How to Detox Off Other Medications With Methadone

By Robert Vaux

  • Overview

    Methadone is an opiate that works to block the reception of glutamate in your central nervous system. (Glutamate contributes to the way your brain learns and remembers things.) Those properties can make methadone an effective way to detoxify as a part of overcoming drug addiction. Methadone itself can be addictive, however, and if it is not used carefully, you can exchange one form of addiction for another. It's helpful to understand how methadone works and what the best ways are to use it.
    • Step 1

      Seek out a treatment center that uses methadone. You should always take it in conjunction with a doctor's care and under the supervision of trained professionals. Some detox clinics allow you to go through the process at home, where family and friends can be a source of comfort. Others ask that you remain on site while you detox, and have facilities for you to stay in. The best choice for you will depend on your particular circumstances and the comparative expenses involved.
    • Step 2

      Start slowly. Methadone can be injected, delivered orally through pill or liquid form, or taken as a tablet placed under the tongue. The intake averages between 80 and 12mg a day, but doctors often suggest starting at a much lower number (20 to 30 mg a day), then gradually increasingly the daily dosage by a set amount (such as 5mg a day). That allows the doctor to monitor your progress and make sure the methadone is working as it should.


    • Step 3

      Watch for side effects. Methadone use can be accompanied by fluctuations in your weight, swelling of the hands and feet, nausea, sleeplessness, constipation and even heart seizures in the worst cases. Write down any side effects you detect and speak to your doctor about them immediately: he may wish to modify your dosage to offset them.
    • Step 4

      Augment your methadone use with drug counseling or psychological therapy. Methadone is not a cure-all, and it works best when you take steps to address the behavioral causes of addiction. Many clinics offer therapy sessions as part of their regimen, and you can also look into alternate techniques like meditation to help bolster your detoxification process.
    • Step 5

      Know when to stop. If used too long, methadone can become a crutch, and while it as not as dangerous as some forms of illegal drugs, it can be just as difficult to kick. The exact time to stop using the drug depends on the individual case: usually, it comes when the drug you're trying to kick is clear of your system and you have reasonable psychological bulwarks in place to stave off addictive cravings. Your doctor can tell you when best to stop using the drug, and will design a schedule so you can taper off of it gradually.
    • Skill: Moderate
    • Tip: If you're detoxing from home, take care not to exceed the daily dosage of methadone as recommended by your doctor. Some clinics require you to visit them daily for each dose so they can keep it in line, but others may give you dosages for 7 days or longer. In such cases, it is important to maintain your discipline, no matter how badly you feel you need more methadone than prescribed.
    • Tip: Work on detoxing using methods besides methadone before you sign up. Many doctors prefer you to exhaust alternative options before turning to methadone because of the risk of addiction that is involved.
    • Warning:
    • Take a close look at any clinic that uses methadone in its treatment process before you sign up. A for-profit clinic stands to make more money the longer they keep you in the process, and thus may have you on methadone long after you should have eliminated its use. This isn't to say that all clinics do this, or even most, but you want to be sure the ethical standards are unimpeachable before you sign on for a program.

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