In this article, I’m going to teach you how to use methadone for opiate withdrawal. And trust me, I don’t think you’ll find a more educational and helpful article on this subject on the internet.
Well, my history with methadone is quite…um…rounded.
There’s no way to be sure, but I do believe I might be the only person in history to have a certain set of three events happen to them, which all involved methadone.
These are the three methadone events that happened to me:
1. First, I overdosed on a large amount of methadone and Valium and was one-minute away from death when an EMT saved my life with a naloxone shot.
2. After spending a week in the hospital being administered opiates by the nurses, I was released to go home, and then I used 40 mg of prescribed methadone daily for seven days to quit opiates for good.
3. After getting clean using methadone, I went on to become an Intake Counselor at a methadone clinic, where I helped hundreds of people sign up for treatment so they could use methadone for opiate withdrawal.
Methadone For Opiate Withdrawal – Overview
Now that you have a little background on my history with methadone, I think you’ll agree that I’m more than qualified to teach you how to use methadone for opiate withdrawal.
Using methadone for opiate withdrawal is serious business, and I don’t want you to take it lightly. In this piece, I will provide you with all of the main pros and cons of using methadone for opiate withdrawal.
Used in the correct way, methadone can enable you to get off opiates in a relatively painless manner.
Used incorrectly…it can kill you.
So don’t buy methadone from a drug dealer, and don’t be an idiot like me and use tons of Valium or other benzodiazepines with methadone in an effort to get high.
Only use methadone at a treatment program.
And finally, I want to warn you with a good dose of caution about a possible outcome that you may not foresee. Many people that signed up to receive methadone for opiate withdrawal did so with the intention of only using methadone for a few days to a few weeks, however, ended up on methadone for many years!
If you need methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), then go for it. But if you just want to use methadone short-term to get off opiates, you’ll need a lot of self-discipline to stop.
I’ll talk more about this later.
For now, let’s briefly discuss what methadone is, and why methadone helps with opiate withdrawal symptoms better than any other substance on the planet.
Methadone For Opiate Withdrawal – Mechanism of Action
Methadone can totally eliminate 100% of your opiate withdrawal symptoms. This is because methadone is a powerful opioid drug.
Methadone binds to the same opioid receptors in the brain and other parts of the body that drugs like heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and other opioids bind to. Once methadone binds to these receptors, the opioid effects come on.
Common effects of methadone are the same as other opioids:
- Pain Relief
- CNS Depression
- Constricted Pupils
To further illustrate why methadone works so well for opiate withdrawal, I’d like to give you the basics on the opioid withdrawal syndrome.
Opiate Withdrawal 101
If an individual continues using opioids after a tolerance has been established, they will eventually develop a physiological dependence.
Dependence develops when the neurons adapt to the repeated drug exposure and only function normally in the presence of the drug.
When a dependent individual abruptly stops taking opioids (leading opioid-blood concentration to fall below the required level), the now opioid-tolerant central nervous system (CNS) goes haywire.
With no inhibitive stimulation to satisfy receptors, the pathways of the CNS fire signals strenuously, performing at a level much higher than pre-dependence levels.
Now the locus coeruleus responds by triggering the autonomic fight or flight response.
What results is known as the opioid withdrawal syndrome, and it’s one of the most agonizing experiences an individual could ever go through.
Some of the most common symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:
Methadone For Opiate Withdrawal – “Therapeutic Dose”
A quick fix for stopping this syndrome is to use methadone for opiate withdrawal. After an individual takes a dose of methadone, the drug quickly binds to the opioid receptors, and if enough is taken, withdrawal symptoms and opiate cravings are completely eliminated.
A “therapeutic dose” of methadone is when you use just enough to eliminate opiate withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
However, if you use more than this amount, methadone can get you high, and if you use way too much methadone, you can overdose (like I did) and even die.
How To Use Methadone For Opiate Withdrawal
If you want to know how to use methadone for opiate withdrawal, this section will explain the process. To use methadone for opiate withdrawal, the first step you’ll need to do is find a methadone clinic hopefully close to you.
Once you find a methadone clinic, the next step is to call them up and ask the following questions:
- If you qualify for methadone treatment based on your history of opioid use
- If they take your insurance
- How much it’s going to cost you
- What day and time you can come in for an intake (if you meet qualification criteria)
Here is a brief overview on the typical intake process:
On the morning of your intake, you’ll be asked to pee in a cup in the bathroom so they can take an analysis of what drug(s) you have in your system.
You’ll meet with a counselor to fill out the admission paperwork and get oriented to the program, and you’ll also see a nurse who will do some tests and ask you questions about your medical history and drug history.
After finishing up with the counselor and nurse, you’ll be seen by the doctor.
After the doctor looks over your paperwork and asks you some questions, they will prescribe you a small dosage of methadone.
They usually prescribe around 40 mg or less the first day, as they want to see how you do on a low dose before raising your dosage over the course of the next week or more.
Once the doctor writes up your methadone dosage in your chart, you’ll proceed to the “dosing window” where a nurse will provide you with your medication. Once you drink your medicine, you have now successfully used methadone for opiate withdrawal.
Methadone Treatment Programs
At the methadone clinic I worked at, and I believe this is also true for most if not all methadone clinics, there were three different programs.
The three methadone treatment programs were:
- 21-Day Detox – This program consists of tapering methadone (lowering dosage) over the course of 21 days, thus reducing the shock to your body that a cold-turkey detox is known for.
- Long-Term Detox – A 180-day program where you’re stabilized on a therapeutic dose for weeks or months, then you start a taper schedule within at least a few months before the final day of treatment.
- Maintenance – This program is for people that want to use methadone for over six months. Many people on methadone maintenance stay on methadone for 1-2 years or longer.
Based on a number of factors, you will qualify for either 21-Day Detox, Long-Term Detox, or Maintenance. If you strictly want to use methadone for opiate withdrawal, and want to come off methadone as fast as possible, here’s a little advice…
Don’t take methadone for longer than a week, and consider only taking it for 3-4 days in a row. Methadone is slow-onset/slow-offset, as it’s a sustained-action opioid.
This means that you only need to dose with it for maybe three days to build up in your system to a level where you can then stop, and this essentially prevents you from experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.
By taking methadone ultra-short-term (3-7 days), you achieve two important things:
- You avoid going through a cold-turkey acute opiate withdrawal.
- You avoid the chance of your body getting too dependent on methadone, in which case the detox from methadone would become much more difficult.
So, if it only takes a few days of using methadone for opiate withdrawal to help you ease your symptoms in a major way, why is the shortest program 21 days?
Because the “experts” in charge of creating methadone regulations probably believed 21 days would be the most helpful, since a patient would get to taper their dose for this allotted time, while also getting to have weekly therapy with an addiction counselor.
Now, depending on your unique situation in life, it might be beneficial to do the 21-Day Detox, LTD, or even Maintenance program. Everyone is different, and you should do what you feel is right for your situation.
However, before you go and sign up for methadone treatment, you need to be educated on some very important methadone facts that you may not be aware of.
Possible Negative Consequences of Using Methadone For Opiate Withdrawal
While methadone can be a miracle medication for opiate addiction recovery, there are some common complaints that many methadone patients have expressed.
These negative consequences all relate to the longer methadone treatment programs, and won’t be an issue if you only use methadone for a week or less.
Here are common complaints from methadone patients:
- “Methadone makes me sweat too much”
- “Methadone makes me gain weight”
- “Methadone kills my libido”
- “Methadone prevents me from being able to achieve an erection”
- “Methadone makes me crave sweets”
- “Methadone makes me constipated”
- “Methadone makes me bloated”
- “Methadone makes my teeth fall out”
- “Methadone makes me depressed”
- “Methadone makes me sleep too much”
The complaints stated above typically would be more common as a patient’s methadone dose got higher and higher.
Most of these symptoms are a result of something called opioid-induced endocrinopathy. This is the most common disorder from taking methadone long-term, and the sad part is that doctors and nurses at methadone clinics don’t even know about the disorder.
Here is a quote from my favorite article on opioid-induced endocrinopathy:
Opioid-induced endocrinopathy is one of the most common yet least often diagnosed consequences of prolonged opioid therapy. Sustained-action opioids used on a daily basis for more than a month have a number of adverse effects on human endocrine function. For example, opioids decrease levels of the gonadal sex hormones, growth hormone, cortisol, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS). Opioids also blunt the cortisol response to corticotropin. While the clinical significance of decreased growth hormone and cortisol levels remain speculative, decreased gonadal and adrenal androgen production contribute to the now well-documented symptoms of opioid-induced endocrinopathy.”
Methadone For Opiate Withdrawal – Success Rates?
One of the biggest complaints from methadone patients is how hard it is to come off methadone. Even when patients go on a conservative taper protocol, it can be extremely difficult to get off methadone, as patients commonly complain of mild, moderate, or severe physical and mental symptoms from lowering their methadone dosage.
The sad fact is that opioid dependence is a chronic, relapsing disorder.
Most people that get off methadone end up on opiates again, and it’s common to see the same patient readmit to the methadone program several times over the years.
Methadone For Opiate Withdrawal – Conclusion
At this point I don’t want you to think I’m against methadone. On the contrary, I think it’s a miracle medication that has helped countless individuals (myself included!).
I just wanted you to be fully informed before you decide to use methadone for opiate withdrawal.
Now you know why methadone works so well at eliminating opiate withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and you also know how to use methadone for opiate withdrawal.
Furthermore, you’re aware of the potential negative consequences of using methadone for longer than a few weeks, and with this information you’ll be better equipped to make important decisions regarding your treatment for opioid dependence.
I wish you the absolute best on your journey, and if you have any comments or questions on how to use methadone for opiate withdrawal, please post them in the comment box below.