What Happens When I’m Ready to Discontinue Methadone Maintenance Treatment?

People recovering from chronic opiate addiction often have a hard time of it in terms of the ongoing aftereffects long-term opiate abuse leaves behind. Also known as protracted withdrawal, those in recovery experience feelings of depression, insomnia and a “flat” emotional disposition that can last for months or even years into recovery. Under these conditions, the risk of relapse runs high.

Methadone maintenance treatment helps recovering addicts overcome these effects and maintain abstinence on a long-term basis.

While methadone maintenance treatment durations can vary from person to person, once it’s time to discontinue the drug, certain protocols are in place to help reduce the risk of relapse. This part of the treatment process is known as the tapering phase.

Considering the hard work that goes into addiction recovery, adhering to your physician’s directives throughout the tapering phase gives you the best chance at a successful treatment outcome.

Methadone Maintenance Treatment Phases

Discontinue Methadone Maintenance

If you live in a stable home environment, you may be ready to taper off methadone.

Methadone maintenance treatment protocols lay out four phases of treatment:

  • Initiation
  • Stabilization
  • Maintenance
  • Tapering

Methadone’s therapeutic effects work to eliminate the uncomfortable symptoms commonly experienced when recovering from chronic opiate addiction. According to the National Academies Press, the initiation phase entails establishing a baseline dosage level. During the stabilization phase, physicians make a series of dosage adjustments to determine a person’s optimal dosage amount.

By the maintenance phase, patients may or may not require dosage adjustments depending on whether stress factors and changes in metabolism rates interfere with methadone’s therapeutic effectiveness. Once a person feels he or she is ready to go off methadone maintenance treatment, the tapering phase begins.

For help finding a methadone maintenance program, call 800-891-9360.

Tapering Phase

Stopping methadone maintenance treatment altogether comes with a high risk for relapse. The tapering phase works to gradually reduce dosage levels over a period of time in order to prevent withdrawal-type effects from overwhelming a person’s ability to maintain ongoing abstinence.

According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, dosage levels are typically reduced in five to 10 percent increments with one to week durations between dosage reductions. In effect, the tapering phase of methadone maintenance treatment can take several months depending on how quickly and comfortably the brain and body adjust to decreased dosage amounts.

How Will I Know When It’s Time to Stop Methadone Treatment?

Am I Ready to Discontinue Methadone Maintenance Treatment: Questions to Ask

Considering the degree of damage chronic opiate addiction leaves behind, recovering addicts should continue on in methadone maintenance treatment for at least a year to have the best chance of a successful treatment outcome. According to the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta, your actual readiness to discontinue methadone maintenance treatment can be determined by how you answer the following questions:

  • Do you feel like you can manage times of stress without having to turn to drugs?
  • Do you have a healthy support network in place?
  • Are you living in a stable home environment?
  • Are you currently engaged in some form of counseling or psychotherapy?
  • Are you healthy physically and mentally?
  • Do you feel comfortable asking for help when the urge to use seems overwhelming?

The more questions you can answer yes to, the greater your readiness to discontinue methadone. If you have further questions regarding methadone maintenance treatment services or need help finding a program that meets your needs, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-891-9360 to speak with one of our addictions specialists.