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Methadone Withdrawal Timelines

What is the Timeline for Detox and Withdrawal for Methadone?

National death rates for heroin and other opioid drugs have risen the past five years. In 2017, over 15,000 people died from heroin overdoses. Heroin is an incredibly addictive and dangerous drug. When someone becomes addicted to heroin, the drug completely hijacks and rewires the brain’s neural pathways and risk and reward circuitry. Trying to quit heroin cold-turkey is dangerous and also extremely painful and distressing. Furthermore, this drug will give the user intense, debilitation cravings to use, increasing the chances of relapse and overdose. For many people in recovery from heroin, prescription methadone is a godsend. 

Methadone is a prescription opioid drug that was initially used for curbing heroin withdrawals and cravings. The drug also reduces pain and prevents someone from experiencing a high from heroin if they relapse. But unfortunately, methadone is also an addictive drug. Users can build a tolerance to methadone and emotional and physical addiction to the drug. Trying to quit methadone cold-turkey, without professional help can also be dangerous. 

What is methadone withdrawal and detox timeline?

When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the body has become used to having that substance in its system. An addicted person needs the drug to function and feel “normal.” When they attempt to quit cold-turkey or try to cut back on their consumption, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. This is the body’s way of clearing itself of the drug, called detox, and the withdrawal timeline refers to the time it takes for the body to return to a state of sobriety and the ability to function without the drug. 

Opioid drugs like methadone can cause painful withdrawal symptoms while the body tries to detox. These symptoms are incredibly disruptive, and also increase the chances of a person relapsing if they are trying to quit without outside help. 

When people attempt to quit doing drugs, they are usually optimistic and determined to achieve sobriety. But the withdrawal process can be so debilitating, that retaking even a small amount of a drug is incredibly tempting. All it would take is one dose of a substance for a person to feel better and get rid of their cravings and pain. Unfortunately, this puts the person back into the cycle of addiction, and they have to start all over again on the detox and withdrawal timeline. 

For methadone, detox and withdrawal can take anywhere from three to six weeks, but the severity of a person’s addiction can influence how long or short the withdrawal process will be. If someone is abusing other drugs in addition to methadone, detox and withdrawal can be more painful and prolonged. 

Methadone lingers in the body for many hours after last use. For most people who try to quit methadone, the withdrawal symptoms will start within a day after their last dose. For some people, detox can take anywhere from fifteen to sixty hours. Withdrawal symptoms may not appear until several days after detox. The process can vary significantly for every person. 

For most people, the first week to ten days after detox is the most intense. Physical withdrawal symptoms are the first to appear, and once they subside, emotional and psychological symptoms will start. It can take weeks for symptoms to subside, but cravings to use drugs can last for the rest of a person’s life. This is one of the reasons why it is so important for people in recovery to continue seeing a therapist or attending 12-step programs and support groups to cope with cravings and prevent relapse. For opioid addictions especially, relapse can be an incredibly dangerous process. 

The body’s tolerance for methadone or other opioids builds quickly. But it also decreases just as rapidly when someone stops taking the drug. A person who has stopped taking methadone for several days or weeks may retake the same level of the drug they were using at the peak of their addiction. This is often a large amount of the substance. The body won’t have the tolerance for this amount of the drug and can quickly become overwhelmed by opioid chemicals. Users can overdose and die after achieving initial sobriety. 

What are the symptoms of methadone withdrawal?

Within the first two days, users will experience flu-like symptoms, aches and pains, and also rapid heart rate. Throughout the next week, people will experience intense cravings for methadone and also experience nausea and vomiting. Insomnia is also common during this part of the timeline. Users will also be irritable and may even become depressed. Over the next week, stomach upset and aches and pains will linger, while drug cravings will intensify and depression symptoms may become severe at this point in the timeline. 

For several more weeks, users will experience fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and intense cravings for methadone. Some users will go on to experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms, a condition called PAWS. People who develop PAWS will experience anxiety, depression, poor concentration, and an inability to feel pleasure for several months after cessation. 

Is it safe to detox and withdrawal from methadone without professional help?

It is rare for someone to die as a direct result of methadone withdrawal symptoms. However, methadone withdrawal symptoms can cause other issues that are dangerous for people in recovery. Depression increases the risk of suicide, and the prolonged, severe nature of methadone withdrawal symptoms make it likely that people with retake methadone for relief.

Attending a medical detox and rehab center for methadone withdrawal will decrease the severity and duration of withdrawals. In a rehab center, patients have access to a team of medical staff and doctors who can give them safe medications to lessen the severity of withdrawal symptoms. In a detox center, patients are also kept in a secure, drug-free environment. This limits the temptation and opportunity to retake methadone or similar drugs to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Also, patients can recover in a supportive environment where they are safe from harmful, negative outside influences that may contribute to their drug use. If someone goes on to develop PAWS, rehab specialists can assist patients and alleviate depression symptoms. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to methadone, the experienced counselors and doctors at Windward Way can help. Please contact Windward Way today to explore your options for methadone addiction treatment.