addiction treatment center.
Methadone is a synthetic drug that acts through the opiate receptors and central nervous system. Like other drugs in the same class, methadone belongs to the drug group known as opioids or narcotics and can be administered orally or through injection.
Methadone came into the world of medicine during world war two at the hands of genius German doctors when morphine, a similar opioid, became short in supply. It entered the United States around 1947 as a painkiller. Unfortunately, over time, its abuse has increased.
To curb its abuse, manufacturers of methadone have restricted its sale and distribution to medical facilities and centers for addiction treatment. However, these restrictions have led to a demand for the drug on the streets.
Methadone’s common street names include chocolate chip cookies, Amidone, and Fizzies.
In the United States and many countries worldwide, methadone is a Schedule-II drug, classed as a controlled substance. Therefore, it’s illegal to sell and purchase methadone outside medical use.
Methadone works mainly through two mechanisms: On the one hand, methadone, as a synthetic opioid agonist, produces morphine-like effects that suppress withdrawal symptoms in opioid-dependent people. Second, long-term substitution therapy with methadone can induce tolerance, which dampens the euphoric effect of parenterally used opiates. At the same time, the occupation of the opioid receptors alleviates the craving for heroin.
As with all other opioids, other symptoms include;
It’s also worth noting that the effect of insensitivity to pain might disappear with the development of tolerance.
As a pain reliever: As mentioned earlier, methadone came into the United States as an analgesic or pain-reliever. Doctors prescribe it to patients suffering from pain that defies the action of conventional pain killers. This is because methadone has a sedating effect. The drug changes the way the brain reacts to pain, producing relief for the user. Therefore, doctors administer it to patients with severe pain from surgery, injury, or disease-related pain.
However, the pain-relieving effect also reduces drive and has an influence on sleep behavior, reducing the dream and deep sleep phases.
Medication-assisted treatment: Methadone might be an opioid, like morphine and heroin; however, it doesn’t produce the same high-feeling or euphoria the other opioids offer. Therefore, physicians and detox health professionals adopt it to help people get through the unpleasant process of quitting addiction or dependence on other opioids or narcotics. Furthermore, it is particularly suited for medication-assisted treatment because it can alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms that users feel when they decide to quit.
Methadone, like all opioids, delivers its pain-relieving action by binding to the opiate receptors of the brain. This mechanism of action causes the body to naturally get used to the presence of methadone in the bloodstream and brain. Over time, the brain asks for more methadone doses as the effect derived from the initial dose reduces over time.
Dependence simply means that a methadone user’s body has become “rewired” to function “well” only in the presence of methadone. It doesn’t matter whether methadone was obtained illegally or through doctors’ prescription; it is still totally possible for a user to become dependent if methadone is being used for a long period.
Once a person that has developed a dependence on methadone decides to quit abruptly without any supervision of a medical professional, the body will react since it has gotten used to functioning with methadone over time. Uncomfortable or unpleasant symptoms begin to develop when the body starts to experience the drug’s unavailability. These unpleasant symptoms are referred to as withdrawal symptoms
Detox using methadone: Using methadone as detox is what is referred to as medical medication-assisted treatment. In many methadone detox centers, it is administered in a supervised manner.
Since methadone doesn’t cause the same high feeling an addict used to derive from the other opioids, he or she can successfully detox without serious withdrawal symptoms since the bloodstream is not now left with the presence of a less euphoria-producing opioid.
Detoxing from methadone: Sadly, using methadone in detoxing from another opioid doesn’t come without risks. While there are high success rates in detoxing using methadone, a patient can also develop a methadone dependence. If this scenario happens, it means that the person needs to detox from methadone itself.
It’s totally understandable if a patient needs to know how long it takes to detox from methadone. Many people have hinted about the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that accompany quitting opioids. That’s because they try to detox on their own. Trust me, it’s not a pretty journey, especially if you or a loved one has been taking methadone for a long time or even combining it with other opioids.
However, with the presence of a detox professional to help a patient manage the symptoms and wean them off slowly, the journey can be bearable. Overall, methadone detox can last up to several weeks. The simple reason is that methadone is a long-acting opioid, i.e., it stays in the bloodstream for a relatively long period.
As mentioned earlier, methadone is a long-acting opioid and may behave differently from other similar opioids. Still, its withdrawal timeline is similar to other opioids. Meaning, symptoms start, peak, and gradually fade. So, here’s what a typical methadone withdrawal timeline looks like.
Since methadone acts slowly, a user will likely not notice any symptoms within 24-48 hours after the last dose. They’ll probably start experiencing the first symptoms at the end of the second day or third day. Symptoms at this stage include rapid heartbeat, chills, muscle cramps, etc.
The symptoms will gradually increase into day four and get worse gradually. By the 10th to the 14th day, all the symptoms would have manifested and hit their peak. During this period, in addition to the already manifested symptoms, insomnia, vomiting, depression, flu-like feeling, body aches, anxiety would have set in. This period is when the cravings become highest, and many addicts are at risk of slipping back.
Some of the symptoms would have started subsiding during this timeline. However, the withdrawal process at this stage might not be totally over. Symptoms like depression, anxiety, etc., may still persist.
A short-term methadone user probably won’t experience any withdrawal symptoms at this point. However, post-acute withdrawal symptoms have been reported in addicts that have abused methadone for very long periods. In this case, symptoms may include diminished sexual interest, depression, low drive or zeal, agitation, etc.
The withdrawal symptoms experienced during the above timeline are usually classed under physical and psychological symptoms. Below is a more comprehensive list of symptoms at a glance.
If an addiction to methadone is moderate to severe, it might not be advisable to self-detox. There are in-patient treatment options that will provide the best care for the recovery process. Below is typically what to expect from a methadone detox facility or detox process.
Usually, this involves registering into a facility for the entire period of detox. A doctor or medical professional will evaluate the patient and determine if they need a detox. Tests will likely be carried out through breath, blood, or urine samples. Existing medical records and mental health will also be evaluated. The doctor will also discuss the patient’s needs and how they’ll be slowly weaned off methadone.
Depending on the outcome of the evaluation, the patient might require a customized methadone detox plan. This may include, administration of drugs to manage the manifesting symptoms, behavioral therapy, etc. If they’ve been on methadone for years, a customized methadone detox plan may be one of the best options.
The stabilization usually takes a chunk of the detox process. It involves introducing the patient to the detox protocol. Medical stabilization may be needed if withdrawal symptoms are extremely severe. Injections may be administered as symptoms manifest. This will continue until the patient is stable and not displaying any methadone-craving behavior.
Well, some people may not want a post-detox service. However, it’s highly recommended. It can be in the form of an in-patient or outpatient arrangement. It involves programs and support groups that help patients from relapsing to the old drug-using habit. Some detox centers automatically incorporate post-detox recovery programs into their detox process to help patients transition effectively.
Whether you or a loved one is self detoxing or detoxing at a dedicated detox facility, depending on your dependency or addiction level, a patient should expect to have mild to moderate or severe withdrawal symptoms, which will typically manifest slowly, peak, and subside.
If a patient is detoxing at a facility, expect all-around care from medical professionals. They will assist with any medical assistance, behavioral and physical therapy to help manage any manifesting discomfort.
Detoxing off methadone is typically for people who may have abused and developed dependence or addiction on methadone. Also, people that have been on prescription for long may also develop dependence, hence, require methadone detoxification. Many addicts or people that have developed a dependence on methadone often have at some point increased their dosage.
The following are symptoms to look for in a person on high methadone dosage, who, therefore, requires a detox.
While methadone was initially designed to help relieve severe pain, it’s not uncommon for people to develop a dependence on the drug. The simple reason is that it acts through the brain receptors, making the body switch to a state where it needs methadone to function well.
If you or a loved one have become dependent or addicted to methadone, no worries. There’s good news. You don’t have to remain dependent. You can get your mind and body back to their normal operating level. However, you should act fast before it gets worse.
Here at Pathfinders Recovery Center, we are well equipped to help you in your search. All our facilities offer a range of related services besides meth detox. We care for your entire holistic mental and physical health.
From evaluation to diagnosis, customized treatment and post-recovery programs are available at our scenic detox facilities. Upon consultation, our team will offer you the best options for meth detox.