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How to withdraw from methadone

Methadone is a prescription drug that can be used as a pain reliever and to treat opiate addictions. Like many other opiate substitution drugs, though, methadone can be habit forming. So how can you prepare to withdraw from methadone (whether you’re physically dependent or need help with methadone addiction)? We review here, and invite your questions about methadone withdrawal protocols at the end.

When do you withdraw from methadone?

It can be hard to decide when to withdraw from methadone, especially since this drug is often prescribed legally. If this is the case, withdrawing from methadone should be done either when a person does not need the drug any longer or when a doctor suggests it.  If a person is taking the drug illegally or abusing it, they should withdraw from methadone as soon as possible. Continued use of this drug can cause a number of different medical problems, including heart and respiratory problems.

How long to withdraw from methadone?

Methadone stays in your system for at least a few days after last use. Symptoms of methadone withdrawal usually manifest when a methadone dose is cut in half or completely stopped. Symptoms will often be most intense during the first few days of the withdrawal process and can last quite a while. Individuals may experience these symptoms anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month, or two (depending on individual dosing factors).

Withdrawal from methadone symptoms

It’s not uncommon to experience a number of physical and psychological symptoms when you withdraw from methadone. Methadone withdrawal symptoms are often very similar to the symptoms that you would experience when you have the flu. For instance, some of the most common methadone withdrawal symptoms include chills, trembling, a runny nose, and nausea. Individuals withdrawing from methadone will also usually feel anxious or irritable, and have an intense craving for the drug. Methadone withdrawal symptoms include:

  • chills
  • insomnia
  • muscle pain
  • restlessness
  • runny nose
  • sweating
  • teary eyes
  • widened pupils (black circles in the middle of the eyes)
  • yawning

How to ease withdrawal symptoms from methadone

Withdrawal symptoms can usually be eased at home with no complications. Some over-the-counter medications, for instance, may be used to relieve some symptoms of detox such as runny noses and nausea. Additionally, individuals withdrawing from methadone should drink plenty of water, which can help ease the detoxification process. Staying busy and talking with a trusted friend, family member, or counselor can also help some individuals deal with drug cravings.

Can I withdraw from methadone at home?

It is possible to withdraw from methadone at home, but it isn’t recommended. Instead, most medical professionals recommend that individuals trying to withdraw from methadone do so under the supervision of a doctor. Physicians and addiction specialists can help methadone addicts understand physical and psychological dependence, prevent a relapse, and ease withdrawal symptoms.

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How to withdraw from methadone safely

Doctors generally recommend that individuals withdrawing from methadone do so gradually. This usually involves tapering the dosage over a period of several days or weeks until the person is eventually taking no methadone at all. This method of withdrawing from methadone is considered to be the safest and best way to withdraw from methadone. It does not cause a great deal of shock in the body, and it can also help minimize the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms. The suggested taper for methadone is:

  1. Decrease dose by 20-50 percent per day until you reach 30 mg/day
  2. Then decrease by 5 mg/day every three to five days to 10 mg/day
  3. Then decrease by 2.5 mg/day every three to five days

The best way to withdraw from methadone

Most experts agree that the best way to withdraw from methadone is to do so under the supervision of a qualified medical professional. Your doctor can help you withdraw from methadone, as can mental health professionals. However, medical supervision is not an absolute necessity when withdrawing from methadone. All that’s necessary is persistence, a great support system, and a true desire to quit using this drug.

How to deal with withdrawal from methadone questions

Are you trying to withdraw from methadone? Are you scared, nervous, or confused? Leave your questions or concerns in the comment section below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. On the other hand, don’t hesitate to leave a comment with advice and experiences of your own.

Reference Sources: VA: Tapering and Discontinuing Opioids
Medline Plus: Methadone
NCBI: Methadone at tapered doses for the management of opioid withdrawal
SAMHSA: Abrupt Withdrawal from Pain Medications — Information and Caution
Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets – Methadone
NCBI: The clinical use of clonidine in abrupt withdrawal from methadone. Effects on blood pressure and specific signs and symptoms

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16 Responses to “How to withdraw from methadone
Arcenio
12:42 am May 3rd, 2015

66 year old veteran trying to get off methodone please help

1:32 pm May 4th, 2015

Hello Arcenio. I believe you can make it through, but you will need professional medical help. I suppose you’ve been taking the methadone for quite a while, which makes it unsafe to just quit or stop taking it on your own. Check out this article that explains Treatment Options for Veterans to get a better idea of what your options are. Also, you can call the helpline number displayed on the page.

Lawrence G.
8:01 pm May 4th, 2015

I have severe peripheral neuropathy, which I was told was from monoclonal gammapathy, which I went through IVIG infusion with no results. Was on 80mg methadone in three divided doses a day and seventy five mg oxecodone in divided doses also, from a university hospital pain mgt. clinic for several years. I am sixty nine. My doctor retired and because of shortage of staff they referred me to outside doctor who immediately cut both doses in half, saying that only cancer patients needs doses that high.. It has been three weeks now since then and the pain from the perilpheral neuropatlhy has gotten so bad that I can barely walk now and lie down during the day to avoid the pain of being on my feet. Also have pain in my large muscle groups. Pain is continuous pain and night. Will I eventually get relief from the pain at this present dose of 40mg of methadone and 40 oxecondone?. There Is no speaking to this doctor, his way or the highway. I find getting another doctor to be impossible when I mention my situation. Help.

2:22 pm May 8th, 2015

Hi Lawrence. I’m very sorry that you’ve been put in such a situation. But, I believe that you will be ok, since cutting back half of your usual dose causes withdrawal symptoms to occur. Strangely, withdrawal symptoms tend to mimic the symptoms of the condition that is being treated. You will get used to the lower dose in time, and as withdrawal effects subside you will be able to move and feel better. See if your pharmacist at the local pharmacy can suggest some medication, lotion or cream that can help relieve the pain.

Lois
12:28 am August 20th, 2015

My son has been on 100 mg daily of methadone for many years. He missed dosage at his clinic and was cut to 30mg. This is his 2nd day of 30mg and will be permitted to 40mg tomorrow and increased to 50 in aweek.. He lives alone and works a full-time job. Will he be able to function? He has not asked me for help. I just want to know how bad his symptoms are with such a drastic cut of dosage. Thanks

4:48 pm August 24th, 2015

Hello Lous. How is your son doing? Such fast tapering is expected to set off a series of withdrawal symptoms. He may need some time off work, as I hardly believe he will be able to continue working normal days when withdrawal starts. I recommend you take him to the doctor to get advise on how to treat symptoms and manage through this period.

Glenn
10:31 pm August 24th, 2015

When I decided to detox off Methadone on my own, the following Analogy IS MOST IMPORTANT. Think of how slow a snail moves. Its hard to see except for seeing the wet trail it leaves. Multiply that by 3 times slower. I followed that advice which YES it took a about one year but NEVER experienced any withdrawal I Reduced 5 mg’s/Month. When I got to 30 mg’s I stayed at that dose for 2 months before dropping to 25 mg’s and the same until I was off. Many Blogs I’ve read on this subject most had been taking 100-300 mg’s or more Stating it had been very easy before dropping from 30 to 25’s thus almost 100% 0f these patients had to be put on Suboxen which told me one thing, THEY WERE not taking DOUBLE THE time to reduce from The last 30 mg’s to finally being completely detoxed Nobody needs to be put on Suboxen at the final doses All’s that is doing is the same when a smoker wearing or chewing Nicotine gum to get off there Nicotine addiction I’ve been off Methadone now for almost 1 year with No side effects what so ever SLOW…………IS THE KEY Last, the Previous is my experience and because ALL PATIENTS ARE DIFFERENT Consult your DOCTOR Before making changes to ANY MEDICATIONS

2:12 pm September 8th, 2015

Hi Glenn. Thank you for your valuable information and for sharing your own experience as advise for others. I agree that the slower and more gradual the taper – the less risk of withdrawal discomfort. And, yes, having medical advise and support is needed, but also the will and motivation to make it through.

Hey there Ivana
5:13 am September 24th, 2015

I have been prescribed Methadone for pain management for a prolapsed and torn disc in my lower back..I have now been on Methadone for 1 year and my dosage has been at the quantity of 50mgs a day..I am now on a reduction programme which is supervised by my doctor..As I reduce the amount of Methadone my Back Pain increases…I have told my doctor that I want to be clear of Methadone for a few reasons ie. I suffer severe Constipation from it and the Main reason is that Here in New Zealand I am unable to get employment as Employers have a Zero Tolerance to Drugs even if they are a Prescribed medication as in my case.. Over the last few days I have tried to go Cold Turkey but it has been too hard on me..My doctor is decreasing my intake by 1 mg a week. My question is …Do you think I can decrease quicker than 1 mg a week as I am getting frustrated with how slow this Decline in Methadone consumption is going?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind Regards Pieter

2:22 pm October 9th, 2015

Hello Pieter. It is possible to be decreasing larger doses, but I’d follow the doctor’s guidelines. You see, dropping larger faster can cause hash withdrawal symptoms. It may seem very slow, but it’s the safest way too. I hope that soon you will be completely off methadone and will find work without any problem.

Erica
2:44 am November 23rd, 2015

My boyfriend as reduced to 26 mg a day ova a period of several yrs but for a couple of wks he took extra n for past two wks as been reducing to his normal dose but on top of this he been takin codeine 30mg n diaz’s 2mg but 6-8 at a time 2-3 times everyday He as cut down ova last 2 wks so he says but is stil trying to tel me he is ratterling but wid the info I ave read this contridict wat he is tellin me But he as ad this problem for several yrs n when he does take extra for 2-3days he turns into an AGGRESIVE violent? Bully I don’t no wat to do to help him as we been in an on/off relationship but af known him 10 n he started reducing n gt to 26mg n now he makes excuses why he takes extra n I just don’t understand fully Can u help x

Susan
11:53 am March 3rd, 2016

Hi I have been on methadone for 20 yrs. dare I say it. I have felt like I’m in shackles it’s terrible. I’ve been stuck on 15mgs to 12.5mgs for 11 yrs due to having children. Am currently on day 8. Day 5 I felt crap an strength or energy an aching but not as bad as thought would. I seemed outpatient help but haven’t gone yet. I know everyone’s different but roughly how long? When do you feel your worst?

Ramone
7:05 pm April 5th, 2016

Doc put me on this at pain management and now I’m terrified. Been on this a week after being on opiates for several years with no problems! HELP!!! IM SCARED!!

Dan
3:04 am May 10th, 2016

I have been on 90mg oxycodone and 30 mg Methadone per day for three years. I am under the care of a Pain Specialist, and have had three back surgeries. I have recently cut back to 25 mg Methadone, and 75 mg oxycodone. When I miss a dose of either my back pain is horrible, but I can live with extreme pain, and I’m not sure that I can live with myself being a drug addict. So, my plan is to try to cut back to 60mg oxycodone while withdrawing as fatr as possible from methadone, and hopefully within a year to be free of methadone. I would appreciate any guidance that You can give me. Thank You! Dan

Shayna
8:21 pm May 24th, 2016

I am a long term patient of a neurologist, who had me on methadone, Oxycodone as well as Gabapentin. I have severe sciatica in both legs, causing me occasional complete numbness in left leg from the knee down. This has started happening since I started withdrawing from methadone, against my will because my current doctor just retired a month ago and I cannot afford a lot a month for a new doctor, on disability.
I want to know if when withdrawing from methadone, if there is anything that can help with the severe physical pain whether it be over the counter or prescription, I already take ibuprofen 800mg 3 times a day, flexiril 3 times a day, and Gabapentin 600 mg 4 times a day. Yet despite all that I am still in agony, can’t sleep, bend or barely walk. I use a cane, back brace, and I put ice on my pains almost 24/7. What can I do? I have no money and only Medicaid for insurance. There are no neurologists, or pain management doctors within a five hundred mile radius that accept my insurance, a methadone clinic would cost more than a doctor.
Can a regular primary care doctor help me with anything, does anyone think? Even meds just to help ease withdrawal? Are there any home remededies or supplements that can help with easing withdrawal symptoms? Like I heard turmeric helps with pain. Has anyone tried it? Does anything out their help with the freezing cold / burning hot sweats and flashes? Anything that could help with the severely increased neuropathy pains I feel a million times worse without my methadone? Despite the fact I take gabapentin, which I have noticed does help with the hot/cold sweats more when I take it. That horrifying ridiculous excuse for a pain doctor I last saw gave me clonidine. That stuff doesn’t help at all, and is in fact a blood pressure medicine, with a side, off label use to supposedly help some withdrawal symptoms. I see absolutely no benefit. I also wanted to know if Suboxen or Subutex has any benefit for helping with physical pain, like methadone does. I know a lot of people benefit from it to help stay off of opiates, but does it effect pain at all? If anyone would have any suggestions that would help, I would greatly appreciate it.
I am very close to just going ER. The only reason I haven’t is because I don’t want to be trapped at the ER for ten hours with no hope of being able to smoke a cigarette. I’m scared they would admit me, (same smoking complaint, smoke-free campus as they call it. Any help, information, or ideas that I could use would be greatly appreciated. I am at the point, that I think cutting my own leg off would be preferable living in this screaming agony. (That just made me feel like Dr. House, M.D., ha, ha but even he got off the Vicodin). Not to mention my back currently feels like I am a cockroach that was stepped on, but survived.and forced to live in horrible pain. (Only I was hit by a drunk driver in a minivan). Thank you for any suggestions and have a great day.

Natalie
3:01 am November 5th, 2016

Do you know anything about using IV Ketamine to rapidly withdraw from Methadone. My pain specialist doctor – head of anaesthetics for a major hospital in a very large city in Australia wants to admit me to hospital and bring on rapid detox under IV Ketamine. Withdrawal will apparently be over very quickly. Ketamine masks withdrawal symptoms & treats pain during the process. I can’t find much information on this…. any advice, references, information greatly appreciated.
If I go ahead I will let you know I get on.

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