How Long is Methadone Detox?

Detox from methadone, especially if you have been taking the drug as a maintenance medication, can take some time. However, it is often a necessary step in one’s recovery from opioid addiction.

What Is Methadone Detox?

Methadone is an opioid agonist drug that is often used to treat opioid addiction by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain, minimizing withdrawal symptoms, and reducing cravings. Unfortunately, because the drug can cause its own high if taken in large doses, it is often diverted to the illicit market as well and can cause addiction.

Detox is a treatment program that “safely manages the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal associated with stopping drug use” (National Institute on Drug Abuse). While it is a helpful––and often necessary––part of recovery, it is only one stage of treatment and cannot alone be enough to help someone safely recover from their opioid addiction.

Who Needs Methadone Detox?

Methadone Detox

Medically assisted methadone detox generally takes a few weeks.

People who have been abusing methadone will need to be treated for their dependence on the drug as well as their addiction to it. In this case, detox may take place at the beginning of treatment before one starts their general rehab program.

However, individuals on methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) may also eventually decide that they no longer need the medication anymore and will go through a form of detox much later in their recoveries.

How Long Does Methadone Detox Take for Methadone Abusers?

Methadone detox can take a varying amount of time based on different aspects of a person’s recovery and situation. For example, someone who has been abusing methadone may choose to go through a detox program early on in treatment in order to be weaned off the drug.

According to the National Library of Medicine, withdrawal symptoms associated with methadone start to occur after 30 hours of one’s last use because the drug is a long-acting opioid. The drug’s withdrawal symptoms will usually also last longer than those associated with shorter-acting opioids (like heroin). In general, it will likely take someone a few weeks to go through medically assisted detox for methadone dependence.

How Long Does Methadone Detox Take for MMT Patients?

People who have been maintained on methadone may also choose to detox from the drug eventually once they believe they have gained everything they needed from the program. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “The length of methadone treatment should be a minimum of 12 months,” but after this time, a patient and doctor may decide together to stop methadone treatment.

MMT is a long program, and one will usually be very dependent on their methadone medication when they have finished the first year (or more) of treatment. Therefore, they will need to be gradually weaned off the drug. Though this is similar to how individuals in regular methadone detox programs are treated, the process can often take longer because of the intensity of one’s dependence on the drug. In most cases, it usually takes at least four to six months for someone in MMT to be safely and effectively weaned off methadone.

Is Rapid Detox an Option?

Rapid detox is another method where patients are sedated and then given opioid antagonists that precipitate withdrawal. The idea is that the patient is able to overcome withdrawal faster without having to experience the symptoms. Unfortunately, though, this option has been found to be “no easier” than regular detox in a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

In truth, one should expect methadone detox especially to take quite a while. Those who are managed on the drug will need to slowly adjust to not taking it in order to prevent a relapse. In addition, those who have been abusing it are likely to experience prolonged withdrawal symptoms and will need ample supervision, as well as long-term treatment.

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