Methadone Withdrawal - Symptoms, Timeline & Opioid Drug Treatment
Methadone – what’s the risk?
Methadone is a synthetic opioid painkiller that is also used as medication-assisted treatment for opiate addiction (also known as methadone maintenance treatment). If taken as instructed by a doctor, the drug can be useful in treating pain or for the management of opioid withdrawal. However, it does have the potential for misuse, abuse, and opioid dependency, which can lead to increased tolerance.
When one tolerance to an opioid, they will likely feel that they must take a higher dose of the medication more frequently to experience its full effect. When this occurs, and the user attempts to stop taking the drug, they may experience uncomfortable, painful symptoms known as opiate withdrawal. These opiate withdrawal symptoms are often what cause people to become addicted to opioid drugs, as they feel that they must undertake long-term use to avoid the withdrawal process. If you or someone you know is experiencing dependence or opioid use disorder, it is advised to seek even though people often seek drug rehab instead.
Methadone as a prescription medication
As methadone is a long-acting opioid, a doctor may prescribe enough of the drug to last a patient months or even years as part of a long-term treatment plan. This long-term maintenance therapy ensures that they are no longer in pain and/or successfully recover from the effects of opioid use disorder. Of course, this creates the risk of misuse, as it becomes the patient’s responsibility to manage their dosage.
To reduce the risk of irreversible harm during medical detox, a doctor may prescribe a lower methadone dosage for a patient recovering from opioid addiction. As each person responds differently to the drug, the doctor would then determine through careful observation and evidence-based care, the best methadone dose to keep the patient on (if any).
Signs & symptoms of opioid withdrawal
Methadone withdrawal symptoms usually begin 24-48 hours after the last methadone dosage. Withdrawal from methadone may last for three to six weeks but can take longer for those with severe methadone addictions. These withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, increasing the risk of relapse in an attempt to prevent the withdrawal symptoms from continuing.
Signs and symptoms of withdrawal may include:
- Anxiety, depression, and indifference
- Paranoia and hallucinations
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- Dilated pupils
- Flu-like symptoms
- Muscle aches and pains
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Low blood pressure and/or heart rate
- Drug cravings
- Decreased energy level
In some cases, these symptoms can be life-threatening. If you, loved , or someone you know is experiencing potentially life-threatening effects of withdrawal, contact emergency care services immediately.
Recovery timeline from symptoms of withdrawalThe withdrawal process and severity of dependence may vary from patient to patient as each person’s body is unique and responds to methadone differently. The efficacy of withdrawal management and treatment may also be influenced by the dosage and the length of methadone exposure. Symptoms may at first intensify with time and then subside until the patient has completely weaned off methadone.
This is when most people will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. Flu-like symptoms such as changes in body temperature and body aches can be expected, in addition to nausea and rapid heart rate.
During this period, patients tend to enter the acute withdrawal phase, where symptoms are at their worst. The patient will often experience restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, intense drug cravings, differences in blood pressure, and even hallucinations.
At this point, severe symptoms usually begin to subside. Despite this, patients are often left to deal with continued psychological symptoms, which remain prevalent. Additional symptoms one can expect during this period of time include lethargy, indifference, anxiety, depression, intense cravings, and a strong urge to relapse.
If the patient’s body has developed opioid tolerance, it may take months for the patient to wean off methadone completely. This is due to the common practice of slowly decreasing the patient’s methadone dosage on a weekly or basis. Although gradually tapering the dosage can result in a reduced intensity of withdrawal symptoms, the patient may suffer long-term adverse health effects due to the extended period of methadone exposure.
Such long-term harmful health consequences may include:
- Low heart rate and/or changes in daily blood pressure
- Respiratory depression
- Nerve, liver, and brain damage
- Mood swings
- Eating disorders
- Decreased attention span and inability to concentrate
- Sexual function and menstruation changes
- Increased severity of opioid drug dependence and addiction
Post-acute withdrawal syndrome – signs, symptoms, and long-term treatment
While many people can overcome the symptoms of withdrawal in just over a week, for, symptoms can last much longer. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) cause patients to feel the effects of withdrawal for several weeks, months, or even years. Although the effects of PAWS are mostly psychologicalcausing or exacerbating mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder can also cause poor concentration, interruptions to sleeping patterns, indifference, lethargy, loss of appetite, and mood swings.
PAWS is not necessarily a permanent condition; it can be overcome with the help of an effective treatment schedule.
Methadone withdrawal treatment at a medical detox center
Accelerated Neuro Therapy (ANR) is currently the only treatment that can successfully restore the endorphin-receptor balance in people with dependence or addiction to opioids. Many traditional detox treatments will attempt to counteract the effects of withdrawal, whereas ANR treatment targets the deep causes of addiction and withdrawal by focusing on the physiologic mechanism behind dependency on methadone and other opioid drugs. Because of this, ANR can help patients with detoxification from opiates and allow them to recover without fear of further symptoms, relapse, or having to spend large amounts of time in hospital settings.
ANR Clinic has treatment providers that offer the medication-assisted detox process in:
- DeSoto Memorial Hospital, Arcadia, Florida
- ANR Europe Thun, Switzerland
- New Vision University Hospital, Tbilisi, Georgia
Methadone withdrawal FAQ
Methadone maintenance treatment and other medication-assisted treatments are used by doctors to help addicts recover from their opioid use disorder. Buprenorphine is another medication that is used for the same reason. Despite the prevalence of these treatments, there is always a risk of further abuse when opioids enter the body.
There are many signs that you can look out for to help identify opioid use disorder and addiction to methadone. See here to learn more about methadone addiction.