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How To Stop Taking Methadone?


READING SUMMARY: The best way to stop taking methadone is by consulting a medical professional. Methadone withdrawal can be painful and psychologically challenging. Whatever discontinuation method you decide to use make sure to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.  S/He can help you decide whether a long-term taper or abrupt discontinuation is right for you.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Why Quit Methadone?

There are a few reasons you may want to quit taking methadone.

  1. Treatment completion. If you have achieved therapeutic stabilization and are ready to live without methadone, congratulations! According to this study published in 2009, methadone is the most successful treatment for stronger opiate addiction, although with fairly substantial financial and personal costs. If you’re ready for a change and have the support…go for it! See the chart below from the 1999 NIDA Notes on methadone treatment success.

2. Drug interactions. Other medications may interact with methadone and can cause heart conditions. Take a look at this WHO chart of methadone drug interactions for a full list of potential side effects.

3. You’re addicted to it. According to SAMHSA, methadone is addictive. After all, it’s still a psychoactive drug…and can cause euphoria especially when you’re not taking it a prescribed. If you get high on methadone, it may be time to look into treatment options for getting off methadone for good.

What Happens When You Quit?

Quitting methadone throws your body out of balance. Most users have developed physical dependence on the substitution drug. So, when you come off of methadone, the lack of it causes stress to the system.

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management, it can take between 3 and 10 days for the amount of methadone in in your system to stabilize. So, after taking methadone for a this period of time physical dependence on the medication is expected. This means that your brain and body begin to function normally in the presence of methadone.

When you remove methadone, it takes about 7-10 days to get back to normal. So, if you have developed dependence on methadone and you stop using it, you will experience typical methadone withdrawal symptoms.


Think of withdrawal like this: the body adapts to the depressant effects of methadone by “speeding up” some processes. Take away the methadone, and it takes time for these processes to slow down again.


Withdrawal

So, what is methadone withdrawal?

Withdrawal is a group of predictable symptoms that arise in the body when you lower or cut off your usual doses of methadone. Withdrawal symptoms occur as the effects of methadone wear off and the medication starts to leave the system. These unpleasant side effects are always accompanied by symptoms of discomfort which may increase your need for this drug.

The duration of these unpleasant withdrawal symptoms is around several days to one week. The withdrawal symptoms tend to manifest three days after dose reduction, and last 7-10 days. However, some protracted withdrawal symptoms such as depression, anxiety, or sleeping problems can last for several months after dose cessation.

Withdrawal Symptoms

When you stop taking methadone you can expect to experience some flu like symptoms. Muscle aches and pain occur as methadone is eliminated from your body. As withdrawal symptoms progress you will likely feel nausea, cramps, sweats, and you may experience vomiting and diarrhea. Click here for an Addiction Blog list of methadone symptoms and timeline.

You may also experience other uncomfortable symptoms during the withdrawal stage, such as:

  • anxiety
  • concentration problems
  • confusion
  • cravings
  • diarrhea
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • mood swings
  • shakes
  • sweating
  • tiredness
  • vomiting

In order to overcome these difficulties it is best to stop using methadone under medical guidance.

Cold Turkey

Doctors never recommend quitting methadone cold turkey.

Going cold turkey off methadone can bring you serious difficulties and may have dangerous consequences. One of the biggest risks during the detoxification period is relapse. People who quit cold turkey usually start with high motivation and determination, but once withdrawal sets in, they’ll go to any length to get more of the drug…or will relapse to a stronger opiate, like heroin.

Tapering

“Tapering” is a procedure that involves a gradual reduction of methadone doses during an extended period of time. Methadone dose reduction schedules range from 2–3 weeks to as long as 180 days, with longer time periods generally associated with better outcomes. Studies have indicated that the more rapid the reduction, the more likely a drug relapse (especially to heroin). Still, this method of discontinuation is considered less aggressive and more safe than abrupt cessation.

Medical professionals recommend to gradually taper off methadone according to individualized tapering schedule created by your doctor. The main goal of tapering is to ensure that the withdrawal process is completed with safety and comfort. Methadone doses are usually reduced in the following rates:

  • 20-50% from your current dose per day until you reach 30 mg/day.
  • 5 mg per day every three to five days until you reach 10 mg/day.
  • 2.5 mg per day every three to five days.

The Australian Department of Health states that the recommend methadone dose reduction should be from 10mg/week to a level of 40mg/day, then 5mg/week. Rates of reduction should be discussed with your doctor and dose changes should occur no more frequently than once a week.

Tapering won’t make withdrawal symptoms disappear. In fact, it can be unpleasant, but it can also lower the intensity and duration of symptoms. When tapering is used to manage withdrawals from heroin or methadone, withdrawal signs and symptoms will begin to manifest as you cut down your daily doses below 20mg. Symptoms reach their peak usually between the second and the third day after cessation According to The Department of Health methadone withdrawal symptoms subside after 10 to 20 days following cessation. Nevertheless, medical practice has confirmed that people tend to tolerate withdrawal symptoms better when they gradually reduce their dosage.

NOTE HERE: You should not attempt to reduce methadone doses by yourself. Dose reductions should be made in consultation with a doctor. When you make an agreement on a tapering schedule, your doctor and addiction counselor or therapist. will be able to follow your progress.

Medications

Several medications are used during detox and addiction treatment programs for helping people who are addicted to methadone.

  1. Buprenorphine may be prescribed to people because of its similar effects to methadone. Buprenorphine is effective in easing withdrawal symptoms.
  2. Clonidine eases some of the physical withdrawal symptoms associated with methadone detox.
  3. Naltrexone prevents methadone from binding to opioid receptors in the brain.

When medications are used as an integral part of a medically guided treatment program, mood-stabilizing medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications can also help.

NOTE: Whether you decide to taper your methadone doses, or decide to go cold turkey, the most important point is that you first ask for support from medical professionals.

Stopping Safely

When you decide to stop taking methadone, a professional point of contact can be your doctor, addiction treatment program, or methadone clinic. Or, you can call us directly. Our hotline number on this page will direct you to an addiction recovery specialist. Here’s what you can expect when you seek help:

1. Assessment.

Medical professionals first determine whether you are physically dependent or addicted to methadone. They assess dependence levels, take your psychological profile, and interview you. You may be asked to submit a urine or blood sample for drug testing.

2. Medical detox.

After your methadone dependency level is determined, you are going to work out the safest alternative to quitting with methadone. One possibility is that you will need to visit a detox clinic. The medical detox clinic will provide you with round the clock care and a safe, drug free environment.

3. Rehab.

If necessary, you may be referred to longer term inpatient or outpatient rehab.

4. Therapy and counseling.

The goal of quitting methadone for good is learning to deal with psychological issues. Mental and behavioral therapies along with family support are usually combined to help you lead a sober life.

Your Questions Are Welcomed

Got a question?

If you or a loved one are considering quitting methadone, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor or treatment provider. Or, feel free to ask your questions in the comments section below. Additionally, if you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share, please do! We’ll do our best to answer all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.

Reference sources: Medline Plus: Methadone
CSAT Tip 43: Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction
DOJ: Methadone Fast Facts
NCBI: Methadone at tapered doses for the management of opioid withdrawal
The Department of Health: Cessation of methadone maintenance treatment

Leave a Reply

17 Responses to “How To Stop Taking Methadone?
Heather
2:35 pm April 28th, 2017

Hello,,,I have Been clean from pills and on methadone for almost nine years,,I Bery slowly started tapering off over a year ago. I was at 145 mgs, the clinic I go to unfortunately is alllll about the money,,,my counselor is great ,,,anyways,,,so,,,they Subgested I go very very slowly,,so I did 4 mgs a Month,,,so it’s takin Forever,,,I am at 14 mgs,,,and they have Planned on it taking a month and a half to hpget off,,,I am self pay and on disability,,I want off now!! I am great healthy and feel awesome,,,I do get anxiety,,but ok,,,can I go down like 3 mgs every three days and it will be ok? I do feel the effects,,not too bad,,I use medical marijuana to sleep,,,I have it for my very bad back,,,that’s why the pills,,and I loved them,,,anyways,,,I don’t want to stretch this any longer than necessary,,,if I will still feel withdrawals ,,,I might as well do it faster,,,
I sped up the tapering when I got to 90 mgs,,and I go down 3 mgs a week now,,,but after the first three days I am fine.
So can I change to 3 mgs every 3 days? Or should I stay the course? I will not go back on!! I am determined to be healthy and clean!! I have a great family that has supported me through this Hell,,,anyways ,,I pick up my meds on Tuesday,,,so if you could get back to me that would be awesome !
I ask everyone I can at the clinic,,,but no one knows,,,they have all just been forcibly detoxed in a fast way,,,so they were sick…or have been on a long time,,,and don’t plan on stopping,,,the counsellors seem to want me to keep spending,,,they know I am great,,,I am the “perfect” client ,,,,that’s what they tell each other. ,,,anyways I want to be done and have my life back,,,it’s taking too long,,,y
Thank you,
Heather

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:28 pm May 26th, 2017

Hi Heather. It seems to me that you are doing great. I suggest that you stay on your safe course. What does your doctor say about your plan? Consult with him/her before making any changes.

Anne
3:22 pm June 13th, 2017

My partner is 56 he is a recovering alcoholic (dry for 4 years) He has been coming down from methadone 80mls for months with the advice from drug councillors he is down to 30ml and has been suffering obvious withdrawal symptoms, his balance is really bad will this improve once he is clean.

Deborah
3:56 am June 24th, 2017

Yes I’ve been on methadone now about 8years and I still can’t hardly go with out it I can’t get the money as good as I used to did so I’m going to have to go cold turkey I’m 56 years old and I was addicted to pain pills. But I do have medical problems what can u do I’m afraid .I have no one to help me

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
11:45 am June 27th, 2017

Hi Deborah. Call the helpline you see on the website to speak with a trusted treatment professional.

Liz
3:51 pm August 11th, 2017

Hey my name is liz I have been on methadone for almost 5 yrs and I was at 100mg now I’ve tapered down to 10mg today I’ve been doing 5 mg every 2 weeks. I was planning on picking up 1 more time for the 5 mg dose then just not go back…would I have bad effects? Bc I still have to work so far I’ve felt insomnia and anxiety and of course upset stomach but it’s bereable ….

dae
2:45 am August 17th, 2017

im ben using tramadol when i was 15 until 20 and i stop talking that and always i past the pain and all the shi ts and after 20 i change my pils i started using methadon i quit methadon 2 times about 5 mounthS i had pain like 3 mounth u couldnt sleep nothing i never go to the doctor cus i dont like i have record of these kind of things in my life and i wanna quit this time i did quit 10000 times but i this time i cant past the pain cus last time my hearth beating badly i pasted but i know this time gonna stop i wanna quit this shi t safely how should i do it just tell me and i will do it and im living in 3rd world so dont worry if something happend fo me 😀 just pls tell me how to do it

Ann
12:33 am August 22nd, 2017

Any ideas where my son can go as. Clinic is not open when he goes to work 3am or gets home 1pm. Tampa Florida

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
10:02 am August 22nd, 2017

Hi Ann. Call the number you see on the website to speak with a trusted treatment consultant.

Nick
5:22 pm October 11th, 2017

How do I quit I tried going cold turkey but it was too painful and you got me nervous and I didn’t know if I was coming or going so I could cut down or need help

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
2:11 pm October 13th, 2017

Hi Nick. I suggest that you consult with your doctor to help you plan an individualized tapering schedule.

Eduardo
11:24 pm May 6th, 2018

!’m on 24 millograms of methadone and I want to with draw cold turkey, can I do it even if I have to go thru pain and disconford and willing to take the risk.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
11:27 am May 7th, 2018

Hi Eduardo. The safest way to end methadone is by slowly reducing the daily dose. I suggest that you consult with a doctor to help you plan an individualized tapering schedule.

Aileen
5:11 am July 8th, 2018

I have been thrown out of the methadone clinic in my home twon 130milagrams what should i do

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
11:20 am July 10th, 2018

Hi Aileen. What are the reasons for your expulsion? Also, you can always seek another methadone clinic.

Tammi
1:34 pm July 20th, 2018

Hi. I have been taking methadone 45ml for 3 weeks now. I am planning to quit cold turkey in 2 days. Will I experience withdrawal after only using for 3 weeks? And if so will they be significant?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
4:14 pm July 26th, 2018

Hi Tammi. Experts claim that slowly reducing the daily dose is a safer way to quit methadone. I suggest that you consult with a doctor to help you plan an individualized tapering schedule.

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