Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Treatment

Since the 1970s, methadone has been primarily used to treat opioid addiction. Still, it is no less addictive than other opioids. It’s common for people who take it—be it to relieve pain or opioid cravings—to experience uncomfortable methadone withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit it.

While many people continue to take methadone for decades, it is possible to make a full recovery from all opioids—including this one. Often, the first step to achieving a lasting recovery is learning what your options are and how to detox from methadone the right way.

What Is Methadone?

Methadone is a long-acting synthetic opioid prescribed to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) and pain that cannot be managed with weaker medications. Available as an injectable liquid, powder, oral solution, and tablet, this drug is sold under its generic name and several brand names, including Methadose® and Dolophine®.

methadone withdrawal and detox

When used for pain relief, methadone disrupts the transmission of pain signals between the body and the brain, reducing the perception of pain. It can also be used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) alongside counseling and behavioral therapy to help people addicted to other opioids, such as morphine or oxycodone, manage opioid withdrawal symptoms.

When taken as intended, methadone doesn’t cause euphoria and can also blunt the euphoric effects of other opioids. By suppressing cravings and other withdrawal symptoms, this drug helps reduce the risk of relapse and overdose.

However, even though methadone can help people quit more potent opioids, such as heroin, it isn’t a cure for opioid addiction—those who take it risk developing an addiction to methadone.

As a Schedule II controlled substance, methadone carries a high potential for abuse, opioid dependency, and addiction. To minimize these risks, you should always follow your doctor’s instructions when taking it.

Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

If you stop taking methadone after using it regularly for some time, you may experience methadone withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are a sign that you’ve become dependent on the drug.

Like all opioids, methadone has addictive properties and can lead to tolerance, physical dependence, and addiction. If you take it for a long time and especially if you abuse it (e.g., take larger doses than prescribed), your body can eventually become used to it. Once your body builds up tolerance to methadone, you won’t feel its effects without increasing the dose.

If, on the other hand, you try to discontinue methadone use, you’ll experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which can be both physical and psychological. These symptoms occur when your body detoxes from methadone, i.e., gradually removes it from the system.

Some of the most common methadone withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Goosebumps
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Muscle pain and cramps
  • Nausea
  • Runny nose
  • Shivering
  • Sweating
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes
  • Yawning

Tapering off methadone can result in a milder withdrawal, whereas quitting methadone “cold turkey” may lead to intense withdrawal symptoms, some of which may even require medical attention. The more severe your methadone withdrawal symptoms are, the higher the risk of relapse you face.

Unfortunately, relapsing after a period of sobriety greatly increases the risk of a potentially fatal opioid overdose. For this reason, you should never attempt to quit this drug abruptly or detox from methadone without medical supervision.

Methadone Withdrawal Timeline

Methadone Withdrawal Timeline

The methadone withdrawal timeline looks different for everyone, as the severity and duration of methadone withdrawal symptoms depend on various individual factors. These include your methadone dosage, consumption method, and metabolic rate.

Here’s an example of a typical methadone withdrawal timeline:

Days 1–2

Since methadone is a long-acting opioid, most people will experience the first methadone withdrawal symptoms within 30 hours (more or less) after their last dose. In the beginning, methadone withdrawal can feel no different than the flu. A runny nose, fever, chills, and body aches are common during this period.

Days 3–7

After the first couple of days, methadone withdrawal symptoms become increasingly intense and usually peak within 5–7 days after the last dose. However, it may take longer for your symptoms to peak if you have a severe addiction to methadone.

Besides the symptoms mentioned above, at this time, you may also experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Rapid heartbeat

Days 8–10+

Methadone withdrawal symptoms tend to gradually subside after reaching their peak, and most people will no longer suffer from them past day 10 of quitting methadone. However, some may continue to struggle with psychological withdrawal symptoms—cravings, anxiety, depression, etc.—for up to a month or even longer.

Methadone Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Methadone post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) happens when your withdrawal symptoms persist for weeks, months, or even years after quitting the medication.

While most people overcome the symptoms of methadone withdrawal in just over a week, this isn’t the case for those with PAWS. The effects of methadone PAWS are primarily psychological, with the most common symptoms being:

  • Poor concentration
  • Interrupted sleeping patterns 
  • Indifference
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Worsening of mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder

When you’re suffering from PAWS, it may feel as if your struggle with opioid addiction will never end. However, it is not necessarily a permanent condition. Receiving proper medical help is key to overcoming it and reducing the risk of relapse.

How to Manage Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

The best and most effective way to manage methadone withdrawal symptoms is to seek help from medical professionals.

methadone withdrawal and detox

Whether you’re taking methadone for pain relief or as part of an opioid addiction treatment, the last thing you want to do is stop taking it without consulting your doctor. This can lead to particularly severe methadone withdrawal symptoms, increasing the risk of relapse, methadone overdose, and death.

While relapse is one of the greatest dangers of detoxing from methadone at home, without medical care, it isn’t the only one. Some methadone withdrawal symptoms may be mild enough to be successfully managed with home remedies (e.g., over-the-counter medications). However, others can put your life on the line—especially if you have any underlying medical conditions.

Unfortunately, there have been cases of people dying during opioid withdrawal, specifically from heart failure caused by extreme dehydration.

Receiving professional treatment for methadone withdrawal and addiction can minimize the risk of such adverse events. If you do experience persistent nausea and vomiting after quitting this medication, seek medical attention immediately.

Risks and Dangers of Taking Methadone

Although methadone is one of the three FDA-approved medications for medication-assisted treatment, it doesn’t come without risk. As is the case with all opioids, methadone use can lead to abuse, tolerance, dependence, addiction, overdose, and even death.

While methadone abuse— taking it more frequently than prescribed—greatly increases the risk of developing a methadone addiction, anyone can become addicted to it. This also includes those who take it exactly as prescribed. With prolonged use, methadone causes an imbalance in the endorphin-receptor system, which is the main cause of opioid addiction.

Methadone can also cause a potentially life-threatening overdose, especially when mixed with other substances such as benzodiazepines, antibiotics, and alcohol.

In the United States, methadone overdose deaths make up a relatively small percentage of all opioid-involved overdose deaths. Still, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on provisional drug overdose death counts shows that around 3,000 people lose their lives to methadone each year.

methadone withdrawal and detox

Moreover, methadone is no different from other medications in that it can cause various side effects, ranging from mildly uncomfortable to potentially life-threatening. These may include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Mood changes
  • Impaired vision
  • Stomach issues
  • Seizures
  • Itchy skin
  • Sedation

Inform your doctor about any side effects you experience. If your side effects are severe (e.g., difficulty breathing or swallowing, extreme drowsiness, etc.), call 911 immediately.

Methadone Rapid Detox

Detoxing from methadone can be a lengthy process, which is why rapid detox might seem like an attractive solution. This anesthesia-assisted opioid detox method quickly wipes methadone out of your system with the use of opioid-blocking drugs (e.g., naloxone). Since advanced rapid detox is done under sedation, it can reduce the intensity of methadone withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone rapid detox can cost upwards of $20,000, so you might assume that it guarantees lifelong results. However, besides side effects such as nausea and vomiting, many patients relapse after the procedure. This happens because methadone rapid detox only tackles the symptoms of methadone dependency instead of its underlying cause—chemical brain changes.

Methadone Rapid Detox vs. ANR Treatment

The Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) treatment is superior to methadone rapid detox, especially in terms of effectiveness and safety. By today’s standards, rapid methadone detox is outdated, as it only treats the symptoms of addiction but not the cause of it. Because of this, it often leads to relapse.

ANR is an ultra-modern opioid addiction treatment. It is the only opioid addiction treatment that tackles the root cause of opioid dependency by bringing your endorphin-receptor system back to balance. Unlike methadone rapid detox, ANR eliminates withdrawal symptoms, thereby negating the risk of relapse.

Furthermore, rapid methadone detox is often performed in clinics. In contrast, ANR is always carried out in an ICU setting of accredited hospitals by critical care physicians, nurses, and other board-certified medical professionals. Not only that—ANR is also tailored to each patient individually, which means that even those with complex medical issues can undergo it safely.

Here’s a detailed side-by-side comparison of methadone rapid detox and the ANR treatment:

Methadone Rapid Detox vs. ANR Treatment

ANR Opioid Treatment for Methadone Addiction

Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is currently the only treatment that can successfully restore the endorphin-receptor balance in people with opioid dependency. 

While rapid detox attempts to counteract the effects of methadone withdrawal, the ANR treatment targets the deep causes of addiction and withdrawal by focusing on the physiologic mechanism behind methadone dependency. Most importantly, unlike many traditional detox treatments, ANR doesn’t involve replacement drugs that can lead to addiction.

Because of this, ANR allows patients to recover without fear of further symptoms, relapse, or having to spend weeks in hospital settings. Most patients return to an opioid-free life after a weekend stay at one of our centers! 

ANR Clinic has treatment providers that offer the treatment in:

  • DeSoto Memorial Hospital, Arcadia, Florida
  • ANR Europe Thun, Switzerland
  • New Vision University Hospital, Tbilisi, Georgia

If you’re looking to recover from methadone dependency, contact us for a free consultation with one of our opioid dependency experts!

Key Takeaways

Whether you’ve been taking methadone for two months or two years, refrain from quitting it by yourself. Your doctor can help you navigate the methadone withdrawal and detox process safely and effectively.

Now, let’s reiterate the key points we covered:

  • Methadone is an opioid medication that is used to treat pain and OUD, but it is also highly addictive.
  • Methadone withdrawal usually starts within the first 36 hours after taking the last dose and lasts around 10 days, though some symptoms may persist for up to a month or even longer.
  • Some common methadone withdrawal symptoms are fever, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cravings, and depression.

Methadone Withdrawal & Detox FAQ

If you opt for methadone maintenance therapy (MMT), you can be on methadone for anywhere between several months and several years. Some people addicted to opioids take methadone for 20 years or even more. If you decide to quit this drug, work with your doctor to gradually taper off it, as stopping it abruptly can cause severe withdrawal symptoms.

Some signs of methadone use disorder include having trouble controlling methadone use, taking it more often or in larger quantities than prescribed, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings and nausea, when trying to quit the drug.

ANR, which stands for Accelerated Neuro-Regulation, is a revolutionary opioid addiction treatment that can help you overcome opioid dependence within days. Unlike other therapies, ANR reverses the effects opioids have on the brain, eliminating the risk of relapse. It also doesn’t involve potentially addictive opioid-replacement drugs, such as buprenorphine.

Methadone withdrawal symptoms typically start within the first 36 hours after the last dose and include flu-like symptoms such as fever, watery eyes, and muscle aches.

How long methadone withdrawal lasts depends on the extent of your methadone use, whether or not you’re undergoing any treatment for methadone withdrawal and addiction, and other such factors. For most people, acute methadone withdrawal symptoms resolve within 10 days of quitting the medication.

Yes, methadone is an opioid pain medication that can be prescribed to relieve pain that cannot be treated with non-opioid painkillers. It can also be used as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help people addicted to more potent opioids manage withdrawal symptoms.

Reclaim your life with the revolutionary ANR treatment.

Dr. Andre Waismann

Dr. Waismann identified the biological roots of opioid dependency, Since then he has successfully treated more than 24,000 patients worldwide that are struggling with opioid addiction.

Throughout his career, he has lectured and educated health professionals in dozens of countries around the world to this day.

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