Wondering how to get off methadone? Here are some answers.
Methadone has been used for medication-assisted treatment since the 1970s to help people end an opioid addiction. Methadone is a synthetic opioid medication that binds to opioid receptors to block the euphoric effects of opiates. It also reduces cravings and prevents the onset of withdrawal symptoms that occur when you stop using heroin or prescription painkillers once you’ve developed a dependence on them. Methadone can be taken for the short-term or the long-term, but many people wonder how to get off methadone once they’re ready to fly solo.
Why Medication-Assisted Treatment is the Recommended Approach to Opioid Addiction
Opiates produce intense cravings that can last for weeks or months after detoxing. These cravings, along with physical and psychological highs and lows, can make it difficult for people with an opiate addiction to focus on recovery, and they’re responsible for a high relapse rate once detox is complete.
Medication-assisted treatment utilizes a variety of medications to prevent withdrawal symptoms from setting in altogether, and it helps keep your mood stable during the early weeks and months of recovery. Methadone is one of these medications. A long-acting opioid, methadone is taken once a day at a clinic or approved doctor’s office, and it prevents withdrawal for 24 to 36 hours.
While taking methadone, individuals are able to focus their attention on treating the addiction, which typically involves complex underlying issues, such as chronic stress, mental illness, or a history of trauma. Addressing these issues is central to successful recovery. Because methadone doesn’t cause the euphoria and other effects that other opioids produce, you can also focus on:
- Identifying unhealthy thought and behavior patterns that developed as a result of the addiction, and work to re-train yourself to think and behave in healthier ways.
- Identifying purpose and meaning in life without drugs.
- Developing skills and strategies to cope with triggers like cravings and stress.
- Addressing co-occurring mental illnesses like anxiety and depression that often come with opioid addiction.
- Learning to relax and have fun without opiates.
- Restoring damaged relationships and improving the functioning of the family system.
Once you’ve developed the skills you need to stay in recovery for the long-term, you can choose to stop taking medication, but the question is, how to get off methadone?
How to Get Off Methadone
If you quit taking methadone cold-turkey, withdrawal symptoms will set in, and these can be excruciating enough to send you right back to opioid abuse just to make the discomfort stop. So the first answer to the question of how to get off methadone is to avoid quitting suddenly unless you do so through a medical detox program. Methadone withdrawal help is essential for successful detox.
Medical detox is supervised by medical and mental health professionals, who administer medications as needed to reduce the intensity of withdrawal and shorten the time it takes to detox. Medical detox is one option for methadone withdrawal help.
Another option is tapering. By reducing the dosage of methadone over time, your body becomes slowly accustomed to less and less of the medication until you can stop taking it with minimal withdrawal symptoms. Tapering should only be done under a physician’s supervision. During the tapering process, other medications, such as buprenorphine and clonidine, may be used to help wean you off methadone by alleviating any withdrawal symptoms you experience.
How Long Does it Take to Withdraw from Methadone?
One of the most common questions about medication-assisted treatment is, how long does it take to withdraw from methadone in medical detox? The answer is that it depends. Methadone withdrawal can last anywhere from four to 20 days, depending on a number of factors, such as:
- How long you’ve been on methadone
- Your daily dosage of methadone
- How much methadone is in your system when detox starts
- Your age, general state of health, and unique biology
Medical detox or supervised tapering are the best ways to get off methadone. If you’re ready to quit, WhiteSands can help. Our board-certified physicians can help you taper your doses down to nothing with few side effects, or you can choose to undergo medical detox in our comfortable, high quality facility.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.