Methadone is a long-acting drug. Because of this, methadone withdrawal can last longer than withdrawal from other opioid drugs—about 10 to 20 days on average.
What Causes Methadone Withdrawal?
Withdrawal is a set of physical and psychological symptoms that can develop as a result of physical drug dependence. This can make a person feel physically sick and uncomfortable.
What can cause methadone withdrawal:
- missing a dose
- stopping methadone too quickly
- reducing your dosage
Physical dependence on methadone develops through chronic, regular use. The severity of symptoms, and the types of symptoms experienced, can vary according to a range of factors.
Timeline For Methadone Withdrawal
Methadone is a long-acting drug. This means it stays in the body for an extended amount of time. Because of this, it can take some time before withdrawal symptoms will begin to set in.
Methadone withdrawal symptoms generally appear within 12 to 48 hours after a person’s last dose, and can last 10 to 20 days.
First 48 Hours
Methadone withdrawal can cause flu-like symptoms within the first 48 hours after last use. This may result in physical symptoms such as chills, fever, tremors, and muscle aches.
Days 3 to 7
Methadone withdrawal may cause irritability, anxiety, and cravings in addition to physical symptoms of withdrawal.
Difficulty sleeping may also occur. This is when physical symptoms will usually reach their peak.
Days 7 to 14
Physical symptoms may begin to subside following the first 7 to 10 days of withdrawal.
Insomnia and other emotional or psychological symptoms may linger. Weakness and fatigue are common.
The worst of acute withdrawal symptoms are over.
At this point, a person may feel very tired, similar to how one might feel after a bad case of the flu. Drug cravings, insomnia, and other mental health symptoms may persist.
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What Factors Can Affect How Long Methadone Withdrawal Lasts?
Methadone withdrawal doesn’t look or feel the same for everyone. How long it lasts, and what it feels like, can vary from person to person depending on a range of factors.
Factors that can affect the methadone withdrawal timeline include:
- detox setting
- amount of methadone taken
- frequency of drug use
- use of other drugs (e.g. alcohol, benzodiazepines)
- previous withdrawal attempts
- metabolic rate
- history of drug addiction
- treatment for withdrawal
Most physical withdrawal symptoms go away within the first 20 days after a person’s last dose.
People who have taken methadone for a long time, or have a history of opioid dependence, may experience protracted withdrawal, which can cause longer-lasting symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms
Methadone is an opiate drug. Getting off methadone can result in withdrawal symptoms similar to those of other opioids, including oxycodone, fentanyl, or the illicit drug heroin.
Withdrawal symptoms can be mild to severe in nature. Within a detox program, withdrawal symptoms can be effectively treated and managed with medicine and clinical supervision.
Common early withdrawal symptoms include:
- muscle pain
- dilated pupils
- runny nose
- watery eyes
- difficulty sleeping
Early symptoms of withdrawal generally develop within 30 hours of a person’s last dose.
After this, physical symptoms may first get worse before they get better. Other symptoms, including psychological and cognitive symptoms may also appear.
Common late withdrawal symptoms include:
- drug cravings
- aches and pains
- severe nausea
- stomach pain
- decreased appetite
Within the first two weeks or so, most of these symptoms should begin to subside.
Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS)—or protracted withdrawal symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia—can persist for some weeks or months after.
Treatment For Methadone Withdrawal
Getting off methadone after taking it for some time can be very uncomfortable. The safest way to stop taking methadone is to enter a medical detoxification program.
Detox programs can offer:
- clinical supervision
- symptom relief
- a quiet environment
- aftercare coordination
Medical detox programs can offer medicine to relieve withdrawal symptoms, and reduce the risk of drug relapse by providing around-the-clock supervision and support.
Risks Of Methadone Withdrawal
Methadone withdrawal can be risky without adequate medical support. Although it’s possible to detox from home, this isn’t recommended unless you have a robust support system.
Risks of methadone withdrawal can include:
- severe symptoms from stopping too quickly
- severe dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea
- return of opioid cravings (in people with OUD)
- relapsing to other opioids of abuse
- increased risk of opioid overdose
Increased Risk Of Overdose After Methadone Withdrawal
Overdose is a primary concern in the first couple of weeks after withdrawing from a medication like methadone, particularly in people who’ve been taking methadone for opioid use disorder.
After withdrawing from methadone, the body’s tolerance for opioids will decrease. This can increase the risk of an accidental overdose in the event of a relapse to opioid use.
Detox programs can mitigate this risk through clinical supervision and support. Some detox centers may also be able to help coordinate additional care in a drug rehab program.
Methadone Withdrawal FAQs
Find answers to frequently asked questions about methadone withdrawal, symptoms, and the average timeline.
❓ How Long Does Methadone Withdrawal Last?
✔️ Acute withdrawal lasts between 10 to 20 days on average. For some, this can be shorter. For others, it may last longer. Peak withdrawal occurs within three to eight days after last use.
❓ When Do Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms Start?
✔️ Withdrawal symptoms can take up to 48 hours, or two days after last methadone use, to appear. In some, withdrawal may begin within as early as 12 hours after last use.
❓ Is Methadone Withdrawal Dangerous?
✔️ Unlike alcohol withdrawal or withdrawal from benzodiazepines, opioid withdrawal symptoms are not generally life-threatening. The primary risk of methadone withdrawal is opioid relapse.
Without a follow-up treatment plan, getting off methadone too quickly or alone can increase the risk of relapse to substance misuse and drug overdose—which can be deadly.
Finding Treatment For Methadone Withdrawal
Methadone withdrawal can be very uncomfortable and difficult to manage without clinical support. If you or a loved one is looking to stop using methadone, we may be able to help.
Call our helpline today to learn more about methadone withdrawal and how to find treatment for methadone withdrawal at a rehab center near you.
Published on July 9, 2021
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- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Methadone
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Methadone
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: NCBI Bookshelf — Withdrawal Management - Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings