Methadone is a controversial drug. It’s a weak opioid, but it’s also used to help people who are addicted and dependent on other opioids. When methadone is used to treat opioid addiction, it reduces cravings and prevents withdrawal symptoms.
This synthetic opioid has its own addiction and dependence potential, however.
Along with being used to treat opioid addiction, methadone is sometimes prescribed to treat pain ranging from moderate to severe, and dependence can form then as well.
When someone uses methadone, it activates the same receptor sites as other opioids like heroin, hydrocodone and oxycodone. In particular, methadone affects the central nervous system. Methadone and other opioids are central nervous system depressants, so they slow functions like breathing and heart rate. Opioids can also create euphoria, drowsiness and sedation.
Despite its use in addiction treatment, methadone is still a strong opioid and when someone uses it they can become addicted to it, and dependence can also form. In fact, because of the dependence potential, some people end up using methadone for years. If someone uses methadone as a way to deal with another opioid dependency, they’re at a fairly high risk for becoming dependent on it since they have a history of opioid use.
Methadone is weaker than something like morphine so the high isn’t as powerful but that can actually have drawbacks as well. For example, someone may be more likely to overdose on methadone than other opioids because they take high doses in attempt to get the same euphoria.
When someone is dependent on methadone, it means their brain and body have become used to its presence and effects. If someone’s dependent on methadone and they try to suddenly cut down on how much they use or stop using it, they may experience symptoms of withdrawal.
Symptoms of Methadone Withdrawal
Methadone withdrawal can be mild, moderate or severe.
Factors that play a role in the severity of methadone withdrawal can include how long someone used it, whether they were previously dependent on other opioids, the dosages they used, and if they’re currently using any other substances. For the most part, while methadone withdrawal can be severe, it’s usually less intense than withdrawal from other opioids.
Symptoms that may occur when someone goes through methadone detox and withdrawal include:
- Body ache
- Mood swings
- Sleep disturbances
- Trouble with concentration and cognition
- Nausea and vomiting
Methadone Withdrawal Timeline
The methadone withdrawal timeline refers to how long someone will experience symptoms as they attempt to stop using the drug. The withdrawal timeline varies as much as the specific symptoms a person experiences and the severity of these symptoms, but in general, it could look like the following:
• Methadone is a very long-acting opioid, so it takes longer for withdrawal symptoms to appear than with other shorter-acting opioids. Some people may see symptoms 24 hours after they use their last dose of methadone, but other people may have symptoms for up to 36 hours after the last dose of methadone is used.
• The earliest symptoms of methadone withdrawal are usually fairly mild. In the first 36 hours a person may experience sleepiness, anxiety and restlessness. Also possible during the initial stages of methadone withdrawal are sweating, watery eyes, yawning, runny nose and insomnia.
• Symptoms of methadone withdrawal may reach a peak around three days after the last dose is used. This is usually when the most severe symptoms occur. Peak methadone withdrawal symptoms can include muscle pain, goosebumps, and severe nausea. Also possible are cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and cravings.
• Within the first week people may see their symptoms of methadone detox and withdrawal gradually decline.
Some people do experience certain symptoms, particularly psychological symptoms, for weeks or months after they stop using methadone.
When someone is going through the process of withdrawing from a drug, it’s known as detox. The body is detoxifying itself following dependence on a substance. Methadone detox can be done in different settings.
Some people may attempt to go through methadone on their own and without medical guidance. This isn’t usually the recommended path for a few reasons. First, it’s very uncomfortable to go through detox from any kind of opioid. It’s challenging to do it without medical help and in some cases certain medications. The risk of relapse is high when someone tries to go through methadone detox on their own.
Another option is to go through methadone detox on an outpatient basis, but with medical guidance and supervision. This option can work well for someone who might not have used methadone for very long, or doesn’t have any complicating factors that could make the process more difficult.
There is also a medical methadone detox. During a medical detox for methadone or any substance, a person checks into a facility. They can receive around-the-clock medical care and treatment for both psychological and physical symptoms of withdrawal.
Many addiction treatment centers offer medical detox as part of their programs.
If you would like more information about methadone withdrawal and detox, please contact us at Amethyst Recovery Center.