Last Updated on May 30, 2023 by Dr. Alberto Solà

How to Detox from Methadone

Although methadone is prescribed for people addicted to heroin and other opiates, it is not a cure in the strictest sense. Methadone use is replacing one addiction with another, because methadone is just as addictive. The reasons we use methadone in this way are complex, but among them are the fact that unlike heroin’s fast action and short residency inside the body, methadone stays active in the body for about 22 hours; this means that users are less likely to become agitated and seek out another fix as often.

Nevertheless, don’t be fooled: you are in fact still addicted to a powerful drug when you use methadone. Many people end up taking more than they are prescribed, which is highly dangerous. Others end up feeling that they’re in a similar situation after all and end up feeling hopeless. This feeling is heightened by the fact that the detox process—just like that for heroin—is very difficult. Here we will discuss how to detox from methadone in more detail.

What are the symptoms and signs of methadone use and abuse? One of the most important things to watch for (since you may be prescribed methadone to use) is abuse and addiction. One sure sign of addiction to methadone is withdrawal, which carries sometimes severe symptoms with it:

  • Anxiety, especially surrounding the thought of not using methadone
  • Continuous use, despite negative or even dangerous consequences
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Hoarding of the drug, either because you’re afraid of being forced to stop using, or so you can use it in higher doses
  • Jitteriness
  • Mania
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Vomiting

Withdrawal symptoms typically kick in within 24 to 48 hours after your last dose of methadone. Other signs of methadone addiction include:

  • “Doctor shopping,” going to multiple doctors to get more methadone
  • Neglecting personal, professional, or financial responsibilities to use methadone
  • Taking methadone other ways, such as injecting it
  • Getting methadone from alternate sources, including friends or even strangers
  • Using methadone in combination with other drugs

If any of these symptoms are part of your life, don’t wait any longer. It is likely that you need help, and you should seek it out. Getting well after a methadone addiction is not easy; don’t try it on your own. Recovery is not a stationary goal that you achieve in a day. It is part of a lifelong process.

What are the Risks and Effects of Methadone Abuse?

Short-term effects of methadone don’t last long, because users develop tolerance quickly. However, new users can experience the following effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoric feelings
  • Relaxation
  • Sedation

Methadone produces effects that are similar to heroin, but they are both longer-lasting and less intense. With methadone, effects can last up to 24 hours, instead of the 2 to 3 hours that heroin’s effects typically last.

All users can expect to experience:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Lethargy
  • Light headedness
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Poor reaction time
  • Respiratory depression, including difficulty breathing
  • Slowed reactions

Other side effects can include:

  • Abscesses
  • Anaphylactic reactions
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Delusions
  • Dental problems
  • Depressed respiratory function
  • Depression
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Disinterest or dysfunction sexually
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Hallucinations
  • Hay fever
  • Headache
  • Impaired concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Intolerance to heat
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low blood pressure
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Sweating
  • Swelling of hands and arms, feet and legs
  • Tremors
  • Unstable gait
  • Urine retention
  • Vomiting
  • Weight gain

Methadone also has the potential to interact with other medication in dangerous ways. Be sure you always seek out the advice of a doctor before mixing methadone with any other medications, even if they’re available over the counter. Alcohol counts here; alcohol and methadone shouldn’t mix.

Methadone overdoses are common and can be fatal. Overdose symptoms include:

  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Coma
  • Cyanosis (bluish lips and fingernails)
  • Difficulty breathing/shallow breathing/no breathing
  • Disorientation
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Twitching muscles
  • Weak pulse

If you see any signs of a methadone overdose, do not wait for confirmation, or out of a misplaced sense of loyalty or privacy. Get help right away. Some people believe that if they cause a person who has overdosed to vomit, that will solve the problem; never do this unless a doctor directs you to.

Long-Term Effects of Methadone

At least 5,000 people die every year due to methadone abuse. Many of those deaths occur in part due to mixing methadone and other substances, including alcohol or other prescription drugs.

Over the long haul, the effects of abusing methadone are very similar to the effects of long-term heroin abuse. Like other opiates, methadone causes heart problems, impaired judgment, and often the health problems that inevitably come from changing the way you use a drug. Long-term methadone users can experience damage to the liver, nerves, and even the brain; long-term users, even if they do not abuse methadone, may experience poorer cognitive functioning, including less memory and learning capability.

Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

Because methadone is so addictive, stopping methadone use is incredibly difficult. Stopping without help is not just challenging—it’s also dangerous. Just like any other addictive substance, stopping methadone “cold turkey” can cause you physical harm, and however you stop, your body will almost certainly experience methadone withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Jitteriness
  • Muscle pains, aches, cramps
  • Nausea
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Stomach cramping
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

The first step to starting your addiction treatment in earnest is clearing your body of methadone. However, this step should take place in an environment with round-the-clock supervision, care, and support.

Methadone Detox Timeline

Because methadone is a long-acting drug, withdrawal symptoms typically appear about 30 hours after your last dose. The most acute or severe symptoms of methadone withdrawal can last for 2 to 3 weeks. Usually, methadone withdrawal symptoms start to gradually improve about the 10th day after the last dose.

Some people in recovery may experience “PAWS,” post-acute withdrawal syndrome. For them, withdrawal symptoms can last for months. PAWS symptoms include depression, fatigue, anxiety, difficulty focusing, and irritability.

Finding a Methadone Treatment Program

If you’re ready to take your life back from the grip of methadone addiction, contact Clear Sky Recovery today. We have a unique recovery facility and program that takes a holistic approach to addiction and recovery. Find out why our patients are able to leave with a new lease on life.