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Methadone detox

Methadone affects the central nervous system by blocking those receptors that produce euphoric and well-being state. Methadone is a synthetic, long-acting opioid with pharmacologic actions similar to morphine. But in addition to pain relief, methadone works by preventing opiate withdrawal symptoms, blocking the euphoric effects of opiates, and minimizing cravings. But what can you expect if you’d like to get off methadone? What’s detox like? We review here and invite your questions about methadone detox at the end.

Methadone detox methods

Detoxification is the process by which you remove a psychoactive drug from your system; it is the process during which the drug leaves the body. During methadone detox, methadone leaves the human system and triggers a set of methadone withdrawal symptoms. The safest way to detox from methadone is in a specialized clinic supervised by a medical staff. However, you can also detox from methadone at home if you have medical approval and are prepared. Here is a list of some popular methadone detox methods:

  • Cold turkey methadone detox
  • Medically supervised methadone detox
  • Self-guided methadone detox
  • Tapered methadone detox

Statistically, the rate of relapse is higher in cases of cold turkey detox. Tapered methadone detox – slowly cutting down methadone doses – can manifest less severe symptoms and result in more successful outcomes. Generally, addiction professionals recommend that methadone users should gradually tapered off the drug. The tapered methadone detox doesn’t cause a great shock to the body, and it may minimize the methadone withdrawal symptoms. However, you’ll need an individualized plan for staging dose reduction over time. The most general tapered detox guidelines for methadone include:

  1. First, lower the dose by 20-50 % per day until you come to 30 mg daily methadone use.
  2. Then, lower the dose by 5 mg per day every 3-5 days to reach 10 mg daily methadone use.
  3. At the end, lower the dose by 2.5 mg per day every 3-5 days.

Methadone detox protocol

Methadone detoxification is a set of intervention designed to manage methadone withdrawal symptoms and intoxication. The core purpose of all detoxes is to intoxicate the body from the drug and to ease withdrawal symptoms. You must remember that detox in only the first step in treating possible addiction to methadone. In order to be properly assessed, diagnosed and treated the whole process of detoxification is best managed in special detox clinics where addicts are observed by specially trained medical staff.

Generally, methadone detox consists of three basic processes:

1. The evaluation process

This process consists of assessment, diagnosis and complete monitoring of a patient’s psychological and physical state in order to manage methadone addiction treatment properly. Moreover, methadone abusers go through different urinalysis and blood tests for establishing levels of the drug┬áin their body to assess dependence on methadone.

2. Stabilization process

This process involves many psychological, pharmacological and medical therapies for helping address withdrawal symptoms. Usually, the stabilization process includes the use medications such as buprenorphine, short acting benzodiazepines, or antidepressants. However, to avoid substituting one drug dependence for another, slowly lowering the daily doses, and use of over-the-counter medications is preferred to pharmaceutical treatments.

3. Long-term recovery

The last process of methadone detox prepares methadone abusers for entry into addiction treatment, when necessary. The main treatments address the psychological state of the person by underlining the importance of completing standardized treatment and referring patients to local resources.

Methadone detox considerations

There is no fixed way to detox from methadone. But before doing anything, consult with an addiction professional. Seek guidance from your family doctor, an MD specializing in addiction medicine, or a psychiatrist. These medical professionals can offer you advice on therapies and providers. Below is a list of reminders for people seeking a detox program:

1. Medically supervised detox clinics

Methadone leaves your body during the process of detox. These clinics offer proper medications and 24-7 medical supervision for better stabilization of the patient. Moreover, detox clinics with medical supervision offer continuity of care referrals for addressing addiction issues.

2. Methadone detox at home

Motivation and support are required if you are to detox at home. Also, a doctor’s clearance for health issues is essential. Slowly tapering the daily doses of methadone to the point where the body is methadone-free is suggested, as are home based therapies. It is best to detox from methadone at home only if the environment is supportive.

3. Cold turkey detox

Cold turkey detox is abrupt cessation of the drug. Usually, this detox is not recommended since the risk of relapsing is high. However, in cases of long term or chronic methadone abuse, cold turkey detox may be suggested.

Methadone detoxification questions

If you or someone is dealing with methadone addiction, please share your experience or concern in the section at the end of the page. Also, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask. We are willing to help!

Reference Sources: NIH: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment
NIH: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A research-based guide
SAMHSA: Quick Guide for Clinicians: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment
NIH: Methadone at tapered doses for management of opioid withdrawal
SAMHSA: Abrupt Withdrawal from Pain Medications- Information and Caution
NHTSA: Methadone

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Leave a Reply

7 Responses to “Methadone detox
Ken Starr MD Wellness Group
3:51 pm October 8th, 2016

I’m not sure where this recommendation came from or what the author’s experience with this recipe is, but I’ve met zero patients who could handle this abrupt taper from methadone. I run a drug and alcohol intensive medical detox program. We have numerous pateints on methadone, suboxone, heroin and tramadol looking for recovery solutions.
I agree that a taper is the way to go, but 50% dose reduction a day? I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’ve just never seen it.
I more realistic recommendation would be 10-15% reduction a week. And even at that, the methadone clinics in my area are hesitant to comply.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:01 pm October 20th, 2016

Hi Dr. Starr. Thanks for you comment. I totally agree that a tapering schedule should be slower depending on the need of the patient. However, in some medical reference sources it is claimed that to tapervMethadone the patient should decrease dose by 20-50 percent per day until they reach 30 mg/day. See it here:

4:27 am January 4th, 2017

As a 13 year Methadone maintenance prisoner, I can attest to going down from 80mg to 0mg with zero withdrawels.
My last 1mg dose had me waiting for the dreaded withdrawels…which never came. The trick was I spent a year and three months tapering. 3 to 4 mg a week until 40 mgs. Then 2 mg every two weeks. When I got to 15mg..i slowed to 1 mg a week. 8mg and lower -1 mg every TWO weeks.
Of course use how you feel while tapering to guage how much and how fast to taper. If you go the math you’ll figure I held sometimes for 3-4 weeks along the way until my body adjusted.
I had very minimal withdrawels during my taper. I felt a little at 8-4mgs.
I realize not everyone has the luxury of taking this much time to detox. Not to mention MMT clinic costs each day. However, painfree detox/taper from Methadone can be accomplished ..I am proof of that.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:11 pm January 23rd, 2017

Thanks for sharing your experience, Justin. Hope other will read your comment and find an inspiration to stop.

5:18 am February 7th, 2017

Hi! I live in Maryland & I am desperate to find a center for detox from methadone & I can’t find one. I feel like I’ve searched the web to no avail, i’ve called so many places that want me to be on a really low dose before I can be admitted. And so there lies the problem. Right now, I’m currently at 115mg and honestly I need to get my dose raised because it’s no longer working but I don’t want to because I am done with this stuff. It is just causing me so many problems now – physically, mentally & definitely spiritually. I’m starting to get really depressed because I don’t know how I’m going to handle the “taper down” method… I just feel like I’m setting myself up for a long drawn out miserable mess & I just don;t know what’s going to happen & I just would like to go to a medical detox program & treatment if necessary. Can you point me in the right direction? I would be so grateful & forever in your debt… Please get back with me one way or the other… Thankyou!

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:04 am March 21st, 2017

Hi Lecia. Did you call the helpline displayed on the website? You’ll speak with a professional and understanding consultant who will answer all your questions. The helpline is free, confidential, and available 24/7.

8:54 am March 10th, 2018

If I was taking methadone for well let’s see maybe 3 to 4 years and then pretty much go cold turkey so I can have a clean system In 30 days would it be out of my system by then or would it still be in my system because I work for a living and I soon will be a manager within a 30 day time period if I stop and went cold turkey for that time being will it be out of my system and urine if I was to take a drug test thank you for your time and patience to read what I had to write and God bless

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