Although heroin treatment centers have long used methadone to help clients ease off more dangerous opiates, methadone itself is by no means risk-free. In fact, while going “cold turkey” from heroin is unpleasant but rarely fatal, there’s evidence that methadone withdrawal can be as potentially life-threatening as benzodiazepine detox or a mismanaged alcohol detox program—at least if the methadone has been taken in high doses for long periods. It may be safer than heroin in terms of affecting judgment less and causing fewer increasing-tolerance problems, but it comes with real risk of creating a dangerous addiction of its own.
Wise heroin detoxers choose treatment programs that are intimately familiar with the pros and cons of methadone, and that never prescribe it without a timeline for getting off—but if you weren’t that smart, or if you received the original methadone prescription for a problem other than heroin addiction and then developed an “opiate painkiller” dependence, what can you do now?
The good news is, there are plenty of methadone detox centers that can help you get off the drug safely and live free of all opiate dependence. Here are our top tips for finding your own best option among the drug detox programs available.
1. If your methadone addiction is an aftereffect of another opiate detox program you were satisfied with overall, go there first for advice.
Of course, some opiate detox programs are careless about prescribing methadone, just as some prescription-opiate and benzodiazepine addictions are due to a doctor’s “throwing a pill at the problem.” But in either case, the problem may also be the patient’s fault: you may have taken more than officially prescribed, or neglected to consult your doctor when the first signs of dangerous dependence showed up. It may be embarrassing to go back and admit you created a new problem by trusting your own judgment too much—but if the treatment center is experienced and reputable, they’ll have seen the problem many times, and will be prepared to either provide methadone detox directly or refer you to another place specializing in methadone.
2. Especially if you’re seeking advice from a doctor or other referral source, make sure to emphasize you want treatment for methadone and not with methadone.
If you’ve lost touch with earlier treatment centers or if they proved less than concerned and respectful, you’ll have to investigate methadone detox centers on your own. This can prove more daunting than with many forms of addiction. Google “Riverside treatment center heroin” and virtually every result will focus on places intended to help you get off heroin; Google “Riverside rehabilitation center alcohol detox program” and alcohol detox is exactly what you’ll get; but Google “Riverside treatment center methadone” and you’ll find as many heroin treatment centers that prescribe methadone, as drug detox programs geared toward helping clients get off methadone. Even when you ask a human being for referrals, many people hear only “methadone” and automatically associate it with the treatment rather than the disease.
To minimize frustration, be very clear on the nature of your problem and what you want to do about it. Whenever possible, bring up the subject face to face or at least voice-to-voice; written requests are more likely to be misinterpreted. When you do get a referral, review their website in advance if there’s any room for doubt. You can also narrow down online searches, e. g., “Riverside rehabilitation center getting off methadone.”
3. Be prepared to be patient.
Methadone withdrawal takes longer than most opiate detoxes—the dark side of the drug’s long-lasting effect that helps minimize delayed-dose risks—and most “rapid drug detox” approaches are more dangerous than helpful. If your dependence is serious enough to make cold-turkey withdrawal particularly risky, it may even be necessary to stretch out the detox through slowly reduced doses. So look for a treatment center that understands this can’t be rushed, emphasizes staying as comfortable and unstressed as possible, and keeps a low patient-to-treatment-provider ratio to ensure everyone gets maximum personal support.
4. Make sure the center you choose is reputable and well-established.
At least three years at the same location, with no unresolved bad publicity and a good reputation in the larger community, is ideal. The center’s website and other online venues should be regularly updated—preferably including article posts designed to share information and not just attract new patients—and the staff should have up-to-date medical and/or therapy credentials. It’s a plus if the center is active in health fairs, community education or other public events; if any such are scheduled in the next few weeks, try to attend and see how the center’s representatives interact with possible future clients.
5. Always pay a personal visit to the detox center, and talk to someone who actually works with clients, before committing yourself.
Trusting entirely to what you read online, or even what you discuss on the phone, can get you in trouble. Even with the most honest and well-intentioned place, verbal information and photos may paint a picture in your mind that doesn’t quite match the reality. (Side note: Never trust any detox center that comes to you or offers you “gifts” to choose their place for treatment. Reputable centers rely primarily on referrals.)
Go to see the facilities in three dimensions and get an impression that involves all your senses. Meet the people who’d be treating you, and see how well you click. Consider what your instincts say about whether this is a good fit for you (if you have serious doubts about your own judgment, bring along a trusted intimate). Don’t drag your heels weighing fine points for the perfect option, but don’t take the first place you “can live with for a few days” out of eagerness to get this over with. “A few days” isn’t enough; this will be your home for two weeks of physical detox and likely two to four months of follow-up therapy.
Once you find the right treatment center, go forward with confidence. Countless others have learned to live without methadone; you can too.
Inland Detox, the top drug rehab center in southern California, is located less than an hour’s drive from Riverside in the Temecula Valley. If you or a loved one are struggling with methadone addiction and need professional detox help, please call (888) 739-8296. And check our blog archives for other articles on finding the right treatment options for addiction.