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Methadone is an opioid pain reliever used to ease opiate withdrawal symptoms for opiate users who are undergoing drug addiction detoxification and maintenance programs.This Schedule II narcotic is used to treat pain and addiction to other opiates during the detoxification process, but without the high. With methadone, pain relievers are blocked from interacting with the brain, which helps reduce the cravings that accompany withdrawal symptoms.

Despite its therapeutic effects, methadone is still dangerous when misused. It can be habit-forming, even at regular doses, and addictive as well, so users are advised to take caution while using it. Physical and psychological dependence on the drug has been said to be hard to end and that the detox process can take at least a month, maybe more. And, some users struggle to achieve and maintain mental and emotional clarity, normal sleep schedules and more after battling a methadone addiction.

Methadone Abuse, Addiction, and Withdrawal

Taking methadone at doses that are too high can result in dependence and addiction. In a hospital or other medical facility, the patient is monitored while receiving the medication and that dose is adjusted as needed. However, outside of a controlled setting, methadone users risk taking too much of the drug, sometimes without realizing it. That’s because methadone does not bring with it the euphoric high that is experienced with other opiates, so users increase their use and risk overdosing on the drug, which can lead to death.

Regular methadone users can build up a tolerance and become physically and psychologically dependent on the drug. Many do not realize they are addicted until they experience withdrawal symptoms. Methadone withdrawal is not a fast or easy process. Just one dose of the drug can stay in the system for 30 days, and the protracted withdrawal symptoms, known as PAWS, can make methadone recovery challenging to manage.


Heroin Signs

Regular or heavy methadone users who stop using the drug likely will go through withdrawal, an uncomfortable and taxing process. How long withdrawal lasts will vary. Factors that determine the length and intensity of withdrawal symptoms include:

  • A person’s age, health, and lifestyle
  • Methadone tolerance
  • How long methadone has been used
  • Dose taken
  • Whether other substances, such as alcohol, were used along with methadone
  • Addiction

Symptoms set in after a dependent user stops taking the drug. After usage is stopped, the body will react to not having the drug in its system. When this happens, people in methadone addiction can have the following:

  • Appetite loss
  • Chills
  • Cold flashes
  • Diarrhea
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated heartbeat
  • Excessive yawning
  • Fever
  • Goose bumps
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Joint and leg pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Tremors
  • Teary eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Decrease in sex drive
  • Delusions
  • Depression
  • Dysphoria
  • Hallucinations (auditory and visual)
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Insomnia
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness
  • Suicidal thoughts

*If you are exhibiting serious withdrawal symptoms, such as rapid breathing, a shortness of breath a fast or irregular heartbeat, call 911 immediately or visit an emergency room or urgent care center immediately for medical attention. These symptoms are red flags that your situation is urgent, and you must seek help now.


Heroin Timeline

Below is a general timeline of the withdrawal process, which starts within 24 hours after the last dose taken. The duration and intensity of this withdrawal process are determined by individual factors, so each person will not have the same withdrawal signs, symptoms, or recovery rate. For specific questions or concerns, consult your physician or health care provider.

Acute symptoms begin within 24 hours after the last dose taken and can peak four to six days and last for 10 to 12 days. Reduced or stopped methadone use may bring on irritability, restlessness, anxiety, and various physical withdrawal symptoms, including mental confusion, appetite loss, and flu-like conditions, such as a runny nose, sweating, and sniffles. Recovering users may also have methadone cravings.

Withdrawal begins to peak at this stage and increased severity in psychological symptoms may be noticed as physical symptoms continue. Psychological changes include depression, mood swings, and thoughts about suicide and self-harm. Hallucinations and breathing difficulties are also possible. Users experiencing these symptoms may want to seek support from a mental health counselor.

By now, the physical symptoms will have started to fade. However, post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), which are more psychological in nature, can continue and be felt for months, weeks, or years after use has stopped. Users may have brain fog, insomnia, appetite changes, and anxiety, among other symptoms, during this time. Users may want to consider joining a recovery program that promotes exercise, healthy eating, and other habits and activities that promote wellness to manage these post-use symptoms.


Heroin Treatment

Recovering users can choose either an inpatient or outpatient setting in which to complete their treatment. An evaluation of the user’s physical and psychological state may take place to determine the best way to treat the methadone addiction. If the situation is severe, an inpatient setting may be recommended.

The first stage is detoxification, which rids the body of the substance. During this process, methadone doses are gradually scaled back to prevent the person from going into an uncomfortable, painful withdrawal. This process is known as tapering, and it is done via intravenous (IV) therapy under the supervision of a licensed medical professional, which is widely recommended. It’s safer for the recovering user because a withdrawal process that goes too fast is dangerous and can lead to relapse, overdose, and death.

Those undergoing a methadone detox should expect the process to take some weeks or months. The long-acting drug remains in the body after its effects have subsided, making it more difficult to recover from than heroin or prescription drug dependence.

Ending Methadone Addiction Is Just the First Step

The detoxification for withdrawal symptoms is an important process, but it’s only one part of it. After recovering users go through the medically supervised detox to end the physical part of an active addiction, the next step is to follow a plan of action that helps clients address underlying issues that weren’t identified or faced when the person was in addiction. This plan also teaches clients how to change thought and behavioral patterns that can keep them free of methadone addiction and relapse.

When the body starts the process of returning to its normal state after the drug has left its system, the mental, emotional, and psychological parts of the puzzle will have to be addressed.

This may include identifying triggers and other factors that could lead a person back to abusing methadone and making key changes. This process can take several months, and for some people, it may take several years. A post-detox recovery program that offers clients guidance and support can help those who need ongoing recovery support. Recovering users may also want to look for programs that provide services that teach healthy coping skills and strategies that help recovering users manage the issues that influenced them to use drugs.

Common medications for methadone withdrawal treatment include:

Recovering users in detox treatment may receive this opioid medication, also known as Subutex, at a medical facility or doctor’s office. It also can be used at home under a doctor’s prescription. Buprenorphine affects the same receptors as heroin and morphine do, but without the same intense high or harmful side effects, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

This medication used to treat blood pressure is also prescribed to help alleviate the physical symptoms of withdrawal, such as muscle pain, cramping, and excessive sweating, and psychological ones, including anxiety and agitation or restlessness.

This medication blocks opioids from acting on the brain’s receptors, which strips away the reward of achieving a drug high. It comes in pill form or as an extended-release injection. As with all drugs, naltrexone should be used with care. The initial dosage, as well as any adjustments to it, will be prescribed by the doctor.


Heroin FAQ

Yes, methadone is addictive.The physical dependence and addiction that can result from misuse and abuse can take a long time to end. One dose of methadone can linger in the body for 30 days, and recovering users exhibit cognitive and psychological challenges as they try to return to life without using methadone.

Tapering is a method used in medically supervised detox that gradually reduces the dosage of methadone to gradually and safely wean the client off the medication as they endure the withdrawal symptoms. The client’s physician usually determines the tapering schedule, but tapering too quickly comes with risks, among them withdrawal and relapse.

Severe methadone addiction is best treated in a medical facility where the user can get the proper treatment for their situation. Some users may attempt to treat their withdrawal symptoms with alternative do-it-yourself methods. But Drug Treatment Center Finder, however, advises longtime users in withdrawal to seek out medical treatment administered by licensed medical professionals as an alternative option to these methods.

Call Drug Treatment Center Finder at (855) 619-8070, our 24-hour helpline. We can find you a treatment center in your area that can help you look at your options for medically safe withdrawal detox from harmful methadone use.



At a drug rehab center, you can start your recovery with a healthy support group of trained clinical staff, other like-minded recovering addicts, and addiction counselors that only want you to succeed.


Addiction treatment programs will vary by individual and substance, depending on the severity of their addiction and whether other treatment methods need to be included, such as dual-diagnosis or holistic therapies.


Some medications that may be expected are: buprenorphine and clonidine to deal with many of the psychological symptoms. Drugs like naltrexone may be used to block opioid effects on the brain.


People with methadone addiction may decide to quit “cold turkey” by either not using it or reducing their usage. However, abruptly stopping drug usage, particularly after extended heavy use, is likely to bring uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Drug withdrawal symptoms can be painful and difficult, and if they include breathing difficulties or a rapid heartbeat, they can be life-threatening. The physical withdrawal symptoms–such as nausea and fever–are similar to ones experienced by people who abruptly stop using other opiates, such as heroin or oxycodone. The side effects can cause some to return to using methadone to end their withdrawal discomfort. This is known as relapse.



of people in treatment for substance abuse were receiving treatment for methadone between 2003 and 2011.


of all substance abuse treatment facilities had Opioid Treatment Programs in 2011.


of all opioid poisoning deaths in 2011 were the result of methadone.