Getting Off of Methadone

Methadone WithdrawalMethadone treatment can help some people trying to find some stability while remaining in an opioid maintenance. The issue usually arises when one decides not to continue with methadone because the withdrawal can be extremely painful, lengthy and difficult.

Methadone is an opioid, which is the same class of drug as heroin, codeine, morphine, and OxyContin. As with any opioid, methadone can cause physical dependence, withdrawal symptoms and addiction. Many find methadone withdrawal symptoms to be as uncomfortable – or even more uncomfortable – than heroin withdrawal.

In fact, Harvard Medical School says that only about a quarter of all methadone users eventually quit, another 25 percent remain on methadone forever, and about half go on and off methadone throughout their lives.

Physicians also prescribe methadone for use as a pain reliever, especially for chronic problems such as back pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doctors wrote more than 4 million prescriptions for methadone to relieve pain in 2009. The CDC also reported that almost one-third of prescription painkiller overdose deaths involve methadone.

Doctors have prescribed methadone to treat drug addiction for decades but recently have started prescribing it to relieve pain. The number of methadone-related overdoses has risen in relation to the number of prescriptions written. CDC results showed that six times as many people died of methadone overdoses in 2009 as died in 1999.

How Methadone Works

Like all opioids, methadone works by changing the way the brain interprets pain signals. Opioids cause other changes in the brain, including the pleasant, euphoric feeling that makes these drugs attractive for recreational use. With continued opioid use, these neurological changes can also cause addiction and other profound and permanent effects in the brain.

With regular and continual use, the human body can become physically dependent on any opioid, including methadone. An opioid-dependent person must maintain a certain level of opioid drugs in his system to feel “normal.” When opioid levels drop below that level, the individual feels flu-like withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone is a maintenance drug or a replacement opioid for heroin-addicted patients because it connects to opioid receptors in the same way as heroin to prevent withdrawal symptoms from occurring – methadone keeps opioid levels high enough for the person to feel “normal.” Unlike heroin, however, methadone does not cause a pleasant euphoric feeling. Furthermore, the effects of one dose of methadone last for about 24 hours, whereas the usual dose of other opioids cause effects for just a few hours.

Methadone’s risks :

  • The difference between prescribed doses and dangerous doses of methadone is small.
  • Methadone has special risks as a painkiller. For example, taking it more than 3 times a day can cause the drug to build up in a person’s body, leading to dangerously slowed breathing.
  • ethadone can seriously disrupt the heart’s rhythm.
  • Methadone can be particularly risky when used with tranquilizers or other prescription painkillers.
  • In one study, four in ten overdose deaths involving single prescription painkillers involved methadone, twice as many as any other prescription painkiller.

Methadone Detoxification

Opioid levels fall in the human body a few hours after the last dose of methadone. The physically dependent body struggles to adapt to these falling levels; doctors refer to this struggle as “detoxification.” The individual experiences detoxification through uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Because methadone is an opioid, it causes the same withdrawal symptoms as heroin and other opioids.

One of the larger differences, though, is that withdrawal symptoms usually begin to appear about 30 hours after the last dose of methadone – much later than with other opioids. Methadone withdrawal symptoms peak at about the sixth day but may last longer.

Methadone withdrawal symptoms tend to appear in two waves. Early symptoms include:

  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Muscle aches or cramps
  • Watery eyes
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Profuse perspiration
  • Yawning

Later methadone withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goose bumps

Professional treatment for methadone addiction and physical dependence helps reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and improves the chances for success. Our rapid opiate detoxification is designed to work quickly, safely and address the painful and lengthy withdrawal phase that patients fear so much.

We are proud to offer our patients the best medicine has to offer in treating opiate dependency. Contact WAISMANN METHOD® immediately for methadone addiction help for yourself or a loved one.