Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, Duration

Methadone is an opioid agonist medication used in medication-assisted treatment to help people recovering from opioid use disorders. It relieves withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings without causing the same high as other opioids. However, discontinuing methadone maintenance can also lead to withdrawal as the body adjusts to the lack of the drug. Understanding methadone withdrawal is critical for patients transitioning from methadone treatment to sobriety. In this article, we will examine methadone withdrawal and outline the diverse range of possible it’s symptoms.

Methadone Withdrawal

What is Methadone Withdrawal?

Methadone belongs to the class of medications known as opioids. To alleviate pain, methadone modifies how your brain and nerve system react to it, causing you relief. It reduces the excruciating symptoms of opioid withdrawal and prevents the euphoric effects of semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as opiate substances like heroin, morphine, and codeine. It can provide a comparable experience and prevent cravings and withdrawal symptoms. One may refer to this as replacement therapy.

Causes of Methadone Withdrawal

Methadone withdrawal can happen for several reasons:

  1. Inadequate or improper dosage: If someone takes too little methadone, they may go through opioid withdrawal, for which methadone is being utilized as a therapy.
  2. Combining methadone with a specific medication: Methadone’s efficacy may be lowered by certain other drugs. These consist of medications like phenobarbital, phenytoin, and carbamazepine.
  3. Abruptly discontinuing methadone: This form of methadone detox is also described as quitting “cold turkey”. According to a 2013 Cochrane review, the danger of withdrawal symptoms may be decreased by gradually reducing the amount of methadone.
  4. Self-medication: Methadone should only be taken by individuals with a doctor’s prescription. Methadone self-medication carries a high risk of overdose, dependence, addiction, and withdrawal if the user stops using it suddenly.
  5. Tolerance: Methadone tolerance can occur fast if the drug is taken often, requiring higher dosages to produce the desired effects. When the body starts to depend on methadone for regular functioning, a dependence has formed.

Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

Most symptoms are physical, moderate, and flu-like, however, psychological symptoms also exist

Physical SymptomsPsychological Symptoms
Cold sweatAnxiety
Muscle aches and joint painInsomnia
Nausea and vomitingDepression
Decreased appetiteMood swings
NightmaresDifficulty concentrating
Intense cravingsConfusion
Runny noseParanoia
Watery eyesHallucinations

Methadone Side Effects on the Brain

Three weeks of use of methadone starts to alter brain nerve cells, which affects memory, learning, and cognitive function. Other side effects include hallucinations, confusion, seizures, drowsiness, sleep changes, and headache.

It also affects other systems, such as:

Gastrointestinal system

  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain
  • Swollen lips and tongue
  • Trouble swallowing

Sexual problems such as unusual menstrual periods can also occur.

Methadone Withdrawal Timeline


Withdrawal symptoms typically don’t show up until at least 30 hours following the user’s final methadone dosage.

During this period, physical symptoms including fever, chills, fast heartbeat, and muscle aches will appear.

3-8Strong methadone cravings and peak withdrawal symptoms occur here. In addition to anger and anxiety, users may experience nausea, bodily aches and pains, insomnia, and anxiety.
9-15Drug cravings still exist. Some withdrawal symptoms will last after the peak, but most will go away. Depression becomes more severe, which has the potential to worsen a patient’s quality of life and motivation.
Greater than 15Methadone withdrawal symptoms, which include cravings, anxiety, insomnia, and low energy, usually last for two to three weeks. Many former methadone users will experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms, or PAWS after the three to six weeks detox period is over.


How Long Does Methadone Take to Take Effect?

Methadone has an analgesic effect that lasts for four to eight hours, but the body takes up to 59 hours to eliminate a dose. Long-term methadone use causes the drug to be stored in the liver and subsequently released gradually, causing prolonged effect and detox time.

Addiction is defined as “a primary, chronic, neurobiological disease, with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations” and “characterized by behaviors that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and cravings”.

You should seek help when you notice some or any of these behaviors

  • Increased drug tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Prioritizing methadone over your loved ones
  • Prescription forgeries
  • Drug theft
  • Oral formulation injections
  • Drug acquisition from non-medical sources
  • Alcohol or drug abuse concurrently
  • Functional decline
  • Noncompliance with dosage instructions
  • Medication loss, and/or repeated requests for prescriptions from other medical sources


Overall, methadone is a medication that is potentially addictive, leading to moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms.
If you or any loved one is going through methadone withdrawal, a wide range of assistance exists for you. Make up your mind to get started with a program. You can immediately visit or contact methadone clinics around you for your possible treatment options; it is the best decision you can make.