Thousands of Americans already suffering from methadone addiction are finding themselves trapped with little hope for successful detox and rehabilitation.
Few methadone detox or rehab facilities will accept someone taking more than 80 milligrams per day, but most long-term addicts are on far higher doses. In fact, many detox and rehab centers require dosages as low as 40mg or less. And many drug rehab and drug detox centers won’t accept methadone addicts at all.
And at the higher maintenance doses, which is where we find the majority of methadone addicts, withdrawal symptoms during detox are unimaginably severe, and can last for months. Instead, almost all rehab and detox centers advise addicts to taper their dosages down to 20 to 40 milligrams per day, and then they will be accepted for detox.
“The truth is, most methadone addicts who seek help already have tried to withdraw, or at least cut down their dose, and were unable to withstand the withdrawal symptoms,” said Steve Hayes, clinical director of Novus Medical Detox Center in Pasco County, FL. “Many end up taking even more methadone than they were before they tried the methadone detox.”
Most addicts seeking recovery are on methadone as a replacement drug for heroin addiction. Their methadone is legally provided by a state-sanctioned methadone clinic. Also, methadone is so much cheaper than other narcotic painkillers that many doctors are prescribing it for all sorts of ordinary aches and pains, in spite of its addictiveness and toxicity.
The net result of both practices has been a huge upsurge in overdose injuries and deaths in recent decades, and soaring rates in the numbers of methadone addicts desperately searching for detox and rehabilitation.
The problem with trying to find treatment lies in the severity and duration of withdrawal. Detox for even moderate daily doses can last up to several weeks or more, whereas it’s only days with morphine, heroin and other opioids. The higher a methadone addict’s daily dose, the longer and more severe the withdrawal.
“Some detox facilities that do accept lower-dose methadone addicts simply put them in a room and give them drugs intended to help alleviate at least some of the pain of withdrawal,” Mr. Hayes said. “But the incredibly severe withdrawal symptoms in such situations drive most addicts to leave before completing those kinds of methadone detox programs. They go back to their doctors, methadone clinics or street dealers, still lost in the hell of addiction and despairing for any hope of recovery.”
Mr. Hayes said Novus Medical Detox has developed a protocol that allows even high-dosage methadone users to step down from methadone and be completely off all opioids in under two weeks. The clinic has handled detox patients who were taking in excess of 300 mg of methadone a day, he said.
“Fortunately, workable methadone detox is possible, and there is hope for methadone addicts trying to get free of the drug,” Mr. Hayes said. “Although they’re few and far between, methadone detox centers do exist that will treat someone with a high-dose methadone addiction. The solution is to just keep searching for one, and not give up the dream of recovery.