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Does methadone help with opiate withdrawal


Methadone is used for drug detoxification and treatment programs to lessen the symptoms of withdrawal and to block the effects of opiate drugs. Used successfully for more than 40 years, methadone has been shown to eliminate withdrawal symptoms and relieve drug cravings from heroin and prescription opiate medications. Methadone helps people recover from addiction and to reclaim active and meaningful lives.

In this article, we review how methadone works, how it specifically helps address drug addiction, and we explain the general properties of this medication. If you have any questions at the end, we invite you to post them in the comments section below. We try to respond to all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.

What is opiate withdrawal in the first place?

After heavy and prolonged use of opiate drugs, the central nervous system (CNS) becomes habituated to their chemical presence and adjusts itself. So, if you develop dependence on opiates, what is actually happening is that the brain and CNS are trying to reach balance, and in order to counter the depressant effects of opiates, they “speed up” certain systems. So, when you stop or dramatically reduce opiate drug doses there are wide range of symptoms that occur. These symptoms are the “speeded up” symptoms already present in the CNS…and these are the hallmarks of opiate withdrawal.

Opiate drugs cause physical dependence, which means that a person relies on the drug to prevent symptoms of withdrawal. When the person stops taking the drugs, the body needs time to recover, and withdrawal symptoms result. Withdrawal from opiates can occur whenever any chronic use is discontinued or reduced and usually include:

  • agitation or anxiety
  • gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea, cramps, nausea or vomiting
  • insomnia
  • muscle aches
  • sweating

How can methadone help with opiate withdrawal?

The preferred drug in the treatment of opiate withdrawal is methadone, if an opiate agonist is to be used.  Methadone is in a class of medications called opiate (narcotic) analgesics. Methadone works to treat people who were addicted to opiate drugs by preventing withdrawal symptoms and lessening cravings in people who have stopped using these drugs. This is why it is considered help for the treatment of opiate addiction. Specifically, methadone

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  • blocks the euphoric effects of opiates
  • blocks the sedative effects of opiates
  • does not cause euphoric high
  • relieves drug craving
  • suppresses opiate withdrawal

Methadone prescription for opiate withdrawal treatment

Methadone used for the detox AND the maintenance of opiate addiction treatment is available by prescription as oral solutions (1-2 mg/mL strength), tablets (5-10 mg), dispersible tablets (40 mg), or injectable solutions (10 mg/mL). However, regulatory restrictions concerning the use of methadone for the maintenance or detoxification of opiate addiction require that practitioners be registered with the DEA as a Narcotic Treatment Program (NTP).

If you have been addicted to an opiate (narcotic drug such as heroin), and you are taking methadone to help you stop taking or continue not taking the drug, you must enroll in a treatment program. The treatment program must be approved by the state and federal governments and must treat patients according to specific federal laws. You may have to take your medication at the treatment program facility under the supervision of the program staff. Ask your doctor or the treatment program staff if you have any questions about enrolling in the program or taking or getting your medication.

Who CAN use Methadone for opiate withdrawal help?

Methadone is not right for everyone. When taken as prescribed, methadone is safe and effective. But all medicines have risks. The physical effects of methadone must be managed in order to get the maximum benefits of the medication. And because methadone is habit-forming, it’s not always the best choice for someone who wants to quit drugs altogether.

Methadone can also have serious side effects in some individuals, including allergic reactions. You may be taking other medications which interact with methadone. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about methadone being right for you.

Who SHOULDN’T use Methadone in opiate withdrawal treatment?

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. If you take methadone regularly during your pregnancy, your baby may experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms after birth.

Furthermore, drinking alcohol, taking prescription or non-prescription medications that contain alcohol, using street drugs, or overusing prescription medications such as benzodiazepines during your treatment with methadone increases the risk that you will experience serious, life-threatening side effects. Talk to your doctor about the risks of drinking alcohol or using street drugs during your treatment.

Methadone may harm or cause death to other people who take your medication, especially children. Store methadone in a safe place so that no one else can take it accidentally or on purpose. Be especially careful to keep methadone out of the reach of children.

Methadone help with opiate withdrawal questions

Are you considering methadone for a drug problem? 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: SAMHSA: Follow directions, methadone brochure
NHTSA: Methadone
MedlinePlus: Opiate withdrawal
DEA: FAQs prescriptions
MedlinePlus: Methadone
CDC: Methadone maintenance treatment

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19 Responses to “Does methadone help with opiate withdrawal
R Johnson
8:55 pm August 27th, 2015

This is good information for people to consider who are battling with an addiction to heroin and/or prescription pain medication. Individualized methadone treatment plans, combined with comprehensive medical and psychological care can be very effective in helping a person achieve a healthier and more productive lifestyle.

6:21 am September 21st, 2015

I had a problem many years ago with pain medication. After 5 yrs a doctor suggested I go into a methodone program. Well it was the best thing I stayed on it for about 5 yrs. I met my husband and wanted to stop. I always did what they told me and I asked for a blind detox. They loved me and told me I was a great example of how much it can change your life if you never took anything else and always had clean urine. I went to a doctor 6yrs later and he prescribed tramadol for bad neck pain that turned into 31/2 yrs of taking 20 pills a day at 50 mg. I want the help of methadone again because I can not tapper myself. It would be way to hard for me I am 57 but very healthy. Can you tell me if methadone for this tramadol addiction will help me? Thank you and be well Susan

3:55 pm September 23rd, 2015

Hi Susan. Methadone is used to help people come off of tramadol in some very extreme cases when slow and gradual tapering of doses is impossible. Consult your doctor and ask him/her to help you construct a tapering schedule that will help you wean off without experiencing adverse withdrawal symptoms.

12:40 am December 20th, 2015

I want to know i usually split an 8mg suboxone between two days and im fine it alleviates withdraw symptoms completely i was was wondering if i did that with a methadone 10mg if it would work the same way with withdraw symptoms from heroin

1:50 am December 24th, 2015

I’m scared. Panic stricken. Taking 35mgs methadone for opiate withdrawal. Withdrawal unbearable. I would rather die than go drink medicine for maintenance. What is the minimum small dose required to quell withdrawal symptoms?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
10:34 am December 24th, 2015

Hello, Suzanne. I’d suggest you consult a doctor to help you plan an individualized tapering schedule just for you.

4:15 pm January 19th, 2016

It was interesting to learn that, “Opiate drugs cause physical dependence, which means that a person relies on the drug to prevent symptoms of withdrawal.” No wonder it’s important to seek treatment and rehabilitation if you’ve ever used this kind of drug. It’s good that there are so many treatment programs willing to help people recover. Thanks for sharing this.

6:09 am February 15th, 2016

I am considering getting on Methadone. I have a daughter and I don’t want to lose her. If I tried getting on this program will I be at risk of losing her? Does the county or my doctor or her doctor need to know or be contacted? Please let me know! Thank you!

4:22 pm February 25th, 2016

Hi QueenB. You should consult your doctor and obtain a prescription for methadone. A lot of factors go into safe methadone use, so you should be monitored at first, and your doctor should also determine whether you need any kind of additional support. Actually, you can only get methadone legally through a doctor’s prescription.

12:10 am March 18th, 2016

Will taking methadone, short term, alleviate the withdrawal symptoms from Oxycodone? Don’t want to stay on methadone maintenance, just want to use methadone for a week or two, and cease usage. Was addicted to oxycodone for 2-3years, stopped cold turkey for 2 weeks, then relapsed for 5 months and now ready to stop for good. I have methadone tablets to help but am I just prolonging the process? Or will I be detoxing from oxy while taking the methadone, and since the methadone is so short termed, I won’t detox from the methadone? And also, will withdrawal be as bad this time around since I quit cold turkey for 2 weeks and picked up the habit again? Or am I detoxing from the 5 months I’ve been using after I stopped for 2 weeks? Sorry for long message, just want some opinions. Thank you, CJ.

8:52 pm June 9th, 2016

I’m still going through the tapering down process. It’s like a never-ending story.

1:33 am June 19th, 2016

I’ve been on 6 200mg morphine sulfate s.r, 6 50 mg acting morphine sulfate,3 30 mg oxcontine a day.2 60 mg temazapam I to sleep, I have access to 10 mg methadone to try withdrawal I cannot use my Dr or get another my G.P says I have to be on these the rest of my life..I have severe chronic pain syndrome a lot of permanent injuries multiple operations. I’m so dann tired of being in a depressive fog for 15 years now..I need advice on the dosages needed to come of all these meds..

1:23 pm August 30th, 2016

I’m using 40$a day of heroin if I take 15 mg a day of methadone than ten than 5 for two wks can I get off it

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
4:21 pm September 5th, 2016

Hi Shannon. If you are looking for addiction treatment, call our trusted treatment hotline, our providers can help you make the best decision for you.

12:55 pm October 6th, 2016

Unfortunately i was prescribed methadone for a back injury resulting in surgery. So at the same time i was also prescribed Norco, & Soma. I don’tdon’t like downers. So i shit canned the Soma, seriously 20 + years later i want to settle my claim with comp. That would mean 20+ years of opiate use now stops. I am starting into my 5th week of withdrawal sickness, no sleep, no energy, shits, pukes, shakes, hot cold flashes, fighting the depression part. The worst i think is, i have major anxiety, and nerve aches in my spine. This is absolutely the Devils brew , .. METHADONE….. now why would a person want to use methadone to get off hydro or vicadin, or any fucking Opiate ? Methadone is the strongest of that group, you will become addicted to the methadone surely ! So you think you needed help getting off hydrocodone, you’ll beg for any sort of relief of the Methadone sickness… i hope i make it ! ! ! I am forcing myself to be a little productive, very hard to cope with anything. Cold Turkey for me, i quit a 13 year smoking habit, CT…then after 18years no smokes i needed to stop a 29 year heavy drinking habit, cold turkey. But the day i gave up alcohol, is started smoking again. The smoking lasted 15 years this time, Made a promise quit smoking ‘CT’ again 2 years ago. The odds are definately not with me ! But if you say i can’t do it alone CT like that ! That just makes me want it more have more …. will power baby. Hang tough, exercise, force feed, be positive your gonna win.
Best of luck, good wishes : REXRIDER

3:45 am October 7th, 2016

Hi I wod really love some help. I am an opiate addict. I am currently on one of my relapses. I have been using for 3 months. Hydrocodone 50-60 mg. a day. I need to detox and have about 5 10 mg. methadone pills. I was goi g to use 10 mg of if a day for 3-4 days and then taper to 5 mg. I thought I should only use the methadone for 4 days and then stop. I was hoping not to go through heavy withdrawals. Will this work? Thank You

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:33 pm October 28th, 2016

HI Pam. I suggest that you speak with your doctor to help you plan an individualized tapering schedule. Also, consult with a local pharmacist to recommend some teas, remedies, and over-the-counter aid to ease withdrawal symptoms.

6:03 am February 16th, 2017

I want to quit Oxycodone. I have a month supply of Methadone.My questions is this. If I quit the Oxycodone cold turkey tomorrow and start taking the methadone….. will it take away the opiate withdrawals and in 2 weeks when the physical Opiate withdrawals are all gone can I stop taking the methadone and be withdrawal free or is methadone an opiate in itself? Meaning when I stop the methadone will I get withdrawals the same as if I never took it in the first place to quit the oxycodone cold turkey?

11:29 pm February 21st, 2017

I was on codeine phosphate for 2 years for medical reasons went into hospital with a bowel obstruction and codeine was stopped been off it for 2 weeks suffering withdrawal symptoms starting taking some oxynorm liquid which helped with withdrawal but doctor wants me to stop it but I am having withdrawal symptoms still and feel awful I can’t function. Is there a substitute that I can be put on to help and then wean me off that?? Would really appreciate your feedback as I don’t know what to do. Thank you

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