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Opiate Withdrawal Treatment: What Can You Expect?

Maybe you’ve been thinking that it’s time to contact a methadone program and start opiate withdrawal treatment. Just what can you expect? How will you feel? What if methadone doesn’t work for you?

It’s natural to be nervous—about the entire process. It’s a scary thing to submit yourself for treatment, because you wonder if the people at the clinic are judging you, and you wonder whether methadone can really help you get off opiates. The initial appointment to get into a methadone program is called an assessment, and your first days of opiate withdrawal treatment generally are referred to as your induction. And don’t worry whether the methadone will work, because over the past several decades it has been studied extensively.

You are bound to undergo both physical and emotional changes as you begin treatment. Some methadone programs are able to get you started on opiate withdrawal treatment the same day you come to the clinic for the assessment, and other programs have a waiting list so that you have to wait a week or two for an appointment.

Opiate Withdrawal Treatment Begins With Induction

Once you begin induction, keep in mind that the doctor and nurses at the clinic want to know about the withdrawal symptoms you’re having. You also have to be honest about any other drugs you’re taking. If you come in for your initial visit and you test positive for benzos or alcohol, you might be turned away. Some clinics refuse to provide methadone if they suspect that the person has those drugs in his system, because they can cause death when combined with methadone or Suboxone. Other clinics will ask you to sign releases so that they can coordinate treatment with the doctor who prescribed your benzos.

When you arrive at the methadone program you’ve chosen, the staff will give you a dose calculated to make you feel comfortable considering the drug use you’ve reported and the levels that have shown up in your testing. You shouldn’t exaggerate the amount of opiates you’ve been taking just to get a bigger methadone dose, because the staff are skilled at assessing drug levels.

When they give you your dose, you should expect to feel comfortable within 3 to 5 hours of taking it. As your methadone maintenance therapy gets underway, you can expect each dose to provide comfort and control your symptoms for 24 to 36 hours. After that amount of time, your body will eliminate half of your initial dose—which is why you hear people talk about a drug’s half life. It’s also the reason why the doctor won’t increase your dose until those first 3 to 5 days have passed, because it could take that long to learn if it’s the right dose for you.

Worries Are Natural When Going Through Opiate Withdrawal

It’s natural to experience a bit of stress and anxiety as you begin. While the staff do their jobs, your job is to get rest and drink plenty of water. Some people benefit from doing some light exercise, like taking a walk or dancing around your home—but nothing too strenuous. Light activity stimulates the body’s natural release of hormones caused endorphins, which will improve your mood and calm your anxiety. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for the good job you’ve done in getting yourself into opiate withdrawal treatment: We know that it’s not an easy thing.

If your dose isn’t helping you after the first few days, don’t worry: As long as you test clean for other substances, the doctor will agree to a dose adjustment so that you get the medication your body needs. What’s right for one person is not automatically the correct dose for someone else. The important thing is to pick up the phone and get started on your way to opiate withdrawal.


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