What is an Opiate?
An opiate is a particular category of drug that is used to relieve pain; the drug acts as a painkiller. Opiates may be synthetic, natural, or semi-synthetic in nature. The frequently prescribed opioids are oxycodone, hydromorphone, and hydrocodone. The regular consumption of these drugs can cause physical dependence. When you stop taking the drugs, the body needs some time to come to the normal state, and then you will experience the signs of withdrawal symptoms (1).
Opiates create disturbance in the human central nervous system and lead to mental clouding, mood swings, dizziness, and other psychological issues. The frequent consumption of these drugs influence various neurotransmitter activities and bring changes to one’s behavior. According to researchers, opioids are classified into three classes, kappa, delta, and mu.
The addiction to opiates like painkillers or heroin can be very harmful. The most effective treatment is the use of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) with a combination of behavioral therapies. The minerals are essential for opiate addicts as poor diet, and overweight issues fail in the maintenance of minerals vital for good health (2).
Symptoms of Opiate Withdrawal
The signs of opiate withdrawal start showing on the fact of how much the individual is dependent on a particular drug. Some other factors include the mode of taking the medication, and certain environmental and biological conditions like trauma, stressful lifestyle and addiction history. The early withdrawal symptoms usually commence within 6-12 hours of short-acting opiates and 30 hours roughly for long-acting drugs.
The early withdrawal signs include fever, anxiety, insomnia, sweats, runny nose, tearing up, muscle aches, agitation, excessive yawning, and a racing heart. Whereas, the late withdrawal symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, depression, and goosebumps, which start showing up within three days. Some of the psychological withdrawal symptoms may take a week to show up.
When you have made up your mind to quit the opiate addiction, it is critical to understand the fact that there are several symptoms that you should be ready to face. These symptoms of opiate withdrawal occur in the timeline and bring some relief in your discomfort experienced during this period (3).
Some of the psychological withdrawal symptoms may take a week to show up. The list of symptoms that occur during opiate withdrawal are:
This is the common side of opiate withdrawal and the most prominent one too, right from the first day of the withdrawal. Once you stop using opiates, your brain stops developing the required dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals in the brain are responsible for making you feel happy and relaxed. Shortage of certain levels of these chemicals causes restlessness and anxiety that makes things worse.
2. Teary Eyes and Runny Nose
You might feel very inconvenient with such symptoms. Although it is not painful, it still doesn’t allow you to work. At times saliva production is also high along with watery eyes, which is the primary cause of discomfort.
3. Hot/Cold Flashes
This symptom starts occurring once you quit opiates. The affected person feels temperature changes, right from chills to frequent sweating. It is quite impossible being comfortable in such a situation.
4. Restless Legs
It is said to be one of the worst symptoms of opiate withdrawal. It typically appears during the night and causes insomnia.
5. Muscle Soreness
You may feel immense pain in your lower back and legs during opiate withdrawal. This is caused due to the decreased pain tolerance that happens with opiate addiction. The most commonly affected areas of the body include back, legs, and arms. The level of pain also depends on the length of use of opiates.
6. Libido Shifts
The peculiar symptom of opiate withdrawal is high or low libido. Due to this, quick orgasms have been observed in both males and females.
7. Dilated Pupils
This symptom comes first into notice because the pupils get enlarged, and you might feel uncomfortable in light conditions.
How to Get Through Opiate Withdrawal?
Opiate withdrawal can be very vulnerable if proper care is not taken. Now, the question arises, how to stop opiate withdrawal and start living a normal healthy life again. The treatment process is not difficult, and several medicines and remedies can cure opiate withdrawal. When the signs of opiate withdrawal start showing up, it is a high time to consult your healthcare provider.
The expert will perform some physical examinations, and seek your medical history and drug consumption. Blood and Urine tests shall tell a lot about drug use. Further tests may also include liver function tests like CHEM-20, CBC involving blood count, measuring red and white blood cells, platelets, EKG (electrocardiogram), chest X-ray, etc. (4).
The complete treatment requires counseling, medicines, and support. Several popular medications can provide relief from opiate withdrawal symptoms:
Clonidine is used as a sage and most effective opiate detoxification medicine. It has withdrawal suppressing properties and helps in reducing muscle aches, sweating, runny nose, agitation, anxiety, and cramping. The results show that Clonidine hydrochloride, which is an alpha-2-noradrenergic agonist and has been tested on both humans and animals, reduces the opiate withdrawal syndrome. Clonidine is best to use in the condition of transition between opiate dependence and withdrawal. It is an alternative to methadone, which is sometimes not available easily and is also inappropriate to use. Methadone has similar withdrawal-suppressing properties but reveals some side effects such as sedation and hypotension (5).
Buprenorphine, also known as Subutex, is a treatment for opiate withdrawal. It has the potential to shorten the period of detox. Just like methadone, it can be used for long-term maintenance. It can be easily combined with Naloxone (Zubsolv, Bunavail, suboxone), for the prevention of misuse and dependence (6). Buprenorphine dosage should be executed over patients who have Diabetes, Urethral obstruction, and Respiratory deficiency. The dose is made on the basis of the symptoms shown by the patient. If the usage of opioid is higher than the prescription, Buprenorphine will also be higher to control the symptoms (7).
Methadone reduces cravings and alleviated opiate withdrawal. Some caution must be taken for patients suffering from respiratory deficiency, head injury, Crohn’s disease, hepatic impairment, and alcohol dependence. The dose should be reviewed on a daily basis and look for symptoms that are controlled and any sought of side effect. If the symptoms still persist, try to make the dose smaller (8).
It is available in the pill form or directly injected into the patient’s body through injection. It prevents relapse during opiate withdrawal. Studies have revealed that a very low dose of Naltrexone is safe for controlled detoxification and reduces withdrawal intensity without the risk of sedation (9).
How Long do Opiate Withdrawals Last?
Typically, opiate withdrawals last not more than a week but the timeline of withdrawal depends on the amount of opiate used and its duration. The post-acute symptoms can take you a few months for complete recovery. Now, when you have decided to make the right decision, we highly recommend you to read opiate withdrawal remedies that you can easily pursue at home. These simple home remedies are the complete cure to the opiate withdrawal. However, if the symptoms appear to be denser, then you may take the advice of a doctor.
Opiate Withdrawal Timeline
The timeline for opiate withdrawal allows you to prepare for each symptom that is coming your way. Your schedule might appear a bit different, which mainly depends on the opiate dose. Even the pain pills will stop showing its power, and your timeline is going to be mild if you have decided to quit methadone or suboxone. Here is the calendar right from day 1 of opiate withdrawal.
Opiate Withdrawal Day 1:
You may start feeling depressed and anxious after 12 hours of your last dose. Sometimes, it may take a day to show up symptoms. The other symptoms followed by this include cold chills and Diarrhea.
Opiate Withdrawal Day 2:
You will wake up feeling exhausted and tired as if you had a sleepless night. All your body parts will be suffering from severe pain, and therefore, more anxiety will be developed. Your skin will start to crawl, and feeling of hot and cold flashes is likely to be felt. You tend to become more hungry as your body starts losing essential nutrients.
Opiate Withdrawal Day 3:
On this day, the cold chills will be at its peak, and you will start feeling good eventually. You will begin to sweat, and your skill will start to crawl. You should go for a walk at night. This will help you get some sleep and proper rest.
Opiate Withdrawal Day 4:
Your condition is still miserable, but you will start feeling good with each passing day. The cold chills will begin to go mild. Taking hot water bath can help you get rid of these symptoms.
Opiate Withdrawal Day 5:
By now, your physical condition would have shown improvement. You must be still feeling tired and anxious.
Opiate Withdrawal Day 6:
Get a good night’s sleep and a cup of coffee along with going for a small walk. You will notice your energy getting restored slowly and gradually.
Opiate Withdrawal Days 7 to 14:
The only symptoms that prevail now are anxiety and a little tiredness.
Opiate Withdrawal Days 15 to 30:
Now you have started to show significant improvement. Your bowels must have started working usually. Your anxiety level will soon be restored. Now you can imagine your body to be the same as before the prolonged dose of opiates (10).
13 Home Remedies for Treating Opiate Withdrawal
1. Nutrient Diet
The discontinuation of any addictive drug can lead to vulnerable consequences. If the patients make it through withdrawal without relapsing, the scope of recovery gets better. During the withdrawal, the patients experience loss of valuable nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. You should start taking food supplements rich in minerals. It is advisable to stay away from spicy food for a while.
The requirement of calcium can be fulfilled through foods such as milk, cheese, cereals, etc. Consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables can fulfill the requirement of Potassium, and vitamin D. Other potassium-rich food includes nuts, seeds, salmon, whole-grain products, and chicken breast. The magnesium-rich food includes spinach, buckwheat, cashews, almond, and molasses (11).
2. Passion Flower
The main issue with the opiate withdrawal is that the person experiences sleeplessness for many days. So, to counter the muscle aches and insomnia, you can use natural anti-inflammatories. The sleeping disorder and restlessness can be cured through anti-inflammatory products such as astragalus root, passionflower, fish oil, and green tea.
Passionflower acts as a potent anti-inflammatory and helps in overcoming the tough symptoms of opiate withdrawal. Passionflower reduces the agitation feeling and provides immense relief from restlessness. It has been into practice since several years for the treatment of insomnia. The plant’s neurotransmitter, commonly known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), works as a proven cure for fighting against the symptoms of opiate withdrawal effectively (12).
A person quickly gets dehydrated with symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and sweating. With these symptoms, the water and essential electrolytes from the body start depleting at a rapid rate. To counter dehydration, start taking more amount of water and the fulfillment of the electrolytes like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, can be done through nutrient-replenishment diet we discussed above.
Due to dehydration, patients suffer from high blood pressure, bladder disease, and digestion related problems. In such conditions, it is advisable to avoid alcohol and other caffeinated items that take water out of the body. Out of all other symptoms, dehydration is the primary issue in opiate withdrawal. Intaking enough water with mineral rich food can help the person get dehydrated quickly (13).
Cannabis holds some natural properties that fight the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. It is one of the powerful remedies and has become popular concerning the solution of various problems related to opiate withdrawal. The chemicals present in the plant directly impact the neurotransmitters and calm the message. Cannabis also consists of non-psychoactive oil known as cannabidiol (CBD), that can be very helpful in the opiate withdrawal symptoms. Cannabis is also beneficial for chronic pain and muscle ache that is experienced during opiate withdrawal (14).
In the treatment of opiate withdrawal, Gabapentin has been proved as an active antiepileptic drug that works against pain disorders and various psychiatric disorders including alcohol withdrawal, bipolar disorder, or cocaine dependence. The patients must intake 600mg of Gabapentin three times a day until complete recovery. It has been witnessed that the patients undergoing opiate withdrawal started the opiate antagonist treatment on the fifth day of withdrawal. The best part is that no negative event was noticed during the entire process (15).
Clonidine has some scientifically proven properties that can suppress the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. Clonidine helps in detoxification from opiates as it is a non-opiate substance and an alpha-adrenergic agonist. According to studies, clonidine can help the patients get out of the methadone maintenance withdrawal in less than two weeks. If 75mg of methadone is taken on a daily basis, the studies have seen an immense success over opiate withdrawal. To prevent relapse, patients are advised to use naltrexone and narcotic antagonist (16). Opiate withdrawal symptoms are controlled by the combined use of Naltrexone and clonidine. This shortens the detoxification from methadone from two weeks to a single day (17).
7. Chronic Opiate Treatment
Chronic opiate treatment can help patients with cocaine-seeking behavior after opiate withdrawal. The procedure is carried out in a five-day strict schedule of self-administration under a fixed ratio (FR-1). After the opiate withdrawal, the chronic pretreatment is to be increased with the use of morphine. It produces stable consequences, and this treatment can be a replacement for the other kinds of therapies used in opiate withdrawal (18).
8. Bananas and Orange Juice
Muscle cramps are a common problem experienced in opiate withdrawal. So, it is advisable to take potassium rich food to fulfill the body’s demand for potassium. Adding bananas and orange juice to the everyday diet can be of great value as the products are rich in minerals and can easily fight cramps and pain. They also help in preventing cravings (19).
9. Bayberry Tea
The bark of bayberry tree is used to make a tea that can fight against opiate withdrawal. The dried and powdered form of the bark is taken as an ingredient of the tea, which is made with one teaspoon of the powder in hot water and boiling it for 15 minutes. The tea is said to provide relief from the patient’s stomach problems and cure diarrhea (20).
Nausea is one of the common symptoms of opiate withdrawal. Fenugreek can be extremely beneficial in providing relief from nausea. Fenugreek can be prepared by putting the seeds in one liter of boiling water and make a paste out of it. Now, by feeding the paste to the patients can help the patient get rid of nausea at the earliest (21).
11. Green Tea
Green tea detoxifies harmful body toxins. They have many medicinal properties. Drinking 3-4 cups of green tea every day can cure opiate withdrawal very early. Green tea also fights stress and stomach related problems (22).
12. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea has anti-inflammatory and calming properties. It can immensely benefit the person undergoing opiate withdrawal. The herbal tea fights diarrhea, nausea, and other symptoms as well. Drinking 4-5 cups of this tea every day can significantly help in recovering faster. It also helps cope up with anxiety and restlessness (23).
Lime is rich in vitamin C and naturally detoxifies the body to provide energy. The best way to fulfill the vitamin requirement is to consume 3-4 fresh limes in the morning with an empty stomach. You can also mix it with warm water. It helps in fighting against excess fat, obesity, and mineral waste (24).
What to do During Opiate Withdrawal?
Opiate withdrawal is rarely fatal but requires some primitive measures to get cured at the earliest. As the symptoms are hard, and so is the withdrawal. You need complete rest during the withdrawal period as the time is crucial in this case. Only time can heal you and bring your physical and mental condition back to normal. Here is the list of tips that will give you an idea about things to do while experiencing opiate withdrawal:
1. Find your Insurance Card
If you have insurance, then all your expenses will be covered under the policy. The medicines costs shall be covered under residential treatment.
2. Go to Emergency Room if Symptoms Get Severe
If you are experiencing severe symptoms, then you should immediately get admitted to an emergency room and stay safe. Call 911 in case of emergency and try not to drive yourself alone to the hospital. When you reach the hospital, the caretakers will give you proper attention and medicines that are needed to minimize the effect of withdrawal. The symptoms won’t be eliminated quickly, but they will provide you comfort and the staff will take care of any complications.
3. Get Copies of Prescriptions and Bloodwork
You will continue some medication to get rid of some of the symptoms. So, it is advisable to take the copies of bloodwork and prescriptions for future reference. You can take any medications that are hospital prescribed.
After going through the article, we must be well aware of the problems opiate withdrawal can cause for us. We have tried our best to list the home remedies that will help you solve the problem. It would be great if you would like to share your experience related to it in the comments section below. Cheers!