What Is Methadone Addiction and How Is It Treated

Methadone is a very powerful, synthetic, opiate analgesic. Often, it is prescribed to help stabilise a heroin addiction and prevent opiate withdrawals. It is also used to help manage chronic levels of pain.

The problem with methadone is that, as a powerful narcotic, it is often abused and has a huge addiction potential. Sadly, the frequency of its prescription in treatment for opiate dependencies has resulted in numerous individuals becoming dependent.

Methadone, when abused or mixed with other drugs has the potential to be lethal. Starting out with a prescription that they hoped would be the solution to a Class A drug addiction, thousands find themselves in a similar position and at higher risk of exposure to overdose.

If you or a loved one are addicted to methadone and want to stop, there are various sources of treatment and support available. The first step to accessing treatment is to ask for help.

Why Methadone Addiction Is So Common

In the UK, methadone addiction is now well recognised by the NHS and private sector alike. This is due to a large number of individuals requiring help to come off of the drug, which proves to be a very challenging detox process for anyone with a physical dependency.

Methadone was most prominently introduced into the UK by the government, as part of a harm reduction scheme. The goal was to help reduce the spread of blood-borne viruses and diseases and to reduce opiate addiction-related crime and mortality rates.

In the beginning, methadone was prescribed indefinitely to replace heroin dependency. Unless specifically requested by the patient, a reduction regime would not be enforced or encouraged, especially if the patient was presenting as stable.

For some, methadone maintenance was very effective, and they were able to embrace a crime free and reduced risk way of life; completely turning their lives around, albeit with the assistance of a substitute drug.

However, it is important to recognise that methadone doesn’t come without risks, and long-term use causes damage to internal organs and often premature death. Its use has also led to numerous individuals swapping one addiction for another.

Whilst methadone is effective if not abused, there is a tendency for individuals to use other opiates on top, or alternatively having to keep increasing the dosage. This happens when the drug if it used for prolonged periods of time. The initial pharmaceutical benefits become less effective the longer it is used, as the brain naturally adjusts and builds a tolerance to its effects.

Rehabs across the UK and around the world are admitting more and more individuals who have a methadone addiction; many of whom are also using other powerful opiates, medications, alcohol, or sedatives on top.

If this describes you or a loved one, you may find it impossible to detox safely and successfully in the community.

The higher the dosage of methadone being taken and the longer the dependency on it, the harder you or your loved one will find it to become methadone free. This is where professional intervention and treatment can prove life-saving, especially where there is more than one addiction present.

What Is Methadone and What Is It Used For?

methadone liquid

Methadone is a strong synthetic opioid medicine with three main legitimate purposes:

  1. As an analgesic to treat severe and chronic pain
  2. As part of a maintenance therapy to stabilize an already present opiate addiction and reduce risk an escalation of that addiction
  3. As a substitute for heroin for a controlled withdrawal regime, where there is a heroin dependency

Methadone is most commonly dispensed in an oral suspension. It also comes in tablet form, but tablets have a longer onset of the effects to work. In hospitals, it can be administered by muscular injection or intravenously for those who need immediate pain relief.

Methadone works quickly and its effects are very similar to other strong opiates but without the extreme euphoric high of heroin. The peak pharmaceutical effects last six to eight hours with a single dose.

In an opiate dependence, stabilisation or withdrawal programme, once the body has adjusted to a particular dosage and optimum titration reached, its effects will last anything from 8 to 36 hours in an individual with a healthy liver function.

What Is Methadone Titration?

When methadone is used as a substitute for another opiate dependency, its replacement needs to be carefully managed. Patients will gradually have their dosage of methadone increased, to a point where they no longer crave the opiate-based drug that they were previously physically addicted to. This method is referred to as the titration process.

Methadone titration is commonly used by the NHS in community detoxes, as part of a harm reduction scheme against heroin. It brings the individual to the same level of opiate-based dependency so that they potentially no longer need to use other opiates.

Methadone is a much safer and predictable drug than heroin and reduces exposure to health problems through shared paraphernalia (predominantly needles) and also a crime.

Methadone is slow to metabolise in the body and so it lasts longer than morphine-based drugs. Once titration is complete, a single daily dose is usually sufficient.

heroin methadone data

If you have a heroin addiction and are considering swapping to methadone, titration is a vital process in safeguarding you from overdose and ensuring that you do not go into withdrawal.

There is no telling exactly how much methadone will be needed to replace an active heroin addiction, as it varies from person to person. This process is needed in order to achieve the correct dosage in a safe and controlled manner.

You will no longer crave the old opiate that you were dependent on and any withdrawal symptoms will disappear. The methadone will have a lasting effect at this point, as your body adjusts to accepting the replacement. A controlled reduction regime can then be undertaken to help you become completely drug-free.

Using methadone as a substitute for an illicit opiate does not guarantee that the individual will not continue to use, or at some point return back to using. This is when methadone addiction becomes extremely dangerous and life-threatening on a daily basis.

It is vital that, if you suffer from addiction, you seek professional help to address the underlying causes of your initial addiction and any current addictions; if you don’t, there will always be a high risk of you relapsing and ending up worse off than ever before.

The Effects of Methadone

There are many effects that methadone has on the body and brain, some are beneficial to the user and others are unwanted side effects.

Beneficial

  • Prevention of heroin and other opiate withdrawal symptoms
  • A powerful and long-lasting painkiller
  • A feeling of warmth and euphoria
  • Long-lasting pharmaceutical effects
  • Induces feelings of comfort, sleepiness and drowsiness
  • Predictable and balanced effects

If you are considering taking methadone, or are already taking methadone, it is important to educate yourself as much as possible regarding the drugs potential side effects and possible interaction with other medications. This will help to keep you safe whilst you are taking the drug.

If you are in a house with children, it is vital that the medication is stored in a safe place such as a locked cabinet and that it is out of their reach at all times. Serious harm to the child can be easily avoided by taking the correct safety precautions.

Harmful

 

There are many more unwanted and dangerous side effects to this drug; if any are troublesome or relate to your heart, breathing, serotonin syndrome or a possible allergy, it is vital that you seek medical attention without delay. These symptoms could be life-threatening if left untreated.

You should never mix methadone with alcohol, other opiates or sedatives; this is the main cause of methadone-related overdoses and deaths. Mixing this powerful narcotic with another depressant drug increases the repressive effects on the body and brain. It can cause the body to go into complete shutdown.

Before prescribing you this medication, your doctor should ensure that you are safe to take methadone alongside any other prescribed medications that you are taking regularly. We also strongly suggest that you seek a pharmacist???s advice before taking any over-the-counter medications so that you do not inadvertently put yourself at risk. Even a simple cough mixture or painkiller can cause additional repressive effects.

Is Methadone Addictive?

Methadone, like any other opiate, is very addictive and quickly leads to a tolerance and dependence. Tolerance to a dosage of methadone can develop within as little as three to five days of continuous use.

Methadone has been used, since the 1960s, as a replacement for heroin. Once an individual has become dependent on methadone they find it very hard to reduce and stop. In many cases, they cannot stop and end up ???parked??? on a methadone script indefinitely, or turn back to illicit drugs.

It is common for those that suffer from the disease of addiction to not only become physically addicted but also psychologically addicted to its effects. This results in an irrational fear of withdrawal, to the point that they will avoid it at all costs.

Perhaps your loved one is already experiencing similar feelings?

Yes, withdrawal from methadone can be very unpleasant, but it is temporary and with the right attitude and support, it can be fairly comfortably achieved. However, if you suffer from addiction, you are much more likely to suffer more serious withdrawal effects, due to having a psychological attachment to the drug.

Those that suffer from addiction will also find it very hard to stay stopped once they are detoxed. Addiction resides in the brain, so the crux of the problem is psychological. This requires specific addiction treatment in order to overcome and help prevent relapse.

woman taking methadone orally

The longer an individual has been dependent on methadone and the higher the dependence, the more challenging they will find it to reduce and stop. With a longstanding and heavy methadone addiction, residential rehab is recommended. A full rehabilitation programme can be undertaken alongside a medically managed detox.

The Law on Methadone

Methadone is a class A controlled drug under the Substance Misuse Act 1971 and is only available legally on prescription.

It is illegal to take methadone that is not prescribed for you, to give it away (even to friends and family), to supply or to sell.

Illegal possession of methadone can carry a penalty of up to seven years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Supply, or intent to supply, can result in a life prison sentence, and/or an indefinite fine.

Why Methadone Is Used as a Heroin Substitute

In a heroin substitute regime, methadone is prescribed for oral administration so that it reaches the brain more slowly and steadily, dampening the high that can be achieved through administering the drug in other ways.

At some point in every heroin addiction, the user will reach a plato; whereby they no longer receive the effects that they seek from the drug, and are merely using to stave off withdrawal symptoms.

If you have a heroin addiction, you will find that it will become all consuming. You may well take more and more risks to sustain your habit. The toll of your addiction is likely to impact on every aspect of your being – physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and financially.

If you are feeling that cannot get enough to make a substantial difference to the way that you feel, and become tolerant every time you increase your use, you can be helped through a replacement therapy.

Heroin Harm Reduction

Methadone maintenance or detoxification, carried out under a controlled community programme, is used as a safer alternative to heroin where there is an addiction present. The theory behind the government implemented harm reduction strategy, is to prevent heroin users from overdose and from exposure to bloodborne viruses such as HIV and Hep C.

This method of harm reduction can also stop the endless and repetitive cycle of having to obtain money, buy heroin and use heroin. Heroin addiction eventually becomes a full-time job to sustain; in that, if you suffer from it, it will consume every waking thought and moment of your daily life.

heroin addiction quote

By substituting heroin with methadone, once a daily dose has been administered, you can then go about your day, without the fear of going into withdrawal or worrying about getting your next fix. You are given the hope of a new life; one where you don’t have to continually plot, plan, cheat, steal, lie, manipulate, or put your life at risk on a daily basis.

However, the risks have to be weighed up. If stopping the cycle of addiction is your aim, a heroin detox and rehabilitation programme is far more effective in the long term.

Driving While on Methadone

If you are prescribed methadone regularly, it is likely that you will have your driving licence removed until you stop taking it. For the DVLA to approve your licence whilst on a methadone prescription, you must have medical evidence to support that you are stable and able to drive unimpaired by its effects.

Drug driving carries the same penalties as drink driving. If you are caught driving under the influence of methadone without an approved license from the DVLA or caught driving erratically or impaired under the influence of methadone, you are likely to lose your license, be fined, or even imprisoned. In some instances, if you are convicted of dangerous or reckless driving, you may well face all three penalties.

Driving whilst intoxicated on methadone is extremely dangerous, not only to you as the driver, but also to others on the road. Your judgement, cognitive ability and perception will all be severely impaired if you are affected by this drug. This could result in catastrophic consequences to you and to others.

Methadone Use in Pregnancy

Compared to an illicit substance, methadone is safer to use during pregnancy, provided it is carefully monitored by your midwife, the doctor prescribing it and your pregnancy consultant. However, using methadone whilst pregnant does not come without some risks.

During pregnancy, it is especially important that you stick solely to the regime prescribed for you by your doctor. Using illicit drugs on top or alcohol can put you and your unborn baby’s life at great risk.

If you are stabilised on a maintenance programme of methadone, it is possible to get pregnant and have a healthy child, but only with the correct medical measures in place. Ideally, you should be free from all opiates and substances before conceiving and during pregnancy, to ensure that the pregnancy is as risk-free as possible.

Being drug-free whilst pregnant will also make life far easier for you during labour and once you have had the baby.

baby in the hospital

The Risks of Methadone Use During Pregnancy

Methadone use in pregnancy does carry the risk of lower than normal birth weight and smaller than normal head size. However, these will reverse once the baby is born and begins to gain weight and grow.

If you are already pregnant and on an opiate substitute regime that uses methadone, it is vital that you do not attempt unsupervised reduction. This could cause uterine contractions and could result in a miscarriage of your child. Always follow medical professional advise and discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor and midwife before making any decisions.

Methadone should not be used during labour, even if you are dependent on it, due to the risks it carries to the baby as a newborn. Other shorter-acting analgesics should be used for pain relief in order to avoid respiratory problems in your baby straight after birth. Your midwife will help you with a birth plan to help you manage labour pain and keep the baby safe at the same time

It is essential that the labour is as controlled as possible, preferably within a medical environment (labour ward at the hospital).

It is wise to prepare yourself for the fact that your baby is likely to have to stay in the hospital for a period of monitoring and possible opiate withdrawal treatment. This is likely to be very distressing both for you, as a new mother, and for your baby.

We understand that you may feel ashamed of your dependencies, but providing you are stable and access appropriate medical care during pregnancy and birth, you and your baby will remain healthy.

If you are using other drugs on top of methadone, or are using methadone illicitly, we advise you to be honest about this with medical professionals. This will allow them the opportunity to stabilise you safely, without putting yourself or your baby at risk.

Babies Born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

babies with opioid withdrawal

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), is the medical term used for the condition of babies that born addicted to a substance; as a result, they sadly suffer the effects of withdrawal.

The NIH (National Institutes of Health) have reported that every 25 minutes a baby addicted to an opioid-type substance is born. Keeping your GP and midwife informed about any medications or drugs you are taking while pregnant will save your baby from becoming just another statistic.

BBC news investigated the scale of NAS affecting babies born in England, during the period between 2011 and 2015. The statistics provided by 72 hospital trusts, positively showed a slow decline in NAS births over recent years.

It was found that an average 0.2% of babies were born with this condition. However, the top rating hospitals for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, show grave concern for the number of babies born in certain areas of the country, which are well above the UK???s statistical average:

hospital data for babies with withdrawal syndrome

Reports obtained, confirm that NAS is more of a problem in some areas than others. Of the hospitals that responded, it was advised that the majority of NAS babies were born to addicted mothers of lower social and economic background. This fits with the trend that the British government are failing to protect those that are most vulnerable, against the consequences of addiction.

How the UK Government’s Abstinence-Focused Drug Strategy Failed

In the UK, an abstinence-focused drug strategy was brought into effect in 2010, with the purpose of getting individuals addicted to heroin swapped to methadone (or a similar substitute) and then reducing them to complete abstinence.

The result was an outbreak of HIV in Scotland amongst those that injected drugs, and a devastating spike in heroin and opiate-related deaths in England and Wales. Methadone is classed under opiates, as it a broad term used in drug strategy statistics to cover all opiates including synthetic drugs.

Looking at the past history of drug harm-reduction strategies for heroin, which involved many being maintained on methadone for many years; to enforce a detox regime, as a result of the 2010 drug strategy, would have been extremely difficult for them to adhere to, not to mention terrifying.

Not surprisingly, many found the reduction and detox implementation too difficult, and after many years abstinence turned back to using Class A???s and injecting heroin. With little or no tolerance to the drug, this sadly contributed to the vast increase in deaths due to unintentional overdose.

Between 2012 and 2016, deaths involving heroin and opiates rose by a staggering 109%. In 2016 there was 3,744 drug-related deaths across the UK. This is the highest recorded number of drug-related deaths since records began in 1993.

drug poinsoning deaths data

The highest death toll ever recorded in 2016, is likely to be partly attributed to the introduction of fentanyl across the UK and partly due to the focus on complete abstinence. As more heroin dealers latch on to fentanyl strength and availability, more and more batches of heroin are being cut with it. Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than heroin and morphine; first exposure can cause instant death from opiate overdose.

Those that are detoxing after being maintained on methadone for previous years are particularly vulnerable to relapse, and therefore being exposed to stronger drugs than ever before, hence the severe increase in opiate-related deaths.

The Dangers and Risks of Taking Methadone

Taking methadone does not come without risks, yes it is safer than taking heroin when used as a substitute, but it is still an extremely powerful narcotic. Developing a dependency on methadone is inevitable if you are taking it for a prolonged period of time, regardless of the reason you are taking it.

Methadone induces tolerance when used over a long period of time. This means that the individual will need more and more of the drug, or return to using additional opiates, to stop them suffering withdrawal or adverse effects.

It is also common for addicted individuals to abuse their methadone by using alternative methods of administration, such as intravenous injection, for an instant and more pronounced hit.

drug related deaths 2012 2016

Injecting methadone is very dangerous, it can cause instant overdose and carries the same infectious disease risks as heroin. It can also lead to collapsed veins, deep vein thrombosis, cellulitis, abscesses, gangrene, and ultimately in the worst cases, it can lead to amputation of infected limbs that cannot be medically saved.

If you are on a methadone script and find you are still craving heroin or experiencing some withdrawal symptoms that are unexpected, rather than risking relapse or self-medicating, it is vital that you tell your doctor so that your prescription can be reviewed.

If you don’t communicate your concerns or problems to your doctor or the addiction professionals who are looking after you.

Whilst abstinence is the ideal goal for many methadone users, it’s extremely hard to achieve if you suffer from addiction.

The Long-Term Effects of Methadone

Long-term methadone use puts a lot of additional pressure on internal organs as the toxins build up over time, possibly leading to multiple organ failures, regardless of how the drug is administered. Methadone also lowers testosterone production in men, leading to loss of sex drive and fertility.

Methadone dependent women are also prone to suffering menstrual irregularities, loss of sex drive and fertility problems due to imbalanced hormones. Many long-term methadone users also lose their teeth, as the oral methadone syrup solutions erode the enamel and gums.

Long-term methadone use also has a profound effect on the brain and its ability to function normally, with lasting and life-altering effects developing, which can include:

  • Severe depression and other psychological and brain-related illnesses
  • Poor cognitive ability and learning skills
  • Amnesia
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings
  • Sensory alterations
  • Concentration disorders
  • Psychological dependence in addition to physical dependence

Quitting methadone, with medical assistance, will prevent further deterioration and can restore most of the harm caused to the body – if treated early enough and a healthy lifestyle is adopted. There is no reason why once methadone free and recovered, that you will not live a full and happy life.

The Benefits of Stopping Methadone

Providing you stop methadone safely and follow a medical reduction regime, there are naturally numerous benefits to becoming methadone free. Understandably, if you have a dependency on methadone you will be worried about how you will cope with the withdrawal symptoms of detoxification.

When considering stopping methadone for good, it is suggested that you keep an open mind to all of the treatment options available. No one person is the same, everyone has individual treatment requirements that will need to be met.

Once the most severe withdrawal symptoms have passed you will regain some control over your life. With support, you will be able to start building a new life for yourself, one that is infinitely better than ever before; one that is free from drugs.

Withdrawal symptoms from the methadone may come and go for a while, but you will start to feel better, stronger and more focused on the week’s progress.

Once clean and stable, you will find that opportunities start to open up to you, such as study, training, volunteering or work; you will be in a far better place to rebuild family relationships and friendships and form new healthier relationships with others in recovery also.

By overcoming your dependency to methadone, you will have a renewed energy for life and feel a huge sense of achievement. The benefits of stopping methadone are too numerous to list, but needless to say, you will be far better offer mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

With the correct, help, support and guidance there will be nothing stopping you from living the life you have always dreamed of. Please contact us if you would like more information on how to achieve this and access invaluable support to assist you.

one decision away

Help for Family Members of Methadone Addicts

Are you concerned about a loved one or family member who has an addiction to methadone? Are you lost in trying to help them? Is their addiction negatively impacting on your quality of life on a daily basis? Do you spend days and nights worrying about them? If so, there is help available.

As a family member or a loved one of someone who is a methadone addict, it is important to get support and help for yourself. No doubt you will have spent much time and energy trying to protect them and keep them from harm. To a lesser or greater extent, it is likely you will have neglected your own life and your own individual needs.

Please realise that addiction is no one’s fault and that neither you nor they are equipped to overcome this devastating and relentless disease of the mind. Help and assistance can come from an addiction professional who is trained and experienced in this field of treatment.

two women discussing addiction

If you are to become free from the constant fear, anger, blame, shame and guilt that accompanies addiction, it is likely that you will need help and support to reclaim your life.

You can access much-needed understanding and support freely, through such sources as ??Adfam and Families Anonymous groups. You can also request counselling from your local NHS services through your GP, or contact us if you are interested in private counselling.

If your loved one or family member is attending an inpatient rehab programme, many reputable rehabs also offer a family recovery programme or family support as part of their service. We encourage you to take full advantage so that you too can become free to live your own life once again.

Furthermore, through accessing help, you will learn not only how to look after yourself, but also how not to enable your family members methadone addiction further. This can be pivotal in taking responsibility for their own illness and in them seeking the much needed specialist treatment; treatment that could well save their life.

Who Is at Risk of Methadone Addiction?

Addiction is much more than just a physical substance dependency; addiction resides in the brain and manifests in dysfunctional thoughts and subsequent compulsive behaviours. It is these thoughts and behaviours that will take any individual addicted back to their prefered drug, or continue on their path of increased risk to their own lives and to others.

If you suffer from addiction, you could compulsively seek the drug that gave them the fastest and most intense euphoric high, and oblivion from reality.

When methadone is used as an analgesic, if taken for extended periods of time, as well as a physical dependence, the individual is also at risk of developing a psychological addiction. Frequent methadone exposure causes chemical dependency and emotional reliance.

Even with no personal previous history of addiction, the same chemical changes can take place in the brain and manifest in subsequent addictive behaviours. This does not happen to everyone though; those who do not develop addiction will be able to control their usage and adhere to a prescription. Even if they are physically dependent, they will be able to adhere to a dependency reduction regime without too much difficulty; they are also far less likely to relapse.

There are many theories as to why some develop addiction and some don’t. There is no one answer, but certain factors such as genetics and environment can play a crucial and contributing role, making the individual more vulnerable and at higher risk of developing an addiction.

cycle of addiction

If you are addicted to methadone and want to successfully stop using and stay drug-free, it is paramount that the psychological aspect is comprehensively addressed through specialist addiction treatment.

Addiction develops through chemical changes in the brain that result from repeated exposure to a substance or a behaviour that stimulates the brain’s pleasure receptors. At some point, an invisible line is crossed, and the chemical changes hardwire the individual to compulsively seek out and take the drug, regardless of negative consequences. When this happens the power of choice and control is lost.

Addiction is a progressive illness whether there are a tolerance and dependency or not. If you have an addiction, it will have developed over a period of time. With Methadone, you will not only become physically dependent (due to it being a dependency building drug) but psychologically you will be compelled to use it, to the point that little else matters. This can happen regardless if you have had a previous addiction or not.

Many who suffer from addiction require specialist inpatient treatment in a reliable rehab facility in order to get fully well and reduce the risk of relapse once detoxed.

Rehab offers many benefits that cannot be accessed or provided in the community. One of which is a controlled recovery-focused environment, which is exactly what someone with an addiction needs in order to make a full and lasting recovery.

Symptoms of Methadone Withdrawal

If you are taking methadone and want to stop, a gradual prescribed reduction will be required. If you are using other opiates or substances, in addition, this will need to be factored into the detox, which will be carefully managed and monitored by a qualified medical professional.

Methadone detox is not easy in the community, especially if you have been taking it for a long time, are on a high dosage, or are using other opiate or sedative drugs on top. If a reduction regime is not working for you, inpatient private rehab will offer you the best chance of getting clean and staying off illicit substances and methadone for good.

Whatever you decide, and whatever your circumstances, you should always consult a doctor prior to attempting to stop methadone. Methadone has some very painful and severe withdrawal symptoms, some of which can be life-threatening if you stop the drug too quickly.

opioids withdrawal symptoms

Symptoms

Typically, withdrawal symptoms from methadone will start 24-36 hours after the last dosage, hitting a peak in severity after 3-4 days. If you attempt to detox without medical supervision and control, symptoms can become life-threatening and include respiratory and cardiac problems, seizures and suicidal ideation. This usually only happens in the most severe cases of addiction and dependency, but regardless of how much you are taking, you should always consult your doctor first.

Physical

Restlessness

Lethargy

Weakness

Watery eyes and running nose

Acute insomnia

Muscular aches, pains cramps and restless limbs

??Nausea

Yawning

Sweating

Intense drug cravings

Sensitivity to touch

Heightened senses

Vomiting and Diarrhea, accompanied by stomach and intestinal cramps

 

 

Psychological

Feelings of panic and fear

Depression

Hallucinations (audio or visual)

Erratic mood swings

Agitation and aggression

Inability to concentrate or focus

Paranoia

Emotional outbursts

Feeling the need to isolate and be left alone

Social anxiety and generalised anxiety

Hypervigilance and jumpiness

Feelings of losing control

 

 

It is important that, if you are thinking of quitting methadone, you first seek appropriate medical advice and that you do not attempt to withdraw ???cold turkey???. With a methadone dependence, this could prove detrimental to your long-term recovery and in the worst case be lethal.

How Long Does Methadone Withdrawal Last?

The length of time it takes you to become free from methadone will depend on how long you have been taking the drug for and how strong the dependency is. The longer and higher the dosage they are addicted to will impact on the severity of withdrawal and how long the withdrawals last for.

The most severe withdrawal symptoms will last between two and three weeks; a secondary withdrawal period can happen where the initial dependency is high. This can last for up to six months, rarely longer.

In some cases where methadone has been used for years and/or at a high dose, even with a controlled detoxification, the protracted withdrawal symptoms can last for up to a year. Over time they do lessen in severity but are still physically and mentally disabling to some extent.

Methadone has one of the most protracted withdrawal symptoms out of all the illicit and legal drugs available. These symptoms can be very hard to manage on a daily basis, especially in the community. Whilst they will become more manageable as time goes on, they are still very unpleasant and frustrating.

drug withdrawal symptoms

Whilst going through withdrawal from methadone, you will be particularly vulnerable to relapse. Those who experience protracted withdrawal symptoms will need high levels of support to enable them to stay safe for the duration of these ongoing after effects.

If you are someone who has a long-standing methadone addiction, if it is a viable option, we strongly recommend primary and secondary care, at a minimum, within a residential rehab facility. The environment of a rehab centre will keep you safe from temptation during the period of withdrawal, and will also provide you with the intensive levels of support required.

For the duration of your inpatient stay, you will be in the hands of very experienced and qualified professionals each and every step of the way.

The reality is, in the community the intensive support needed to support a long-standing methadone addiction detox is not available on the NHS, nor is the community a safe and temptation-free environment.

Staying local and detoxing prove highly challenging for any individual trying to achieve complete abstinence; they are likely to see their old using associates and dealers frequently in the community, at doctors surgeries, in drug and alcohol community drop-in sessions and at chemists when collecting their medication.

Detox Options for Methadone

There are three main options when it comes to detoxing from methadone safely:

  1. Enlist the help of your local GP and NHS drug and alcohol team
  2. Attend support groups such as SMART Recovery and Narcotics Anonymous whilst you follow a Doctor’s detox regime
  3. Attend a private detox/rehab clinic for a full inpatient medical detox and personalised rehabilitation programme, with aftercare support to follow for when you return back to the community.

Because detoxing from methadone can be very challenging in the community, we suggest inpatient detoxification if at all possible. You can request you are put on the waiting list for NHS funding, which can prove a be a very lengthily period of time or alternatively self-fund private rehab for an immediate admission.

Accessing private rehab means that you can begin your detox and rehabilitation without delay. If you have reached a crisis point in your addiction, private rehab can provide the life-saving treatment needed for an urgent same-day admission.

The sooner you attempt to come off methadone, providing you have the correct professional support in place, the better. The longer you stay on methadone, the harder it will be to quit. Withdrawal symptoms will be more severe and longer lasting. Ideally, detox should be conducted in a secure environment such as residential rehab or a detox clinic for a maximum chance of success.

drug free image

Methadone Rehab

Is your methadone use out of control? Are you unable to follow a reduction regime without using in addition or taking more? Are you using additional narcotics, sedatives or alcohol on top? Are you injecting methadone or obtaining it illicitly? Are you desperate to stop, but don’t know how? If so, a methadone rehab would certainly benefit you and is worth serious consideration as a life-saving intervention.

If you have an abuse problem or dependency to methadone and are unable to stop in the community, then inpatient rehab is recommended. Rehab provides a safe environment away from other users, temptation and the daily stresses of life. All medications are controlled by experts; taking the detox out of your hands and placing it firmly in the care of qualified medical professionals.

If you feel you need rehab to help you come off of methadone, you are not alone. Many addicted individuals require residential rehab in order to escape the toxic environment that they have submerged themselves in as a result of their addiction and to break free of their usual daily patterns that have become habitually ingrained.

A rehab for methadone addiction will assist you in many ways, not only in safely stopping the drug but also in forming new healthy habits that will aid your ongoing recovery and in building a drug-free life for yourself.

Benefits of Inpatient Treatment

There are many more benefits in attending an inpatient treatment programme in order to come off methadone. You will receive far more than just a controlled detox, you will also undergo an intensive rehabilitation programme to unearth and address the root causes and subsequent behaviours attached to your addiction.

  • Medically managed detox
  • A safe, secure and nurturing environment
  • Effective and proven addiction-healing treatments
  • A team of dedicated and compassionate addiction professionals looking after you 24/7, including doctors, nurses, counsellors, psychotherapists, holistic therapists and recovery workers
  • Holistic treatments and fitness therapies
  • Aftercare plan

Those that work within rehab centres are mostly in recovery from addiction themselves; including qualified counsellors and psychotherapists. They are very inspiring in what they have achieved. They truly understand what you are experiencing and can provide you with the compassion, motivation and inspiration needed to get well and make a full and lasting recovery.

happy drug free family photo

Rehabilitation Programmes for Methadone Addiction

There are many rehabs in the UK and overseas that provide a full detox and rehabilitation programme for methadone addiction.

It is rare that a detox alone is sufficient when an addiction is present. Yes, you will be clean, but for how long? With the same thought processes and behaviours, it is highly likely that a relapse will be on the cards.

In our experience of addiction as a progressive disease, relapses are always worse. With powerful narcotic drugs such as methadone, relapses can sadly often prove fatal.

It is essential that if you do undergo a methadone detox and are suffering from addiction, that you also undertake a full rehabilitation programme. This will make all the difference to your recovery and provide you with the tools to make the changes necessary to stay in recovery and build a brand new life.

On the NHS there is little in the way of intensive rehabilitation. What can be achieved in a few months of an intensive rehab programme would take years to achieve in the community. Many of the treatments that you will also be able to access through an inpatient rehabilitation programme will also not be available on the NHS, or there will be a lengthily waiting list.

Time is a luxury that many who suffer from addiction cannot afford. Whilst detoxing, and straight after, is when you will be at your most vulnerable and require the highest levels of support to help you to stay abstinent.

By enrolling in a residential rehabilitation programme you will undergo many therapies, intensively; all within a safe and protective environment. A reputable rehab will also tailor their programme to meet your specific treatment requirements.

Evidence-based powerful-healing treatments include:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioural therapy (DBT)
  • Psychotherapy
  • Trauma therapy
  • One to one and group counselling
  • Relapse prevention
  • A full holistic programme, including therapies such as Acupuncture, Meditation, 12 Step, Yoga, Tai Chi, Spa facilities, Nutrition, Art therapy and health and fitness.

All therapies are designed to treat you as a whole person – physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually, in order that you may fully heal on every level possible. You will leave treatment not only looking very different but thinking and feeling very differently also.

A good rehabilitation programme will equip you with the recovery tools needed to deal with life on life’s terms without resorting to drugs or maladaptive behaviours to cope.

How Long Should I Stay In Rehab For?

Rehab treatment is lifesaving, but only if you stay for the appropriate length of time and undergo the correct treatment that is relevant to you as an individual. Aftercare is also a critical part of your ongoing rehabilitation and reintegration back into the community.

With methadone, especially where there has been a previous or current heroin addiction, we recommend staying for as long as possible. Primary care of 12 weeks is suggested, but also secondary and tertiary care can provide a firm foundation and an assisted slow reintegration back into daily living.

We appreciate that not everyone can afford or is able to access a long-term residential stay, but there are more affordable options available that can work just as well if you are dedicated and committed to the treatment.

Secondary rehab care will allow you more freedom than primary care, but with the same access to continued rehab treatment and support.

Tertiary care provides safe and sober living accommodation within a recovery based community. You will have complete freedom to start rebuilding your life in preparation for total independence, but still, have the benefit of ongoing support and access to regular aftercare and counselling.

Both secondary and tertiary care will assist you back into education, training, volunteering or work. Many opt to volunteer at the rehab and help assist the new people coming in, as find this hugely rewarding. It can also be used as a stepping stone to further training and a career path.

Help Finding the Right Rehab

Do you need help finding the right rehab? We are a company of addiction treatment professionals and are dedicated to helping you find the right rehab and treatment programme for a full and lasting recovery.

On contacting us, you or your loved one can undergo a confidential and free of charge treatment assessment, conducted by one of our friendly treatment experts. We can also take care of all the arrangements for you if you wish to proceed with an admission.

Addiction Helper only works the most reputable Care Quality Commission regulated rehab centres and detox clinics in the UK and overseas.

We have an outstanding reputation for our passion and dedication in helping our clients each and every step of the way. We can even arrange same day urgent admissions and sober transportation.