Everything You Need to Know About a Methadone Detox

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Written by: on 15th November, 2017

Methadone is an opioid medication commonly used to treat heroin and painkiller addiction, and is sometimes also used to treat severe pain. Methadone has been used by U.S. doctors since the 1940s, and is proven a viable treatment option for opioid addiction. But since methadone is still an opioid and a Schedule II class drug, the medication carries a high risk for addiction — meaning those who choose methadone detox for opioid addiction must adhere closely to doctors instructions throughout treatment to avoid methadone dependence.

Here’s everything you need to know about a methadone detox, and how using this detox method properly and responsibly can help you or your loved one achieve a healthier, drug-free lifestyle.

The Role of Methadone in Addiction Treatment

Methadone was originally developed in 1937 by German scientists who were seeking ways to replace their country’s shortening opium supply. Ten years later in 1947, methadone was approved for use in the U.S. and sold under the brand name Dolophine. Methadone has been used to treat opioid dependence ever since.

Methadone is a long-acting opioid, which means the drug’s active ingredients are slowly released into a person’s bloodstream over a set of hours. Methadone works by suppressing heroin and painkiller withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and drug cravings. Methadone also blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of other opioids so patients can continue to perform normal activities like driving a car and going to work without being debilitated.

Scientific evidence has shown that methadone greatly reduces the risk for relapse in opioid addiction patients, along with rates of opioid overdoses, criminal recidivism, and the spreading of fatal diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. Recent data even suggests that methadone may also be an effective treatment for cocaine dependence, as methadone has been shown to reduce drug cravings and cocaine-seeking behavior in rats.

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How is a Methadone Detox Used in Treatment?

Heroin ranks among the most highly addictive drugs in the world due to its deadly, potent, and short-acting nature. A heroin-dependent person who suddenly stops using the drug could experience a number of severe withdrawal symptoms within hours of the last use. Many times, those dependent on heroin will relapse and return to using heroin just for the sake of avoiding intense drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone binds to the same receptors in the brain as heroin and painkillers, but does not produce intoxicating effects. Methadone can be prescribed long-term as part of ongoing maintenance therapy, or can be used short-term in a drug detox setting. Both methadone detox methods are effective at helping opioid-dependent patients achieve long-term sobriety and addiction-free lives.

Methadone Maintenance Therapy

Methadone maintenance therapy, or MMT, is a long-term detox treatment for opioid addiction. Patients generally begin with doses of between 10 and 20 mg, which are then gradually increased in 10-mg increments until withdrawal symptoms are fully suppressed. Patients maintain these methadone doses for a long-term basis so they can fully recover from opioid addiction while resuming and repairing their normal daily lives.

A dose of 30 mg of methadone is equal to roughly 5 mg of heroin. In most cases of MMT, methadone replaces the drug of abuse, such as heroin, fentanyl, or oxycodone. Methadone dosage amounts are often tailored to each individual patient based on their opioid tolerance and dependence levels.

Methadone Detox

Methadone detox treatment is similar to MMT, but is short-term and lasts only for a few weeks or months, while MMT can last for several months. Doses begin at between 10 and 20 mg, and are gradually increased by 10-mg increments until withdrawal symptoms are fully controlled. But with methadone detox, patients stay at this dose only for two to three days — after which doses are reduced by up to 20 percent daily or every other day until patients are completely drug-free.

Since methadone detox is a short-term treatment, patients often require therapy and extended care following detox to reduce their relapse risk. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and 12-step support groups help patients identify the root cause of their substance use disorders. Counselors and therapists then work with patients on overcoming the psychological causes driving their opioid addiction.

Benefits of a Medically Assisted Inpatient Treatment Program

methadone detox

Inpatient methadone detox provides 24 hour access to nurses.

A methadone detox is safest when conducted at an inpatient treatment center. An inpatient medical detox gives patients the benefit of withdrawing from heroin and painkillers surrounded by doctors and nurses who monitor their progress day and night. Inpatient care greatly reduces a patient’s risk for pain, discomfort, complications, and relapse rates commonly associated with detox and addiction treatment.

Another major benefit to a medically assisted inpatient program is having access to doctors who can modify methadone doses instantly when cravings and withdrawal symptoms become more severe than anticipated. At an inpatient facility, patients can also be closely monitored and supervised to make sure they do not misuse their methadone medications and become physically dependent.

Other benefits associated with a methadone medical detox in an inpatient setting:

  • Inpatient centers offer patients a safe environment away from drugs, alcohol, and negative influences.
  • Patients can focus on fighting opioid addiction without having to worry about stressors that increase relapse rates, such as going to work or caring for sick family members.
  • Doctors can monitor patients closely during detox and make instant changes to treatment plans when needed.
  • Patients have 24/7 access to nurses, doctors, therapists, and addiction counselors.
  • Patients can bond with other individuals who are also overcoming opioid addiction.

What Happens in a Methadone Detox Center?

Detox is usually the first stage of any type of addiction treatment. A methadone detox helps patients overcome heroin and painkiller dependency so they no longer require certain amounts of these drugs to avoid cravings and other withdrawal symptoms. One of the top benefits of methadone detox is having the ability to avoid the severe pain and discomfort associated with opioid withdrawal.

At an inpatient methadone detox center, methadone treatment is often combined with other therapies that help patients overcome addiction from a psychological standpoint. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is one of the most common therapies used to treat substance use disorders. CBT helps patients identify negative thoughts and behaviors that may have triggered opioid addiction in the first place. After the root cause of addiction is identified, patients work with doctors, counselors, and therapists to treat the underlying cause.

For instance, a person who used painkillers to cope with symptoms of depression can be treated for their mental health disorder using a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy. A person who started using heroin in their teen years due to peer pressure can work with experienced addiction counselors to find new interests, and establish new daily routines without the presence of drugs.

An inpatient methadone detox program usually lasts between 30 and 90 days; however, long-term programs of between 120 and 180 days are also available for those who need more time in which to overcome opioid addiction. Patients who opt for inpatient methadone detox often have access to a wide range of effective therapies that also keep them occupied throughout the day. Exercise therapy, music therapy, art therapy, and horse-assisted therapy are just some unique therapies offered at many inpatient rehab centers.

You can overcome opioid addiction at a methadone detox center. Get the help you need today!

Reasons for Getting a Medical Methadone Detox

Methadone is one of the oldest, safest, and most effective treatments for heroin and opioid addiction. A recent study found that patients who received MMT or methadone detox were more likely to stick with treatment and achieve sobriety than patients who received buprenorphine detox. Buprenorphine is a long-acting synthetic opioid that works similarly to methadone, but that offers a ceiling effect that can compromise its efficacy for those who struggle with severe, long-term opioid dependency.

Here are other reasons to choose a medical methadone detox.

Reason #1: Avoid Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Methadone relieves drug cravings, insomnia, nausea, and all other opioid withdrawal symptoms that can bring pain and discomfort. Methadone allows you to recover more comfortably so you can continue performing normal everyday tasks.

Reason #2: Achieve Improved Overall Health

The long-term effects of opioid dependence include liver damage, brain damage, and addiction — the latter of which can lead to an overdose and death. Methadone helps you stop using heroin and other dangerous opioids that can lead to serious long-term health problems.

Reason #3: Recover Away from Negative Distractions

A medical methadone detox allows you to recover from opioid addiction in a controlled environment away from negative distractions that could interfere with recovery. Factors such as home environment, community, friends, and family can sometimes interfere with recovery from addiction.

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Reason #4: Fight the Root Causes of Addiction

A medical methadone detox is conducted in an inpatient setting, where patients have access to other therapies that help them fight underlying causes of addiction. CBT, support groups, and individual, group, and family counseling are just some therapies available at inpatient treatment centers.

Reason #5: Recover Away from Drugs and Alcohol

Trying to quit opioids can be difficult outside of a medical inpatient setting if you have regular access to drugs and alcohol. A medical methadone detox keeps you away from drugs and alcohol until you learn the skills needed to avoid and overcome triggers outside of rehab.

Reason #6: Medical Methadone Detox Treatments are Widely Available

Since opioid addiction is currently a nationwide epidemic, methadone detox treatments are widely available across the U.S. to help Americans who struggle with opioid dependence. If you or a loved one is addicted to heroin or opioids, call our 24/7 helpline at 800-483-2193(Who Answers?) to learn more about your local methadone detox options.

Methadone is Addictive: How to Get Off Methadone

Though methadone is proven a safe, effective treatment for opioid dependence, those who choose this detox method need close, careful medical supervision and treatment to prevent the onset of methadone dependence.

Methadone is among the top three prescription opioids most commonly involved in opioid overdose deaths.

In 2016, there were 3,314 overdose deaths in the U.S. that were caused by methadone.

However, reports show that many of these deaths could have been prevented with better and more careful physician prescribing methods, such as that provided at inpatient methadone detox centers.

Using methadone safely is essential to successfully overcoming opioid dependence. Taking too high a dose or misusing methadone can increase the risk for methadone addiction, which is why an inpatient medically assisted detox program is often the best setting for methadone therapy.

Tips for using methadone safely:

  • Use your methadone medication exactly as prescribed.
  • Take methadone at the same time every day, and do not take an extra dose if one is missed.
  • Notify your doctor immediately if methadone is not suppressing drug cravings and other opioid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Notify your doctor immediately if methadone is causing adverse side effects including shallow breathing, lightheadedness, rash, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, confusion, hallucinations, or swelling of the tongue, throat, lips, and face.
  • Do not use another person’s methadone medication.
  • Do not share or give your methadone medication to others.
  • Do not consume alcohol while using methadone.
  • Keep methadone out of reach or locked away from children, friends, and family.
  • Store methadone at room temperature and away from light to maintain the drug’s efficacy.
  • Call emergency services immediately if you or a loved one takes too much methadone, or exhibits overdose symptoms such as slowed breathing, constricted pupils, and loss of consciousness.
  • Return unused methadone to a drug take-back location such as a pharmacy or law enforcement agency.

If you or a loved one has become dependent on methadone, an opioid detox center can help you safely overcome your dependence with a lowered risk for health complications. Most detox centers treat opioid dependency using a tapering method, which is when doctors gradually reduce a patient’s methadone dosage over a set period of time to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Avoid detoxing from methadone on your own at home, since this is dangerous and can lead to relapse, overdose, and death.

Methadone detox treatments are offered at many nearby detox centers to help you or your loved one safely overcome opioid dependence. Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-483-2193(Who Answers?) to learn more about your treatment options, and about how to get off methadone, heroin, and other opioids.