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What is Involved in Detoxing from Methadone?

By Dave Slovak
Updated May 17, 2024
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Many people use methadone for detoxification from high-level opiates such as heroin or morphine. The process involves replacing the heroin or morphine with specific amounts of methadone and then slowly reducing the methadone dosage. Many people, however, find it very difficult to stop using methadone once they reach the last level of treatment. Similar to detoxification for other substances, detoxing from methadone can be accomplished with the help of a treatment program, clinic, or, in rare cases, individually without help from others. The process of detoxing from methadone involves decreasing the daily dosage, halting the use of methadone, and, possibly, the use of other prescribed medications.

Most people who have struggled with opiate addiction and have tried methadone maintenance treatment will admit that detoxing from methadone is as difficult as detoxing from heroin or other opiates. When a person decides to use methadone to treat their opiate addiction, he or she may seek the help of a methadone clinic. The clinic’s professionals will setup a methadone maintenance schedule for the addict, which includes a specified timeline and daily methadone dosage based on the addict’s pre-treatment drug abuse habits. There is typically a linear relationship to the amount of heroin previously used on a daily basis and the methadone dosage.

One reason why methadone is effective but difficult to stop using is that it has a long half-life, meaning that it is stored in the body for a longer period of time than other opiates, partly due to its synthetic design. This attribute makes it effective for detoxing from other drugs because it blocks painful withdrawal symptoms. At the same time, it makes detoxing from methadone a long, difficult process. Some experts suggest that due to methadone’s half-life, individuals using methadone to detox from Heroin should attempt to detox over a shorter period of time and attempt to lower the methadone dosage more quickly at the beginning of detoxification so that the levels of methadone in the body are lower near the end of the process.

Once a methadone user approaches the last level of detoxing from methadone, he or she is likely to experience some difficult withdrawal symptoms. Some medical professionals are now prescribing other narcotic medications such as suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, that can be helpful when a person has become physically dependent on methadone. The substances in suboxone help ease methadone withdrawal symptoms while blocking certain opioid receptors. Similar to methadone, suboxone is illegal to purchase or carry without a prescription, so users should always consult a health care professional and understand the risks of any course of substance abuse treatment.

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