Going Through Methadone Withdrawal

Going Through Methadone Withdrawal

What Is Methadone?

If you have severe, chronic pain, you may use a prescription medication for temporary relief. This especially may be the case if non-narcotic drugs like ibuprofen or acetaminophen don’t relieve your pain.

Methadone is a prescription drug for severe pain. As an opiate, methadone is also highly addictive. Opiate addiction leads many patients to find illegal ways to get methadone — even when their prescriptions have expired.

Long-term use and abuse of methadone can lead to serious health complications. Once you’re addicted to this drug, you’ll experience painful withdrawal symptoms as you stop taking it. Overcoming methadone withdrawal is tough. But you can quit successfully with the help of your doctor and support from your loved ones.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

If you’re addicted to methadone, you’ll probably experience withdrawal symptoms after you stop taking the drug. Because withdrawal can cause pain, you may feel an even greater need to take the drug. This can lead to a repeating cycle of temporary withdrawal and further drug use.

Once you enter the withdrawal stage, other uncomfortable symptoms are likely to take place of the sedated feelings you’re accustomed to. Within the first few hours that you’re off the drug, you might feel:

  • tired
  • anxious
  • restless
  • sweaty

At first, withdrawal may feel like the flu. Muscle aches and pains are common after you stop taking methadone. As the symptoms of withdrawal progress, you might feel severely nauseous. Vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea may also occur. Unlike with the flu, withdrawal symptoms can remain severe for several days.

How Long Do Symptoms Last?

Symptoms of methadone withdrawal usually start within 30 hours after your last exposure to the drug. This timeframe is longer compared to withdrawal from other types of opiates, but the pain isn’t any less severe.

The amount of time you experience methadone withdrawal symptoms varies, lasting up to a few weeks or longer. You’ll likely experience the worst of the symptoms during your first week of withdrawal. Unfortunately, it can take longer for your body to cope without methadone than it did to become addicted to the opiate.

Help for Methadone Withdrawal

It’s best not to go through methadone withdrawal alone. A doctor can provide specific treatments to ease withdrawal symptoms. These treatments significantly improve your odds for recovery. Buprenorphine and clonidine are drugs used to shorten the withdrawal process and even alleviate some of the related symptoms.

In severe cases of addiction, your doctor may prescribe methadone. Though it may seem that more of the opiate may make things worse, guided methadone therapy can help you reduce your opiate use over time. The process will continue until you no longer require methadone at all.

Due to the high risk of abuse and overdose, methadone therapy is only used if you’re enrolled in a government-approved treatment program. A physician will monitor your methadone intake and response to ensure that the withdrawal process is safe and effective.

Group support can be crucial for long-term recovery. You may find little empathy among family members because they can’t relate to your situation. Finding support from fellow recovering addicts can help you find your voice and stay on track. The support group program SMART (self-management and recovery training) is also helpful for opiate addicts.

Complications of Methadone Use and Withdrawal

Methadone isn’t prescribed for long-term use. Doctors are careful in giving patients this powerful drug, and it’s only used for the shortest time possible. Using methadone too long can have serious health consequences, including:

  • breathing difficulties
  • heart rate changes
  • sedation that leads to coma
  • death

The withdrawal process also comes with complications, though they are few compared with continued methadone abuse. When going through withdrawal, you might develop dehydration from excessive vomiting and diarrhea.

Once you detoxify your system of methadone, it’s even more critical that you don’t abuse this drug. Recovering addicts are more susceptible to death after they start using methadone again.


Methadone abuse can be a life-or-death situation. The only way to get out of the cycle of methadone is to stop using it. But you don’t have to go cold turkey. Your doctor can help ease the process to improve your chances of recovery.

Don’t let fear of withdrawal get in the way of your recovery. Methadone withdrawal can be difficult, but if you consider the long-term benefits, you’ll find that withdrawal is far better than the negative effects of addiction. 

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