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What Should I Do if I Relapse During Methadone Treatment?

Methadone maintenance is one of the most trusted treatment options for opioid addicts. According to the journal of Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, “Methadone treatment reduces relapse rates, facilitates behavioral therapy, and enables patients to concentrate on life tasks such as maintaining relationships and holding jobs.” However, there is always a chance that an individual may relapse during opioid addiction treatment, and it is important to be prepared for this possibility as well as to know how best to handle it.

Immediate Actions Following Relapse


If you experience extreme drowsiness or dizziness after relapse, call 911.

It is important to remain calm once you realize that a relapse has occurred. Whether you returned to heroin or another type of illicit opioid abuse, or you took more of your methadone medication than normally prescribed in order to achieve the high you were seeking, both instances are examples of abuse and relapse, and you must get help as soon as possible.

First, it is important to ensure that you have not overdosed on opioids. Especially if you are in the detoxification stage of methadone treatment, this can be a serious complication. According to the National Library of Medicine, “Most opiate overdose deaths occur in persons who have just withdrawn or detoxed.” Therefore, if you are experiencing issues with respiratory depression, extreme drowsiness, or dizziness, call 911 immediately, as you may be overdosing on the drug.

If you are not in any immediate danger, make sure to still take action.

  • Talk to your methadone doctor immediately. You can visit the clinic or call, but it is important that your physician understands what occurred. They will be better able to help you avoid relapse in the future if they know about the incident, and they can also ensure that you get the immediate care you need.
  • If you are living alone, call a friend or family member and have them come and sit with you. Once you are able, it is important to visit the clinic, especially if your doctor recommends it, and it could be helpful for your loved one to go with you. In addition, you may need this individual to stay in your home for a certain amount of time to help you get back on track.
  • Get rid of any drugs you bought or otherwise obtained during your relapse. If you have been taking your methadone home, give it to your friend or trusted family member so they can manage it, and ask your physician about the best way to move forward with treatment. You may need to start going to the clinic again every day.

Understanding Relapse

Remember that a relapse does not mean you have failed in your treatment or recovery the way many people believe it does. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “For the addicted individual, lapses to drug abuse do not indicate failure––rather, they signify that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted, or that alternate treatment is needed.” You have not been unsuccessful in your recovery when relapse occurs, and it certainly doesn’t mean you are starting from the beginning, but you must reach out to others so they can help you continue on toward a successful recovery. If you have more questions about methadone treatment, call 800-891-9360(Who Answers?).

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) could be forwarded to SAMHSA or a verified treatment provider. Calls are routed based on availability and geographic location.

The helpline is free, private, and confidential. There is no obligation to enter treatment. In some cases, could charge a small cost per call, to a licensed treatment center, a paid advertiser, this allows to offer free resources and information to those in need by calling the free hotline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses.

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