How Can I Get Off Methadone?
When used as a maintenance treatment, a person can be on methadone for anywhere from six months to over a decade depending on the extent of the addiction. Methadone’s ability to reduce drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms plays a vital role in helping recovering addicts wean off opiate drugs. Once people start to feel they can manage an opiate addiction on their own, it may be time to get off methadone.
Considering methadone’s role in the recovery process, stopping the drug altogether can cause more harm than good in more ways than one. In effect, stopping the drug altogether is akin to going “cold turkey” after abusing drugs for a long time. By following standard medical procedural guidelines, recovering addicts can get off methadone safely without jeopardizing the progress already made throughout the recovery process.
Discontinuing Methadone Treatment
Weaning recovering addicts off the effects of heroin and/or opiate drug use becomes the overall purpose for methadone treatment. As methadone is also an opiate-based drug, people who receive treatment for a long time can become dependent on methadone’s effects. When it comes time to get off methadone, a similar “weaning” approach is needed to overcome the body’s physical dependency on the drug.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, a Tapering Phase must be followed at the end of methadone treatment in order to ensure recovering addicts can maintain abstinence from all other opiate drugs once treatment ends. Tapering involves a gradual reduction of methadone dosage amounts over a specified time period.
Methadone’s effects during treatment help to eliminate drug cravings and lessen withdrawal effects. Stopping treatment places people at risk of experiencing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. To safely get off methadone, these effects must be closely monitored throughout the Tapering Phase.
A tapering plan provides clear and straightforward guidelines for helping recovering addicts get off methadone. Tapering plans can vary from person to person with each one developed on an individual basis by both the physician and the patient.
A tapering plan will include essential steps to be followed throughout the Tapering Phase, some of which include:
- Dosage reduction amounts
- Frequency of dosage reduction amounts
- Time frame for completion of Tapering Phase
- Conditions under which dosage adjustments are made
- Needed supports for helping the patient adjust to the tapering process
Since methadone withdrawal and cravings effects can easily drive a person to relapse, in order to safely get off methadone, a slow Tapering Phase provides the best chance of success.
While tapering does provide a way for recovering addicts to get off heroin, it’s not uncommon for people to experience a certain level of discomfort – both physically and emotionally – during the Tapering Phase. For this reason, anyone trying to get off methadone should also receive ongoing counseling treatment as a way to cope with distressing taper effects.
Part of a person’s tapering plan should also include activities designed to keep him or her connected with a support network made up of friends, family, counseling and regular attendance at 12-Step support group meetings.