Opioid withdrawal becomes apparent after reducing or completely removing, the intake of opioids. Opioids (or opiates) are a class of substance that is found in many common prescription pain medications such as:
Many people who abuse these prescription medications become chemically dependent on them. Once their supply runs out, some move on to abusing illegal narcotics such as opium, heroin, or otherwise illegally obtained prescription medications.
Abruptly quitting, or ‘going cold turkey’, after building dependence on one of these substances is very likely to cause unpleasant, uncomfortable, or potentially even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be so unpleasant that many seek to ease their withdrawal on their own at home, or simply continue abusing drugs to avoid the severe effects.
Though opioid withdrawal is (in most cases) not life-threatening, it can be difficult to manage the serious health complications which accompany it.
At-home opioid withdrawal remedies
While dependent on opioids, the body becomes used to having them in its system. Often it will build a tolerance to these drugs, requiring more opioids to achieve the same high. The higher the tolerance, the more severe the side effects will be during withdrawal. As an example, a common side effect of opioids is constipation, while a common side effect of opioid withdrawal is diarrhea.
Deciding to go through withdrawal on your own is not a decision to be taken lightly. Significant preparation is required, as tapering off opioids needs to be done in a slow and calculated manner. However, most addicts find self-regulated tapering to be near impossible. Given the compulsive nature of their addiction, it often leads to a full relapse.
Since withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, planning and preparation are crucial. Some people may find writing down their tapered doses on a calendar helpful to avoid running out completely too quickly, or from tapering off too slowly and exacerbating withdrawal symptoms.
When withdrawing at home, it’s important to consider the different opioid withdrawal symptoms and how to safely treat them.
1. Vomiting & Diarrhea
Fluid loss leading to dehydration caused by vomiting and/or diarrhea is common and can result in serious health complications. This should be countered by ensuring an adequate intake of water or other fluids. In cases where diarrhea is severe, an electrolyte replacement beverage may be helpful.
2. Nausea and vomiting
Nausea and vomiting, while unpleasant on their own, increase fluid loss and the negative associated symptoms that come with them. Some over-the-counter (OTC) medications can help to reduce these symptoms, but in most cases not completely.
3. Aching muscles
Opioid addicts have been found in studies to have deficiencies in calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These deficiencies are implicated in muscle pains and restless leg syndrome. Adopting a healthy diet consisting of light, nutritional meals can help to replenish these minerals and alleviate some of the discomforts.
Many people also find some relief from taking a hot bath. Aches, pains, and headaches can be soothed by soaking in hot water, and the relaxation can also aid in having a good night’s sleep.
4. Mental wellbeing
One of the most difficult things to deal with during withdrawal can be psychosomatic (caused or aggravated by a mental factor). During detoxification, the body is dealing with significant chemical change, as is the mind.
Some may find that exercise helps to relieve some of the stress and anxiety associated with withdrawal, due to the natural release of endorphins — the body’s natural painkillers. These can cause a similar kind of elation to opioids. Spending time with friends and family, watching movies, or playing video games, may also help to produce this chemical and ease these symptoms.
Over-the-counter (OTC) opioid withdrawal remedies
Opioid withdrawal using commonly available over-the-counter medications is a popular way to detox but can have limited success for the same reasons described above. Often, addicts withdrawing will use medications retroactively to counter their symptoms with varying degrees of efficacy.
For example, the over-the-counter medications listed below may be used to treat symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
For muscle cramps and pains:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Epsom salts for use when bathing
For nausea and vomiting:
- Ginger extracts
- Bismuth subsalicylate
- Effervescent electrolyte tablets
For flu-like symptoms:
- Vitamin & mineral supplements
It is important to stress that over-the-counter medications should always be used at their prescribed or recommended doses. Never use any medication for longer than is recommended on the label and always seek your doctor’s advice before taking any new medicine.
Moderating body temperature during opioid withdrawal
As the effects from opioid withdrawal can cause flu-like symptoms (such as fever, chills, and sweating) it’s also important to moderate body temperature as well as hydration. In addition to drinking plenty of fluids and resting, wearing loose comfortable clothing can help.
In most climates, layering clothing is a better option to keep a safe body temperature rather than relying solely on heating the home, as layers can be readily removed or added as required. Commonly available medicines such as acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory drugs can also assist with reducing higher body temperatures.
Kratom for opioid withdrawal treatment
Mitragyna speciosa, known as ‘kratom’, is an evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia. A relative of the coffee family, Kratom has opioid properties as well as some stimulant-like effects. The effects of Kratom differ depending on the individual and the dose.
Kratom has been studied in animals, however, no clinical trials have been conducted in the United States. The United States Drug Enforcement Agency has publicly stated that “There is no legitimate medical use for kratom”, and that “there is no evidence that kratom is safe or effective for treating any condition”.
Despite the negative press, kratom is commonly sold as a dietary supplement and is currently unregulated in the United States. In Southeast Asia, people boil fresh leaves to make tea, which can produce euphoric effects similar to coca. At higher doses, kratom produces opioid-like effects. While Southeast Asians have used kratom for hundreds of years, it is controversial in the West. Regulators have expressed concern about its abuse potential and in some countries, it has been banned outright.
While no clinical trials have been conducted in the United States, there have been several studies that concluded that people who took kratom for more than six months suffered from similar withdrawal symptoms to those who ceased taking opioids.
As with most drugs, addiction, overdose, and even death is possible with kratom. However, most of the kratom-related deaths reported were associated with poly-drug use (using more than just kratom).
Common minor side effects of kratom include:
- Anxiety and agitation
- Loss of appetite
More severe side effects include:
- Tachycardia (higher than normal resting heart rate)
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Excessive sweating
While there are some who suggest kratom may be beneficial for opioid withdrawal, the evidence shows that kratom is in itself a drug that can cause addiction and result in requiring its own withdrawal treatment. As an unregulated and often illegal drug, it is not a treatment or treatment aid that is recommended.
Acupuncture for opioid withdrawal treatment
Acupuncture is the practice of pushing thin needles into specific points of the body to treat many different disorders and has been used in China since 2500 BC. In-home visits are gaining popularity in Western countries as an alternative and complementary therapeutic intervention.
Acupuncture is based on the principles of traditional oriental medicine and was developed according to the principle that human bodily functions are controlled by the ‘meridian’ and ‘Qi and blood’ systems.
Dr. Wen of Hong Kong was the first to report that acupuncture at four body points and two ear points, combined with electrical stimulation, can relieve opioid withdrawal signs in addicts. This auricular (relating to the ear) acupuncture is the most common form of acupuncture treatment for substance addiction in both the USA and the UK. In both countries, there are numerous practices performing acupuncture based on these protocols.
Proponents of Acupuncture claim that it can be used to balance and harmonize the ‘yin and yang’ by relieving blockages in the flow of ‘Qi’, improving the functions of the body’s organs. Some studies seem to demonstrate that acupuncture can help individuals dealing with opioids withdrawal to manage their symptoms and even reduce cravings for the drug.
For example, a study referenced in Neuroscience Letters found that opioid-addicted rats that were given acupuncture at certain control points exhibited significantly reduced withdrawal symptoms. Similar studies have been made for humans relating to alcohol and nicotine addictions with promising results, however, there is a lack of information available relating to human opioid-related trials.
Even though many people promote and claim success from acupuncture, the majority of these studies were classified as having low-quality data and the theories behind them are not based entirely on scientific evidence. The Mayo Clinic states that “there’s also evidence that acupuncture works best in people who expect it to work,” compared with more conventional methods which have scientifically proven results.
Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) for opioid withdrawal
While not strictly a home remedy, prescribed withdrawal treatments are often done at home and in conjunction with some of the aforementioned remedies.
Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist, unlike other opioids such as codeine, morphine, or oxycodone which are classed as full agonists. This essentially means that it activates the opioid receptors less than full agonists, and can be useful when tapering off and withdrawing from stronger opioids. Buprenorphine is often combined with naloxone, a weak opioid agonist, to prevent abuse.
A similar medication, suboxone, can be prescribed by your doctor to take at home. However, they will likely only provide you with a small number of doses at a time to limit the abuse potential, meaning regular visits and follow-ups would be required.
While suboxone and buprenorphine can be useful drugs to aid recovery from opioid dependence, they can still become addictive themselves. It is not uncommon for patients to continue taking them for a long period of time. As with most habit-forming and addictive substances, these opioids produce very similar withdrawal effects to their full agonist opioid cousins.
Another common medication for opioid maintenance therapy and reduction is methadone. Unlike buprenorphine and suboxone, methadone is not normally prescribed for use outside of certified opioid treatment clinics due to its higher abuse potential. In some cases, patients who have been on methadone maintenance for a few years are permitted to take home monthly prescriptions.
All of these medications have the potential to cause problems when taken by people with certain health conditions. It’s important to discuss these with your doctor before taking any of these medications.
The withdrawal timeline on conventional medication-assisted therapies depends largely on the patient’s ability to reliably stick to their maintenance plan, the duration of their abuse, as well as their overall general health.
Generally, the most noticeable physical symptoms will have subsided after one month. However, psychological dependence can remain. The worst of the symptoms are during the first 72 hours of withdrawal while the patient is on a replacement drug.
After discontinuing the replacement drug, symptoms will have hopefully subsided to general aches, pains, mood swings, irritability, and insomnia. After this second week, users will most likely still have intense cravings for opioids as well as other mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety. This is the time where patients are most at risk of relapsing.
MAT withdrawal timeline summary:
- 4 days: Worst of the physical symptoms are experienced
- 7 days: Aches, pains, mood swings, irritability, insomnia
- 14 days: General aches and pains, intense cravings, depression
- 30 days: General cravings, relapse risk, mental health issues
Some methods of coping with MAT related withdrawal symptoms besides other medications can include:
- Regular exercise – this can be as simple as a daily walk, run, or even swimming at a community pool. Many people find that simply having an exercise routine, no matter how small is beneficial.
- Socializing – staying in touch with loved ones and close friends may help provide a level of emotional support that strengthens a successful detox. Others find talking to a professional counselor or therapist beneficial, as they might be uncomfortable talking about their addictions with friends and family.
- Hobbies – making time to pursue a hobby can be difficult, but also rewarding in itself as a healthy replacement for substance abuse. Finding a hobby that appeals is the most important part — be it writing, drawing, building, or even playing video games.
ANR for opioid withdrawal treatment
While some people do succeed in long term addiction recovery from home remedies and other medication-assisted therapies, the willpower and stamina involved are immense. Most addicts suffer multiple relapses as a result, as well as the health consequences that accompany them.
Accelerated Neuro-Regulation is designed to bring the nervous system back into balance by modulating it to decrease receptor production, while also allowing the body to resume proper levels of endorphin production. ANR facilitates the metabolizing and elimination of unnecessary opioids from the body.
The ANR treatment method differs from other withdrawal programs as the initial stage is conducted under deep sedation. The benefit of doing so avoids all of the highly unpleasant effects of withdrawal, while also eliminating the chance of relapse — something frequently observed in conventional treatment programs and rehab facilities.
ANR is considered a safer and more effective treatment, including for patients with complex medical conditions. Our team of board-certified critical care specialists has a vast wealth of understanding and experience in treating patients of all types.
Contact ANR Clinic today to enquire about our revolutionary opioid withdrawal treatment.
Dr. Waismann identified the biological roots of opioid dependency, Since then he has successfully treated more than 24,000 patients worldwide that are struggling with opioid addiction.
Throughout his career, he has lectured and educated health professionals in dozens of countries around the world to this day.