Methadone can be a life-saving drug for many people who struggle to detox from heroin or narcotic painkillers. When prescribed in measured doses and administered by a certified medical professional, methadone can allow patients to ween off of opioids gradually. Methadone is not the only path to wellness, but it can help some people overcome the most difficult parts of detox.1

Unfortunately, methadone is also an addictive drug. Patients who are prescribed the medication in its pill form for the purposes of pain management may ultimately develop a dependence upon methadone, and even those who are use methadone to overcome an opiate addiction may abuse it and end up inadvertently maintaining an ongoing addiction.

Methadone withdrawal can be as difficult as opioid withdrawal. If a patent suddenly stops using methadone, withdrawal symptoms could begin within a few hours. The best solution may be a professional detox program that offers a safe, supportive environment to help ensure a faster recovery.

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms: What to Expect

Each person is different, and the nature of the withdrawal symptoms one person experiences as compared to someone else will vary based on:

  • The methadone or opioid dose that was taken before detox began
  • Use of other drugs or alcohol
  • Underlying mental health disorders or symptoms
  • Whether or not medication maintenance has been used before

Methadone withdrawal symptoms may include any combination of the following at varying intensity levels:

  • Runny nose
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea and cramping
  • Watery eyes
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Goose bumps
  • Aching muscles
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Increased pain sensitivity

These symptoms usually begin within the first 12 hours after the last methadone dose and continue for several days or a few weeks without treatment.2

Medication Maintenance and Detox

Although methadone is often used in medication maintenance programs for opiate detox, it may not be the best choice for patients who have become dependent on methadone in the past. Buprenorphine may be an alternate medication for some people. However, both drugs can lead to long-term use and are not for those people who wish to be completely substance-free.

In some cases, it may be more appropriate to use medication that is non-addictive to address the specific withdrawal symptoms that are most overwhelming. For example, non-addictive sleep aids may help to treat insomnia caused by withdrawals.Other medications may treat diarrhea, runny nose, irritability and other symptoms. Though this path will not eliminate the discomfort associated with withdrawal symptoms entirely, it may serve to make those symptoms more manageable as the person works toward becoming drug-free more quickly.

“It did take some time after that day in the mirror to complete the transition, but I did spend the next few years in and out of every methadone clinic within driving distance. I would do good for a few months then do bad for a few. It was during those years that things were the worst…Today, what is important is that I feel like the luckiest man in the world at this moment. I have been sober…completely sober since September 15th,2009.”  —Tony S., HeroesInRecovery.com

Which Methadone Detox Path Is Right for You or Your Loved One?

Recovery is unique to every person. Your path may be impacted by overall health, duration of addiction, and the timeline you envision for recovery. Your wishes are an important part of your recovery choices, and it pays to learn as much as possible about different types of detox.

Speaking with a medical professional who specializes in the treatment of addiction can help get things started, and a professional medical detox is absolutely vitalif you or your loved one experience withdrawal symptoms, no matter what his drug of choice is.

Contact us at Michael’s House today to learn more about what your loved one can expect in detox and beyond. We can help.


1 Medline Plus. Methadone. The U.S. National Library of Medicine. Jan 2017. Accessed 9 Aug 2017.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Methadone. Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets. N.d.Accessed 9 Aug 2017.

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