February 25, 2021

Methadone is a synthetic opioid that is used to treat severe pain and addiction to narcotics such as heroin and morphine. Methadone is among three FDA-approved medications that are commonly prescribed to treat opioid addiction. Despite its use as a treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD), methadone is addictive in its own right and those who take it as treatment for other addictions may find themselves facing the same problem all over again.

Though methadone withdrawal is fairly similar to coming off heroin or other prescription opioid medications, it may be especially difficult for some to withstand since methadone stays in the body for longer. The process of detoxification from methadone should occur only under professional medical supervision.

This article will help you learn about the signs and symptoms of methadone withdrawal and will help you get a better understanding of the withdrawal timeline.

Methadone is a synthetic opioid that can cause serious withdrawal symptoms.

The signs of methadone addiction

Recognizing if you or a loved one has a methadone addiction can help you know when to keep an eye out for future withdrawal symptoms. Some behavioral signs of methadone addiction include:

  1. Using methadone alongside other drugs or substances including heroin and alcohol.
  2. Taking a higher dose or for a longer period of time than directed.
  3. Strong cravings or urges to use methadone.
  4. Neglecting everyday responsibilities at home or in the workplace.
  5. Using methadone in dangerous or risky situations.
  6. Continued methadone use despite negative effects on quality of life.
  7. Failed attempts to quit, or the presence of withdrawal symptoms upon trying to quit.
  8. Spending excessive amounts of money on methadone.
  9. Lying to a doctor about withdrawal symptoms to get a higher dose of methadone.
  10. Buying methadone illegally.

Get a free online consultation to learn how to manage these symptoms for you or your loved one >>>

The symptoms of methadone withdrawal

Methadone user experiencing psychological withdrawal symptoms

About 24 – 36 hours after your last use, the symptoms of methadone withdrawal may appear. In the beginning, withdrawal symptoms may feel similar to the flu. If you experience the following symptoms within 30 hours of your last dose of methadone, it’s possible you may be going through withdrawal:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Excessively watery eyes or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Mental disturbances such as anxiety, paranoia, or hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Stomach cramps and diarrhea
  • Drug cravings

This list is not exhaustive, and it’s important to remember that those with more severe addictions may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. Though symptoms may not seem very serious at first, in many cases it takes about three days to a week for withdrawal symptoms to peak. The possibility of relapse is high during this time.

Knowing what to expect during each stage of withdrawal can help you stay calm and get prepared for uncomfortable symptoms. Here is the general timeline for methadone withdrawal:

  • Days 1 – 2: You may notice the first symptoms of withdrawal within the first 24 hours after your last dose, or it may take longer. You may begin experiencing physical symptoms akin to the flu such as chills, fever, and muscle aches.
  • Days 3 – 8: Cravings will be strong and other symptoms such as body aches, insomnia, anxiety, and nausea may be at their worst. New symptoms may begin showing themselves, including depression and stomach cramps.
  • Days 9 – 15: Symptoms will likely begin to subside, though some general discomfort, irritability, and anxiety may remain. Drug cravings will likely still be very strong and symptoms of depression may worsen.
  • Days 15+: Withdrawal symptoms may persist for weeks depending on a number of factors. After the methadone detox process is complete and physical symptoms are gone, many may experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms, or PAWS. After getting through acute withdrawal, the brain still needs to go through some readjustment to return to its normal pre-medicated state. PAWS can extend anywhere from a few months all the way up to two years in some extreme cases. As you go through PAWS you may occasionally experience psychological and emotional symptoms such as irritability, depression, insomnia, anxiety, or occasional brain fog.

Though there is controversy over exactly how long methadone stays in your system, the range has been estimated to be about 2 – 14 days. Depending on a variety of factors such as metabolism, age, weight, and more, this number could fall anywhere within this range, or it could take longer.

The first step toward getting off of methadone is choosing to quit and accepting that it can’t be done alone. The best place to go through methadone detox is in a hospital specialized in drug withdrawal treatment.

Patient undergoing methadone detoxification under medical supervision.

There are two options for methadone detox. The first involves gradually tapering off the dose of the drug under medical supervision. It is a long, uncomfortable, often unsuccessful way of detoxification due to the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.

The other option for methadone detox is ultra-rapid opioid detoxification (UROD). For many, this is the best way to detox from methadone. UROD is an anesthesia assisted procedure that rids the body of opiates through administration of naloxone and naltrexone. Since the patient is under anesthesia for the duration of the procedure (which lasts from 6 – 8 hours), they don’t have to suffer needlessly through painful withdrawal symptoms.

Unlike traditional detoxification, the withdrawal symptoms the patient may experience after a rapid detox procedure are significantly reduced. Rapid detox makes the process of getting off of methadone as comfortable as possible and dramatically shortens recovery time.

If you want to find out more about getting off of methadone safely and avoiding relapse, get a free and confidential online consultation. You will discuss treatment options and the various outcomes with an expert of the clinic >>>

You can expect to go over the following topics:
1. How will withdrawal be treated in your case?
2. Will the treatment help to stop the urges and prevent relapse?
3. How much does the program cost and how long does it take?

Methadone doesn’t have to control your life anymore. Withdrawal can be incredibly dangerous and uncomfortable and you shouldn’t go through it alone. In order to detox safely, talk to a medical professional today to get help quitting methadone once and for all.

Published on February 25, 2021

Share this article: