About Methadone Detox Methods
Heroin users who are able to transition to methadone are likely saving their lives by doing so, considering the diseases associated with dirty needles along with the unknown potency of street-level heroin. However, by trading one powerful opioid for another, they will remain opioid addicts. In fact, in some ways, being a methadone addict is substantially worse than being a heroin addict.
One of those ways is the fact that methadone has an extremely long half-life and remains in the body long after one has stopped taking the drug. Fully detoxing from a heavy methadone addiction can literally take more than a month, whereas even a heavy heroin addiction will require no more than 10 days or so to be fully detoxed from.
Many former heroin addicts who are on methadone maintenance therapy will remain on it for many, many years because overcoming a methadone addiction is so extraordinarily difficult.
There are, however, at least two established methods of detoxing a methadone addict. Before we get into each one, it should be noted that, like alcohol and benzodiazepines, a person should never try to come off of methadone without medical supervision, as the withdrawal symptoms can lead to death.
Clonazepam is a very old and reliable anticonvulsant and benzodiazepine that is most often prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders and seizure disorders. However, the drug has proven useful over the years—as an oral pill and in the form of a time-release patch—in blunting the effects of methadone (and all opioid) withdrawal symptoms. It is a safe drug when taken properly.
Despite being an opioid itself, Suboxone—which contains the opioid buprenorphine as well as a drug called naloxone—is often used to help detox methadone addicts as well as addicts of other opioids. Suboxone is taken sub-lingually, meaning one puts it under one's tongue and it dissolves. When taken this way, the buprenorphine works to ease the patient off the more powerful opioid, and the naloxone works only if the patient attempts to take heroin or other opioids, which it has the ability to block from working. Typically, patients are given gradually increasing doses of Suboxone followed by gradually decreasing dosages until it is believed the patient has been fully detoxed.