Opiate withdrawal generally takes about a week for a person who is in a detox clinic and slowly weaned off the drug. However, methadone detox may take somewhat longer, especially if the individual has been on methadone maintenance treatment for a long time. Consider the length of time it may take you to detox from methadone before you start, as it can be beneficial to have an adequate understanding of the timeline.
Methadone Detox and Withdrawal
According to the NLM, when a person stops taking opioid drugs of any kind, “the body needs time to recover.” This is is true for methadone as well. Someone who has been on methadone maintenance for a long time and decides to stop taking the drugs will experience withdrawal symptoms.
“Withdrawal from opiates can occur whenever any chronic use is discontinued or reduced.” During methadone detox, the individual will be weaned off the drug slowly, but that doesn’t mean they will be free from experiencing withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms will last as long as the individual is being weaned off the drug. Although they will not be as intense as if the person merely stopped taking methadone altogether, they will still be irritating and uncomfortable.
Weaning a person off methadone can sometimes take as little as a few days to a week, but when someone has been on maintenance, the weaning process will be longer. Methadone doctors do not want patients to stop attending the clinic without being completely through with their dependence on the drug which means the withdrawal process will often be longer than the usual opioid detox in order to be thorough and safe.
Long-acting Opioids = Long-lasting Withdrawal
In addition, Harvard Medical School states, “Short-acting opiates tend to produce more intense but briefer symptoms.” However, methadone is long-acting which means the withdrawal symptoms, though less painful and intense than those caused by heroin, will last quite a bit longer. This will make the entire process of detox last longer than it would for another opioid drug like heroin.
Also the final stage of opioid withdrawal can sometimes linger, especially if the individual is being weaned slowly from a drug. This is because the final stage consists of sporadic withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, and flu-like feelings. When certain individuals feel that these symptoms are beginning to wane, they sometimes go back to their normal routine, which should not be done until all symptoms are completely gone. This will cause a safer and more effective detox as the individual will not begin to experience symptoms again due to stress or other reasons.
After the maintenance has ended, detox from methadone can often take four weeks or more when properly done. Although this can seem like a very long time, especially when compared to the week-long detox that other withdrawing individuals go through, it ensures that the patient has completely ended their dependence on the drug and no longer needs to take it to avoid relapse which makes detox a very important and precarious step.