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Methadone Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms

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Methadone is an opioid medication that is used in the treatment of addiction. Sadly, methadone is just as addictive or potentially even more addictive than the opiates that most users find themselves struggling with. As such, many take methadone thinking they are maintaining their previous drug use, but when they try to quit they are faced with significantly stronger symptoms of withdrawal than they had previously experienced.

If you or someone you love is taking methadone, either to maintain a previous addiction to opiates or in an abusive manner, when you try to quit you are likely to be faced with symptoms of withdrawal that will make it feel nearly impossible to remain abstinent. Call our helpline at 888-602-1971(Who Answers?) to speak with a detox counselor that can assist you in finding a program that will ensure your safety and comfort during this difficult time.

Symptoms of Methadone Withdrawal

You may experience symptoms of methadone withdrawal after just a few days of taking the drug. Even a low dose, at even a low frequency, can lead to withdrawal that is challenging, but not impossible, to cope with. Even when methadone is prescribed to you there is a risk for dependence and addiction—talk with your treatment provider before you take methadone as a maintenance drug or for pain because there are significant risks associated with this medication.

The symptoms of methadone withdrawal are generally the same as those for opiate or opioid withdrawal. You may experience strong cravings, upset stomach and vomiting when you quit. Here’s a look at the most common symptoms of methadone withdrawal:

Methadone Withdrawal

Strong cravings and anxiety are common methadone withdrawal symptoms.

  • Persistent, strong cravings to use.
  • Goosebumps or gooseflesh.
  • Muscle aches and pain.
  • Watery or tearing eyes.
  • Bone or joint pain.
  • Stomach cramps or stomach pain.
  • Insomnia or inability to sleep.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Sweating profusely.
  • Dehydration.
  • Anxiety and irritability.
  • Yawning excessively.

Most of the above symptoms are not life-threatening but they can be difficult to deal with. If you are vomiting or have excessive diarrhea for a period of more than 12 – 24 hours you are at a significant risk of dehydration which can lead to changes in blood pressure, heart rhythm and other complications. This is why we recommend that anyone that decides to stop taking methadone completely or to reduce their dose abruptly seek medical attention BEFORE these symptoms arise.

Potentially Dangerous Complications of Methadone Withdrawal

While most symptoms of withdrawal from methadone are hardly life-threatening, there is a potential for certain complications to arise. The most common complication is relapse. While relapse sounds like a complication that is just run-of-the-mill, it’s not as simple as that. When you relapse following a time spent OFF methadone, your risk for overdose is increased significantly. This is because even a few days of a reduced or eliminated dose of methadone can reduce your tolerance to the drug.

Additional complications include:

  • Dehydration which can cause heart arrhythmias or liver and kidney damage.
  • Asphyxiation or lung infections from inhaling vomit into the lungs.
  • Aspiration which results from inhaling vomit into the lungs.

If you suspect that someone you know is struggling with an addiction to methadone call 888-602-1971(Who Answers?) for help. We will connect you with a methadone detox center that can provide around-the-clock care in a safe, comfortable environment. We realize that this call is scary, and that you may not want to admit that you can’t go about recovery alone—but many people just like you have made this call and found help—you can do it too!

How Long Does Methadone Withdrawal Take?

The amount of time you spend dealing with the symptoms of methadone withdrawal can vary greatly depending on your age, how long you’ve been addicted and various other factors such as:

  • Whether you have underlying health conditions or dual diagnosis such as anxiety or other addictions to drugs or alcohol.
  • Whether you have quit methadone before.
  • Whether you have been using for a very long time such as years.
  • Whether you are taking a high dose of methadone.
  • The frequency of your methadone use.
  • How you abuse methadone.

For most, symptoms of withdrawal last about 3 weeks. Notice that this is significantly longer than the symptoms that persist for most opiate abusers. Methadone withdrawal is significantly more painful and difficult to cope with than withdrawal from other drugs.

A typical methadone withdrawal timeline looks like this:

  • Symptoms begin within 24-30 hours after the last dose is taken.
  • These symptoms can persist for a period of 7-21 days for most users.
  • PAWS or Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Symptoms can arise months or years after you have reached sobriety.

During withdrawal you will experience many symptoms such as stomach pain, cramping and vomiting that can be treated if you seek professional help. Methadone withdrawal does NOT have to be painful—this is why we recommend that you seek medical attention if you are considering cutting back or quitting your regular dose of methadone after prolonged use.

Withdrawal from Opioids Without Medication: Is it Even Possible?

Treatment for Methadone Withdrawal

Methadone withdrawal usually is not life-threatening but symptoms of withdrawal such as dehydration or the potential for relapse that may lead to overdose should be treated professionally. Fortunately, many treatment options are available to assist you including:

  • Detox
  • Inpatient rehab
  • Outpatient rehab
  • Support groups such as NA
  • Medication assisted therapy

Medications Used in Methadone Withdrawal Treatment

While methadone may be prescribed to treat opioid withdrawal, once you’re addicted to methadone where do you turn for medication maintenance? Many have resorted to suboxone or subutex to help them overcome methadone addiction and minimize symptoms of withdrawal. These are both combinations of buprenorphine that can be used to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce the amount of time required to detox from methadone. Talk with a treatment provider at 888-602-1971(Who Answers?) before deciding on any medication.

Additional medications that may be used in the treatment of methadone include:

  • Clonidine – this medication will reduce anxiety and also helps with many of the flu-like symptoms of methadone withdrawal including runny nose, sweating and muscle pain or spasms.
  • Zofran– this medication is commonly used to reduce nausea and vomiting. Zofran can be used in conjunction with other medications to reduce risk of dehydration.
  • Naltrexone – this medication prevents relapse by blocking the effects of opiates such as methadone or other drugs.

Many other medications may also be used based on your symptoms. Only a professional can determine what medications to provide for you and when.

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