Methadone Detox Vs. Methadone Maintenance

Written by Jackie Calkins

Addiction to opioids, such as heroin or prescription painkillers, can be difficult to overcome— but it is possible. Methadone is often used as a treatment option for opioid addiction because it reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings. However, there are two different approaches when it comes to using methadone: detoxification and maintenance. 


In this blog post, we will explore the differences between methadone detox and methadone maintenance, their pros and cons, what you can expect from each approach, and alternatives for adverse reactions or failures. 


Today, we hope to help you to make an informed decision about which option may be best for your journey toward sobriety.

What Is Methadone Detox?

Methadone detox is a process of eliminating opiates from the body using methadone in order to overcome addiction. It involves administering methadone during detox to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, then gradually reducing the dose of methadone over a period of time until it is no longer needed. 


Methadone detox is almost always done in an inpatient setting. The length of the detoxification process varies depending on factors such as how long someone has been using opiates and how high their dosage was. The withdrawal symptoms during this process can be intense and include:


  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Insomnia 
  • Among others


However, different methods can help manage these symptoms, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with methadone and other drugs like buprenorphine to ease withdrawal pains. In addition to MAT, therapy sessions with trained professionals could also aid individuals undergoing methadone detox to cope better with physical and emotional challenges associated with quitting opioids.


Though challenging for many reasons— such as potential relapses— going through a thorough Methadone Detox program could be life-changing for those who have struggled with addiction problems related to opiate use.

What Is Methadone Maintenance?

Methadone maintenance is a form of treatment for opioid addiction that involves taking a daily dose of methadone. Methadone is an opioid medication that can help to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings, making it easier for individuals to stop using other opioids such as heroin or prescription painkillers.


During methadone maintenance, patients visit a clinic or treatment center every day to receive their dose of medication. The dosage is carefully monitored and adjusted over time by healthcare professionals based on the patient’s needs and response to the treatment.


One benefit of methadone maintenance is that it can provide long-term stability for individuals struggling with opioid addiction. It helps them avoid the cycle of relapse and re-addiction that often occurs when attempting to quit opioids cold turkey.


However, there are also some potential downsides to this type of treatment. Some people may become dependent on methadone itself, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop taking it abruptly. Additionally, there is potential for abuse or diversion if someone were able to obtain extra doses outside of their prescribed regimen.


Methadone maintenance may be an effective option for those who have not found success with other forms of addiction treatment. However, like any medical intervention, it should be carefully considered alongside alternatives and in consultation with qualified healthcare professionals.

What To Expect From Methadone Detox Or Maintenance?

Methadone detox and maintenance are two different approaches to treating opioid addiction. What you can expect from each approach is also quite different.


In a methadone detox program, the goal is to gradually taper off of methadone until the patient is no longer dependent on it. This process usually takes several weeks or months, depending on how long the patient has been using opioids and how severe their addiction is.


Patients may experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, insomnia, and muscle aches during this time. However, these symptoms can be managed with medication and other supportive care provided by medical professionals.


On the other hand, in a methadone maintenance program, patients take daily doses of methadone to manage their cravings for opioids and prevent relapse. They may still experience some mild side effects from taking methadone but should not have any significant withdrawal symptoms if they continue taking their prescribed dose.


Both methods require professional help that includes counseling services that address underlying issues leading to substance abuse problems while providing support throughout recovery to ensure sustained success after treatment terminates

Alternatives To Methadone Detox Or Maintenance

There are several alternatives to consider when it comes to managing opioid addiction. One of the most popular is Suboxone, which is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. This medication works by reducing cravings for opioids without producing the same intense high as other drugs.


Another option is Naltrexone, which blocks the effects of opioids in the brain. Unlike methadone or Suboxone, it does not relieve withdrawal symptoms or cravings but can be effective in preventing relapse once detox has taken place.


Behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) have also shown promise in treating opioid addiction. CBT helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns that contribute to drug use.


Alternative therapies such as acupuncture and meditation may also help alleviate some withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid addiction, though more research is needed to determine their effectiveness and they must always be used in concert with a comprehensive treatment plan.

Looking For Methadone Therapy? We Can Help.

Choosing between methadone detox and maintenance is a personal decision that should be made with the help of a medical professional. Both options have pros and cons, and what works for one person may not.


Methadone detox can provide a quick solution to addiction but also requires strong willpower to overcome further cravings. On the other hand, methadone maintenance provides long-term support but can become an addiction itself if not managed properly.


It’s important to remember that there are alternative treatments available such as therapy, counseling, and holistic approaches like meditation or acupuncture. These alternatives can be effective in managing addiction without relying on medication alone.


Ultimately, seeking help for drug addiction takes courage and determination. If you think you or someone you love may need some help overcoming opiate addiction, call us at (615) 410-9260.