The synthetic opiate Methadone is commonly used to help people addicted to opiates to break the cycle of addiction. Essentially a form replacement therapy, methadone has had success in helping people who have cravings to eliminate their need for opiates. Methadone can do this without delivering the detrimental effects of narcotics. However, there is a risk of methadone withdrawal symptoms if the treatment protocols are not followed.
As the recovering addict’s mental and emotional health is restored, the methadone doses are reduced until the addict can quit. Opiate addiction is a powerful disease, and even though methadone can be a step toward recovery and sobriety, eventually the user will have to be drug-free.
Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms: How to Recognize Them
Methadone withdrawal symptoms can be similar to withdrawal from heroin. Methadone replaces some of the naturally-occurring chemical signals in the brain that manage a variety of psychological effects. However, as the drug’s affects wear off, addicts will not be able to feel “normal.” People can become dependent on methadone just as they might be with any number of narcotics.
Methadone withdrawal symptoms can include the following:
- Paranoia and mental fixation
- Nightmares and sleeplessness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea and cramping
- Fever, chills and cold sweats
- Intense muscular, bone and head pain
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Flu-like symptoms
Methadone withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous or life-threatening. Without medical supervision, withdrawal can be painful and in some cases, dangerous. As importantly, without the care of a licensed physician, this type of treatment might be ineffective and you might be trading one addiction for another. Even with a successful detox regime, some patients will still have difficulty in avoiding the effects of methadone withdrawal symptoms.
How to Ease Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms Safely
Undergoing detox alone without the supervision of a medical professional is risky and ineffective. In fact, it can be particularly dangerous as well as ineffective. Compounding the situation by self-medicating or using other substance (including alcohol) in an attempt to dull the effects of methadone withdrawal symptoms is especially dangerous. Accidental death by overdose becomes a very real possibility.
The only safe way to ease the symptoms of methadone withdrawal is through medically supervised detox services. In these cases, a patient is closely monitored by addiction treatment staff and symptoms are addressed as they arise. Rehab/detox facilities are better equipped at providing this service over other forms of treatment, such as IOP or outpatient treatment centers
Where to Go For Help
Methadone withdrawal symptoms can be severe and could threaten the recovery process. Therefore, the best option is to talk with your doctor or healthcare professional. Your doctor can help manage your recovery safely and effectively. It’s also wise to join support groups whose members can better understand what it’s like.
Drug Treatments for Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms
Your doctor can suggest alternative treatments to help manage withdrawal symptoms. Drugs like Buprenorphine, naloxone, and clonidine are drugs can help hasten the withdrawal process and provide relief from withdrawal symptoms.
Managed Methadone Therapy
Because of the risk of methadone misuse and overdose, methadone therapy is provided only to those people who have been accepted and enrolled in a government-approved treatment program. In these programs, doctors monitor, document and manage your methadone intake to ensure that the withdrawal process is safe and effective. This type of therapy continues until your body reaches a point that it no longer needs methadone.
Group support can be crucial for long-term recovery. In some cases, you may not find a lot of support from your family because they may not be able to understand. Seeking out other recovering methadone users can help you find people who understand what you’re going through and help you stay on track with your recovery.
Preventing a Relapse
Once you’ve completed your methadone treatment, your number one priority is preventing a relapse. It’s vital that you never turn to opiates or opioids again. Studies have conclusively demonstrated that people recovering from opioid misuse are at higher risk of death than the general public. A relapse can be fatal given how a recovering addict’s brain adapts to life without opioids. One relapse can be fatal.
There are many resources to support recovery and organizations like Narcotics Anonymous can help.
Continuing Recovery After Detox
There are many options for those who wish to ensure a higher rate of success in recovery. Continuing treatment through Intensive Outpatient (IOP) or Outpatient (sober living) is very popular and highly recommended. Why? While the body may be free of toxins, the brain needs time to relearn. It is wildly optimistic (and completely unrealistic) to think that years of addiction can be cured with a few weeks in Rehab.
Patients in recovery need time to learn about a life of sobriety and the only way to do that is to spend time living life in a new way. Group therapy, individual counseling and family counseling sessions are critical to recovery. These counseling sessions help patients discover the root causes of their addiction. They also teach the patient new ways to manage life’s daily stresses.