Often used as a pain reliever and to treat withdrawal symptoms from other opioids like heroin, methadone is quite addictive on its own. And despite it being prescribed to treat addiction, abusing it can very easily lead to its own dependency problems.
Like other drugs, methadone addiction is a serious disease. And in order to treat it properly, it takes the help of a qualified and dedicated professional methadone rehabilitation program.
This guide takes a closer look at what’s involved in methadone rehab – from the initial stages of pushing through grueling withdrawals to the intensive counseling and behavioral therapies of rehabilitation.
And the more you know about methadone rehab beforehand, the better equipped you’ll be to kick this addiction to the curb for good.
To begin your recovery from addiction to this drug, you’ll need to get it out of your system. This process is called detoxification and is the first step in your treatment. When you detox, you cleanse the system from the drug and allow it to go back to normal function.
This step is a necessary part of the recovery process because, over the course of an addiction, the body becomes utterly dependent on the addictive substance in order to function normally.
And once that addictive substance is removed from an addict’s routine, the body is thrown wildly out of whack – causing a range of incredibly uncomfortable side effects known as withdrawals.
Eventually, the body re-learns how to work normally on its own. But the process takes time. And for some, the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms will lead the substance abuser to turn back to using methadone, thus starting the cycle all over again.
A professional detoxification program helps to make the withdrawal process much more manageable while also keeping patients safe and sober along the way. And while it is possible to quit using without one, these programs make it far more likely for addicts to push through withdrawals successfully and safely.
Because methadone is an opioid, medical detox may be recommended as an option to help you with the withdrawal symptoms.
With medical detoxification of methadone, patients are given a variety of medications to help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. They may even help cut down on the duration of withdrawal as well.
These medications may include other opioid-based drugs like buprenorphine or naltrexone. Or they may just be symptom-specific medications. Benzodiazepines, for example, can help treat insomnia, depression, and anxiety. And painkillers can help treat the intense muscle aches and soreness.
The exact medications used will depend on both the facility being used as well as the individual patient. And not all detoxification programs will have the ability to prescribe medications to their patients too.
However, there are risks to medicated detoxification. For example, it’s possible to develop a dependency on the drugs actually being used to treat the original addiction if the physicians aren’t careful.
Plus, many of these drugs have their own long list of side effects, some of which can be especially uncomfortable.
A second method of detox is one which focuses on natural healing.
Holistic detox focuses on helping you get healthy through good nutrition and exercise so your body can fight off the withdrawal symptoms naturally. It helps by jumpstarting your body into producing those natural “feel-good” chemicals all on its own. And the more of those that are pumping through the body of a methadone addict, the less likely they’ll be to suffer from the painful withdrawal symptoms.
Plus, a holistic program also focuses on boosting the body’s immune system too. And that can be especially helpful for making detoxification run as smoothly as possible.
In addition to nutrition and exercise, many holistic programs also offer natural stress-management techniques like yoga, mindfulness, and meditation. And given just how big of an impact stress can have on the risk of relapse, these techniques can go a long way towards keeping patients sober.
One of the biggest benefits, however, is the fact that there’s no risk of developing a secondary addiction to the prescription medications used in medicated detox. And that alone is a major reason for going holistic.
This type of detoxification program can involve both medical and holistic treatments. But what separates it from other programs is the structure.
To explain, most methadone detox facilities require patients to actually stay at a treatment facility over the course of the program. A partial hospitalization program on the other hand offers quite a bit more flexibility. Patients are able to stay at their own home while coming in for a few hours a day for treatment.
This allows for physicians to give patients the proper dosage of their prescription detox medications without fear of it being abused.
Plus, patients may also go through a range of other treatments while they’re there, including counseling, group talk, or various behavioral therapies.
In a word, it can be brutal.
While many people might expect getting off of methadone to be easier than hard drugs like heroin, the truth is that methadone withdrawal can actually end up being much worse.
Physical symptoms are usually compared to the flu – though 100 times more intense. And when it comes to the psychological side, anxiety, insomnia, and depression are all incredibly common. Plus, these withdrawals can often last much longer than other drugs like heroin.
Here are just a few quotes from members on Reddit who have gone through the experience themselves.
“…weeks of agitation, insomnia, and feeling like you've been run over by a bus…”
“Physical and mental pain and suffering. Skin crawling, sweating, hot/cold, achy joints/bones, running nose, the sh**s. Basically, like the flu x 100, along with crazy mental sh**. Hard to describe, but it sucks, bad.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that methadone is harder to kick than heroin. The fact it stays in your system so long, and the fact that most people who are on it have access to a daily supply, means the drug builds up in your system over time.”
“Fluid running out of every hole. Alternating between puking and sh***ing. No sleep for weeks. Anxiety to the point of delusion. Suicidal ideation and behavior is possible. Basically the peak of iv opiate withdrawal stretched over a couple weeks.”
For many, these symptoms can be so unbearable for so long that they end up relapsing and turning back to using regularly – just for some relief.
Unlike other opioids, methadone has an especially long half-life of 8 to 59 hours. For comparison, heroin’s half-life is only about 2 to 6 minutes long.
As a result, this drug tends to stay in the body longer than other opioids.
How long this drug is present in your system will depend on how much you’re using and how it’s being tested. Below are the estimated windows of detection for methadone.
One of the biggest concerns for anyone abusing a drug is what symptoms of withdrawal they will have if they decide to stop using. Methadone comes with its own set of withdrawal symptoms that you need to be aware of.
You’ll generally start to experience these symptoms the next day after your last use. You may experience them sooner if you’ve been taking a high dosage of methadone or combining it with other substances.
Some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal for methadone include:
The symptoms of methadone withdrawal are quite similar to other opioids like heroin. However, what makes it different (and harder to get through) is the especially long withdrawal timeline thanks to its longer half-life.
Rather than these grueling symptoms lasting for, say, a week, they can end up assaulting recovering users for much longer.
Below is a methadone withdrawal timeline to help patients know exactly what to expect when it comes to kicking this powerful drug.
Getting through methadone withdrawal is tough – that much is clear. And for many, it can be far too uncomfortable of a process to get through without the right kind of support.
But with the right professional methadone detox program on your side, pushing through the onslaught of physical and psychological symptoms is far easier than trying to get through it all alone.
That’s because these programs provide two major benefits: they treat withdrawal symptoms to make it easier to stay clean, and they prevent and treat complications that may develop along the way.
One of the most important benefits of partnering with a professional methadone detoxification program is the fact that these programs are experts at making withdrawal as comfortable as possible.
In addition to providing nutrition-rich meal plans and a wide variety of amenities, these programs will also use medical expertise to treat the severe withdrawal symptoms along the way.
They may, for instance, use a number of medications to reduce the severity of specific symptoms like nausea, muscle aches, or diarrhea.
Some of these medications may include:
Another important function of a professional detoxification program is the fact that these facilities are also equipped to treat a range of complications that may occur during withdrawal. And some of these complications can actually be quite deadly.
The truth of the matter, though, is that the various complications that arise during detox can lead to a wide array of health problems on their own. And without the right kind of care, these problems can in fact be deadly.
Below are just some of the many complications that can develop over the course of methadone withdrawal without proper help, along with the serious problems they can cause.
Another danger of trying to quit methadone alone is the risk of relapsing.
Now, with any addictive substance, relapsing is always going to be detrimental to recovery. It can negate weeks or even months of hard work, and without the right kind of support, it usually means a patient will fall right back into using habitually again.
But with opioids like methadone, the risks associated with relapse are even more serious. That’s because many who do end up turning back to opioids after trying to quit end up overdosing, sometimes fatally.
That’s because opioids like methadone have a tendency to affect tolerance levels more quickly than other drugs. In fact, studies have even shown that patients may develop a physical tolerance to strong opioids in as little as several hours alone.
But in the same way that tolerance builds for tolerance quicker than with other drugs, it also drops much quicker too. And that can lead to some very serious problems for someone who relapses.
For example, if a heavy methadone user spends weeks staying abstinent from using, his/her tolerance has likely dropped dramatically. And if that individual ends up relapsing on the same dosage that got them high before, it’s likely going to be far more than their body can handle.
And in cases like these, it is incredibly common for someone to fatally overdose as a result of this relapse.
A professional methadone detox program, then, also protects patients from this dangerous form of accidental overdose.
Plus, new research has shown that some patients being treated with methadone are actually at more of a risk of relapsing than others. So finding the right detox program is especially important.
Given just how dangerous a methadone overdose can be, it’s important to know just what kinds of symptoms are usually involved. After all, the quicker you can identify a problem, the faster you’ll be able to actually treat it.
Spotting the signs of a methadone overdose can be tough. But there are usually a number of signs to watch out for. These include:
Getting help from qualified medical professionals is key to treating an overdose. So if you notice the symptoms of above, call 9-1-1 immediately.
The operators on the other end of the line will be able to send an ambulance to your location while also instructing you on how best to treat the victim.
They may, for instance, tell you to administer a drug called naloxone if it’s available. This drug basically reverses the symptoms of an opioid overdose and can buy valuable time while waiting for the EMTs to arrive. They may also tell you to perform CPR or other life-saving measures.
Be sure to follow instructions as closely as you can.
And also be sure to give only accurate information to medical providers. Lying about, say, whether an illicit drug was used can lead to serious consequences for the victim, some of which might even be fatal.
Drug detox is just the first step in the process of recovery from addiction. And while it deals with the body side of addiction, the brain is often still left craving the drug long after leaving detoxification.
Rehabilitation is specifically designed to treat the brain side of addiction. And it’s a vital part of any successful recovery program.
In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that without the help of rehabilitation, medical detox alone does little to change long-term drug use.
That means you still need to seek treatment through therapy and other programs after detox. Even if methadone was prescribed to you which led to your addiction, you need to deal with this issue and learn how to avoid the situation in the future.
But not all methadone rehab programs look the same. And some may end up being great for one person and horrible for another.
Knowing the ins and outs of each, then, is the best way to determine which of these programs is actually right for you. In general, methadone programs can be broken down into one of three types: inpatient, outpatient, or intensive outpatient programs (IOPs).
Inpatient rehabilitation differs from other types of programs because it requires patients to actually stay at a facility over the course of treatment. That means eating, sleeping, and treatment sessions all take place in the same centralized location.
This, of course, allows for a more controlled environment and a higher level of care. But it can also end up being more disruptive to day-to-day life too since attending school or going to work may not be allowed in an inpatient methadone program.
The idea of going to an inpatient rehab might seem a bit scary to you, and if it does, that’s OK. There are a lot of people who feel nervous about the thought of going away to get treatment for their addictions. However, this method of drug rehab is in place for your safety.
When you’re addicted to a drug that’s as powerful as methadone, the risk of relapsing and overdosing is very high. It’s essential for you to get the professional support you need during this time so that you’re protected against a possible relapse and overdose. In addition, inpatient rehab gives you access to treatments that will aid you in your recovery, such as:
Most inpatient drug rehab centers allow you to stay up to 30 days. If you need more intensive treatment, you may want to consider a residential rehab center. With these programs, you can stay for several weeks or even a few months as you work on your recovery.
Another option for treatment is outpatient care. You still get the therapy you need to recover from addiction, but you don’t reside at the facility. Outpatient programs usually require you to attend therapy a few hours each week. One of the advantages of this type of treatment is the flexibility you have in scheduling your appointments. You can go during the day while the kids are in school or at daycare or you can attend in the evenings or on weekends so you don’t miss work.
To be successful with an outpatient program, you must be dedicated to recovery. You should have a strong support system with family and friends and be able to avoid negative influences. You can still be at home with your family or continue working, but you will have more support to keep you on track. There may also be restrictions about where you can go when you aren’t in therapy.
These programs tend to be a bit longer too – usually around 3 months as opposed to just 30 days.
Another option for getting clean is an intensive outpatient program, or IOP. These programs are modeled off of the outpatient approach – meaning patients don’t actually have to stay at a treatment facility all day long. Sessions usually take place in the evenings or at a time that’s convenient for the patient.
However, IOPs offer a higher level of care than most outpatient programs can provide. That’s because treatment sessions usually last quite a bit longer and tend to occur more frequently throughout the week, too.
As a result, patients are able to attend work, school, or family obligations for the most part while still getting the higher level of care that they need to recover.
These programs are also usually around 3 months long.
It can be intimidating to go to a place where you don’t know anyone or what to expect. You probably feel vulnerable and even embarrassed to think you’re addicted to a prescription drug. It may make you feel better to know what will happen when you sign in to a drug rehab facility.
One of the first things that will happen is you’ll receive an assessment. How severe is the addiction? Are there any other underlying co-occurring disorders that need to be considered? How long have you been using?
The information gathered from questions like these will tell the therapist what kind of treatment plan you need. The best drug addiction treatment centers will develop an individualized plan based on your unique needs and situation.
Once your level of addiction and specific needs are determined, you'll be given a date to come into the program and when you can officially begin your recovery.
On the day your program begins, you’ll show up at the scheduled time and meet with an intake coordinator who will guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.
You should be prepared to begin by bringing:
It can be tough to know exactly how to pack for an inpatient methadone rehabilitation program.
This helpful guide provides a quick overview of what to bring and, just as importantly, what not to bring to an inpatient methadone treatment facility.
Once you're settled in, treatment may begin. Depending on the program, it may start the same day of arrival, or it could begin the following day.
A typical day in a methadone rehabilitation program might look something like this.
Early Morning – Days will likely begin early with a healthy, nutrition-rich breakfast followed by early morning counseling sessions. These sessions may be for individuals alone, or they could be with a larger group. But no matter the structure, these sessions are integral for healing and recovery and likely will be required.
Mid-day – This is likely when the bulk of more intensive treatments will occur. Group sessions, one-on-one counseling, a range of behavioral therapies, and many more types of treatment will all be likely during this time.
And don’t expect it to be a picnic either. While methadone rehabilitation is meant to be as comfortable as possible, it does take work in order for it to be successful. And patients should expect their schedules to be full.
Afternoon – Later in the day, programs will likely include at least some free time for patients to take a breath and do as they choose. They can work out in the facility gym, swim if there’s a pool, play games, socialize, pray, or meditate. It really depends on the facility and, of course, the individual.
This is also a great time for reflection on what’s been taught that day and how to apply it.
Evening – Evenings are usually composed of dinners and another group talk session, usually following the 12-step approach to recovery. Here patients can share with others what they have learned from the day’s treatment sessions while also learning from the experiences of others.
This sharing and thinking about the day’s lessons is critical for solidifying the lessons in the mind of the patient.
Finally, bedtime will likely be reasonably early in order to keep the body and mind strong for the next day's treatments.
Finally, after the program has ended and the patient has shown considerable improvement, they’ll be released from the program so they can put what they learned into practice.
However, a high-quality program will provide referrals to a range of aftercare programs for graduating patients. These programs will help patients remain sober in the long-term and help prevent relapsing immediately after re-entering the "real" world.
These programs can also connect patients with a social support network that can help keep people accountable and motivationally supported – both crucial components of a successful recovery plan.
While it may seem awkward to talk about such a personal issue as drug addiction with strangers, it’s often easier than discussing it with family and friends. You’ll quickly learn to appreciate these group meetings and look forward to them as they help you keep your focus.
Behavioral therapies are without a doubt some of the most essential parts of a methadone rehab program. These treatments deal directly with the compulsive behaviors that drive so many methadone addicts to keep using. And with the right approach, they teach patients how to replace these destructive behaviors with healthier ones that don’t involve substance abuse.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse endorses a variety of behavioral therapies that have been proven to be effective in treating addiction. These include:
More drug rehab clinics are including alternative treatments as part of the program. They have come to realize that drug addiction treatment can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach or it won’t be successful. To aid in creating programs that have better success rates, they are turning to other forms of treatment.
An example is with art or music therapy. Another option would be physical activity like hiking or spending time outdoors in other pursuits. The person may enjoy gardening or caring for animals. Their interests can often be used to assist with therapy. For instance, a person who struggles to share their emotions verbally may benefit from journaling.
If these programs sound interesting to you, it’s a good idea to check around to find out what is offered in the drug rehab centers nearby. The more options you have available, the better decision you can make about the best treatment for your situation.
As a person works on overcoming their addiction, they will need to deal with other situations. They may have broken relationships or problems in the family that led to the addiction. These must be addressed during treatment. If possible, family therapy may be the answer to help start the healing process.
Many drug addiction treatment centers have the recovering addicts get involved with the community. They may volunteer in service projects and find ways to give back. Helping others who are less fortunate or in need can give recovering addicts a sense of purpose. It makes them feel good to be needed and to do something selfless.
Many times, a recovering addict needs continual support even after they complete treatment. The 12-step programs that are available offer regular meetings for times when the person feels the need for additional encouragement. Narcotics Anonymous has numerous groups throughout the country that meet throughout the week. Even if it’s been years since you last used the drug, you may face cravings at certain times. Attending a meeting can help you fight the feelings of wanting to use and give you the determination to avoid relapsing.
Also known as dual diagnosis, co-occurring disorders refers to when someone struggles with both a substance use disorder and an underlying mental disorder. These disorders can be anything from depression and anxiety to bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The link between mental disorders and substance use disorders is strong, too. According to NIDA, “about half of people who experience a mental illness will also experience a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa.”
Compare that to just 1 in 5 U.S. adults that experience a mental illness in a given year.
Addiction and underlying mental illness can often go hand in hand. And that can make effectively treating a methadone use disorder even harder.
They certainly do.
When someone is suffering from co-occurring disorders like methadone addiction and a mood disorder like depression, these two conditions tend to exacerbate each other.
Patients may, for example, use their substance abuse as a way to treat the symptoms of their mood disorder. Or they may develop a mood disorder as a result of their substance abuse.
In both cases, treating just one of these problems is likely to result in a relapse. That’s because the other underlying disorder, which is likely to be linked with the other, still remains. And once the symptoms of the remaining disorder become too much to handle, a relapse of the other is more probably going to occur.
That’s why it’s so important to find a methadone rehabilitation program that’s well-versed in co-occurring disorders. Doing so can greatly improve the chances of long-term recovery.
Another type of co-occurring disorder is called polysubstance abuse – abusing two addictive substances at the same time.
This type of problem can lead not only to developing dual addictions but may also result in dangerous drug interactions that can actually lead to life-threatening problems.
It’s not safe to take this drug with others, even if they are prescription medications. When you combine methadone with another opiate like OxyContin, you’re at a greater risk for overdose. The reason is they are both opiates and offer similar effects. When taken to the extreme, they can cause your heart or breathing to stop.
Though not the same type of drug, alcohol should also be avoided when you’re taking methadone. It reacts in a similar way with the central nervous system, acting as a depressant, which means it will slow down your heart rate and breathing. The result is low blood pressure along with a weakened heart rate. It can even put you in a coma if you combine alcohol with the drug. The risk of death is higher as well.
When you combine an opioid like methadone and a stimulant, you’re also putting yourself in danger. The stimulant increases the heart rate and other systems, which means you may not be aware of how much methadone you’re taking or how it will impact your body. The stimulant will leave your system faster which will leave more of the other drug and may lead to a toxic amount.
Another concern with this combination is the increased risk for injury. Because the stimulant makes you feel invincible and confident, you may attempt risky behaviors. Coming down from the drugs often leads to more severe withdrawal symptoms, which will increase the likelihood that you’ll use again to stop those unpleasant effects. You’re more likely to become addicted when you combine multiple drugs.
It’s possible that you’ve thought about going to drug addiction treatment in the past, but you always put it off because of how much it costs for that kind of care.
And you wouldn't be the first to do so. In fact, the perceived cost of treatment was considered to be one of the biggest factors in why many willing addicts didn’t get the treatment they needed to recover.
But the truth of the matter is, addiction treatment is actually more affordable today than it’s ever been. And part of the reason why is that there are so many different ways out there to help cover the costs of getting help.
Below are some of the best.
Without a doubt, one of the best ways to pay for methadone rehabilitation is through private health insurance. Thanks to a few new healthcare laws like the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, most insurers are now required by law to provide addiction treatment coverage.
As a result, some patients may end up paying little more than a small co-pay. Some don't have any out-of-pocket expenses at all!
However, it’s always important to verify insurance coverage before partnering with a specific program – just in case.
Many programs will also offer a range of payment options to make treatment much more affordable.
They may, for instance, offer patients a sliding-scale price for their methadone rehabilitation. As a result, the final costs of the program are based on individual income rather than being a set price.
They may also provide financing options with low interest rates or installment plans that can help break up the total cost of treatment.
Not all facilities offer the same options though. So be sure to reach out to a treatment program individually to see what they may be able to provide.
Many facilities also offer grants or scholarships to help cover the costs – no repayment required.
However, the qualifications for these options are often quite strict and may be hard to meet.
Plus, grants and scholarships are usually quite a bit harder to come by compared to other cost-saving options like those listed above.
Finally, there are likely to be a variety of free or particularly low-cost treatment options nearby.
These facilities are often run by the government or by large charitable organizations.
The Salvation Army, for instance, helps more than 150 thousand people overcome addiction every single year. And for many, these facilities are entirely free.
However, there are a few caveats worth considering when it comes to free and low-cost treatment. First, it can take an especially long time to get into one of these programs. And when you’re struggling with an addiction to methadone, time is kind of in short supply.
And second, these facilities often won’t be able to offer the level of quality treatment that other facilities may provide. And for many, this translates into a lower rate of success and a higher rate of relapse.
Consequently, you may want to think twice before partnering with a free methadone rehab center.
When you have an addiction to a drug like methadone, it’s always best to get professional help when you’re ready to quit. This is such a potent drug, and it’s very effective when it’s used properly. Whether you’ve become addicted to it without realizing it, or you’ve been knowingly abusing it for a long period of time, methadone rehab programs are designed to help you overcome your addiction.
And at Northpoint Washington in Edmonds, we’re proud to check all of these boxes.
Our empirically-based inpatient rehabilitation programs are some of the best in the Pacific Northwest and even in the country. And with national accreditations from some of the foremost authorities in addiction treatment, you can rest assured you’re getting the highest quality methadone rehab treatment in the area.
But we also know that not everyone will be right for our program. And only a conversation with a qualified addiction specialist can help you determine if you or your loved one is a good fit.