Opioid Withdrawal Medications and Remedies

3 min read · 7 sections
What are the symptoms of opioid withdrawal? What FDA-approved medications are available to treat opioid withdrawal? And why should you seek medically assisted detox rather than attempting at-home detox from opioids? Explore the answers to these questions and more.
What you will learn:
Insights about why at-home detox for opioids and home remedies for opiate withdrawal can be dangerous.
Clarity about what helps with withdrawal, specifically medically managed detox and treatment.
How to find opioid detox and treatment options.

When opioids are taken regularly, opioid dependence may develop. If opioid use is reduced or discontinued, those dependent on opioids may experience a set of signs and symptoms known as withdrawal.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms are rarely life-threatening. However, they can be uncomfortable and can be associated with medical complications such as dehydration.2 Additionally, a loss of tolerance can accompany abstinence. According to at least one study, those with decreased tolerance may have an increased risk of overdose death if use is resumed. For example, those who stop opioid use for a period of time, experience withdrawal symptoms, and suddenly return to previous use levels after having decreased tolerance may have an increased risk of overdose.3

Medically assisted detox (aka medical withdrawal management)—which can be administered via inpatient or outpatient settings based on various factors—can help to ensure patients are as safe and as comfortable as possible during withdrawal and can provide a seamless transition to treatment.4

Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal

A host of factors (e.g., quantity taken, duration of use, interval between doses, etc.) can affect the type, duration, and severity of opioid withdrawal symptoms.2 However, symptoms can include:2 

  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Enlarged pupils.
  • Nausea, vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Abnormally heightened reflexes (i.e., hyperreflexia).
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Bone and muscle pain.
  • Fast pulse (i.e., tachycardia).
  • High blood pressure (i.e., hypertension).
  • Sweating.
  • High body temperature (i.e., hyperthermia).
  • Goosebumps.
  • Tearing.
  • Yawning.
  • Runny nose.

As mentioned above, the duration of opioid withdrawal is different for everyone. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) provides some broad guidance on the onset of opioid withdrawal symptoms:

    • 6-12 hours after the last dose: Most people who are dependent on short-acting substances will begin to have withdrawal symptoms.
    • 2-4 days: Symptoms for long-acting opioids typically set in.

FDA Approved Medications for Opioid Withdrawal 

So what helps with opioid withdrawal? Medically assisted detox via inpatient or outpatient delivery can employ various medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration to manage moderate to severe opioid withdrawal symptoms. While the choice of medication varies by facility and medications are prescribed according to the unique needs of each individual, options include:6-8

    • Clonidine. Provides relief of some physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal including sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, chills, anxiety, insomnia, etc.
    • Buprenorphine. Aids in managing symptoms and reducing cravings.
    • Lofexidine. Mitigates symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
    • Methadone. Helps to decrease cravings and manage symptoms. (Distribution and use is restricted to hospital pharmacies and physicians authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration.) 

What Relief Options Are Available For Opioid Withdrawal?

Detox centers—most of which are specialists in opioid withdrawal—can provide both FDA-approved medications for opioid withdrawal as well as proper adjunctive medications to treat symptoms such as insomnia, headache, muscle aches, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation, etc.

While there are no medically approved home remedies for opioid withdrawal, general health practices such as good nutrition, exercise, and mental health techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, etc. can be part of an effective detox and treatment protocol. For example, according to a recent literature review, individuals with an alcohol or substance use disorder are often nutrient deficient and malnourished. Their physical and psychological health may impede their ability to resist substances and ultimately to recover their health.9 Thus, proper nutrition can support detox and treatment for these individuals.

At-Home Options for Managing Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Medical evidence doesn’t suggest that opioid detox at home is safe nor effective. Rather according to insights from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), management of opioid withdrawal syndromes without withdrawal medications can result in needless suffering.2  Additionally, at-home opioid detox and withdrawal management may be dangerous given the aforementioned overdose risks.3 Rather, medically managed detox via inpatient or outpatient settings can not only ensure the patient is safe during withdrawal but also provide withdrawal medications, a safe and supportive environment, and comfort medications and practices as needed.

Keep in mind, medically managed detox is simply the first step in treatment. Once admitted to a detox program, professionals can assist patients in seamlessly transferring to ongoing treatment that can support long-term recovery.

Other Methods of Symptom Relief

Detox and treatment facilities can provide additional care that treats the whole person. For example, most treatment centers offer proper nutrition and nutritional counseling, mindfulness practices, and exercise options. Some even provide aquatic therapy, outdoor activities, equine therapy, and more.

Additionally, some facilities may offer alternative methods of symptom relief for opioid withdrawal—or what some might call natural remedies for opioid detox. Widespread evidence to the efficacy of these practices is limited. However, one meta-analysis explores the use of Chinese herbal medicines as an adjunct measure for heroin withdrawal management.10 A similar analysis purports that acupuncture combined with opioid agonists can effectively be used to manage withdrawal symptoms.11 

When to Seek Help for Opioid Withdrawal

There’s no need to suffer through opioid withdrawal alone, and in fact, at-home detox from opioids could be dangerous. So if you’re struggling with opioid withdrawal symptoms or simply want info about treatment and detox options, treatment centers such as those offered by American Addiction Centers can help. Additional local, state, and national hotlines can also refer you to detox and treatment centers, provide treatment information, and more.

However, if you’re experiencing a medical emergency of any sort, don’t wait. Dial 911. 

Find Opioid Addiction Treatment Near Me

If you or someone you love is experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms or you’re interested in learning more about treatment, American Addiction Centers can help. Along with medically assisted detox, AAC provides all levels of care via various U.S. accredited rehab centers.

Admissions navigators at can not only help you explore various treatment options and facilities but also answer your treatment questions, discuss financing, and more. Available for a free and confidential conversation 24/7, staff can verify any insurance benefits, or you can verify your insurance benefits online. And if you don’t want to talk, you can also sign up for text-based support

Help—and hope—are available. Reach out today to take your first steps toward a lasting recovery.


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