Opiate Addiction and Withdrawal

opiate pills

Over time, opiate use will cause changes to the chemistry of your mind and body and the way they react to certain stimuli, making opiate addiction one of the most challenging addictions to overcome.


The effects of opiate addiction are going to vary from person to person and be largely dependent on their own body chemistry, the length of usage, and the particular type of opiate or opiates used. When introduced into the body, opiates work by binding themselves to opioid receptors found in your brain, spinal cord, and your gastrointestinal tract. By binding to these receptors, they block the transmission of pain messages to the brain.

Prolonged opiate use will cause a tolerance to be built up in the body. The body becomes adjusted to a certain level of opiates being present and will require more opiates to produce the same pain relieving and euphoric effects that were felt when the opiate use first began. Prolonged use will also ‘trick’ the brain into stopping the production of our body’s own naturally produced opiates called endorphins. Endorphins are our body’s natural pain relievers.

In simple terms, opiates work by taking over the reward circuitry of your brain. At this point, the absence of opiates will cause the body to experience withdrawal symptoms, which are a sign that your body is trying to get back to its natural balance.

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Opiate withdrawal will typically have two phases of symptoms. The initial phase will bring about:

Anxiety and Irritability – Anxious and restless feelings are often felt early on during opiate withdrawal. A general irritability is also common.

Lacrimation – This is an increased tearing of the eyes as well as a runny nose.

Insomnia – For many, this is one of the most difficult symptoms of opiate withdrawal to deal with.

Sweating – Hot and cold sweats and a general profuse sweating are common.

Muscle Aches – Mild to intense muscle aches will persist throughout the first few days.

Yawning – Frequent, uncontrolled yawning is often experienced.

Later symptoms of withdrawal that will present themselves:

Abdominal Cramping – Because of the way that opiates interact with the digestive system, some cramping and general discomfort will likely be experienced during withdrawal.

Vomiting and Diarrhea – Along with the cramping, vomiting and diarrhea are frequent symptoms brought on by withdrawal. They also bring with them a concern about dehydration.

Nausea – A feeling of dizziness and nausea normally accompany the vomiting and diarrhea.

Pupil Dilation – This will often occur to the point of causing periods of blurry vision.

Most of the symptoms will fade within a few weeks to a month. Some of the symptoms, such as anxiety, insomnia, and irritability can persist for several months depending on the severity of the addiction.

Opiate Withdrawal Remedies

Opiates are some of the most addictive substances in the world. When one stops using them, the withdrawal symptoms can cause both physical and mental anguish. Many people make the decision to go through withdrawal at home, and there are options available to these people to make the withdrawal experience more tolerable.

Please note that severe opiate addictions are best treated in a rehabilitation center under medical and professional supervision.

For everyone else, there are a variety of home remedies including vitamins and herbs, physical activity, and supplements that can ease the common symptoms of opiate withdrawal.

Over-the-Counter Opiate Withdrawal Remedies

These OTC remedies can be used to relieve some of the symptoms of opiate withdrawal, but be aware that they are going to provide very mild relief at best.

Sleep Aids – One of the most difficult symptoms of opiate withdrawal to deal with is insomnia. You can find a variety of over-the-counter sleep aids at your local pharmacy, Unisom, for example. Some people find melatonin, which can also be bought over-the-counter, helps with their insomnia, but it is a weaker sleep aid, likely only providing relief for very mild cases of insomnia.

Aspirin or Ibuprofen – These can be taken to deal with some of the pain brought on by withdrawal. The relief will be minimal, but they will dull some of it.

Imodium AD – Diarrhea and abdominal cramping are common symptoms of opiate withdrawal. Imodium AD acts by slowing down the movements of the intestines. Not only does it help to stop diarrhea, but it will give the intestines more time to absorb water, reducing the threat of dehydration.

Pepto-Bismol – Like Imodium AD, this will help with diarrhea, but also provide some relief for vomiting and nausea.

Bengay or IcyHot – There are other topical muscle rubs out there too, but these are the two we recommend. If another option has worked better for you in the past, use that. These muscle rubs can provide some relief for muscle aches and cramping.

Epsom Salt – Taking Epsom salt baths can help reduce inflammation which will help with muscle aches.

L-Tyrosine – L-Tyrosine can help to provide more energy to combat the general feeling of malaise many feel while going through opiate withdrawal. Taking too much can produce a jittery, on-edge feeling, so be careful with the dosage.

Wide-Spectrum Multi-Vitamin – There are a variety of these available. Popular brands are Centrum and One-A-Day. One of these will help to replace some of the important supplements and vitamins your body needs that will likely be lost from the vomiting and diarrhea. One will likely find it difficult to eat enough to replace these effectively, so a multi-vitamin is a good idea.

Physical Activity

Exercise and physical activity stimulates your body’s natural production of endorphins. These are your body’s natural pain relievers. Endorphins also produce feelings of euphoria and an overall general improved mood. Sunshine can also boost the production of endorphins.

During withdrawal, you do not want to overdo it with physical activity, but going for a long walk or bike ride during the day can have a very positive effect on your overall mood.

Hot Baths or Showers

A hot bath (or shower) can help to relax you, providing some anxiety relief. Hot baths can also help with muscle aches and restless legs. Use Epsom salt as mentioned above to make them even more effective.


Frequent vomiting and diarrhea bring on an added threat of dehydration, which carries with it a whole set of problems on its own. It may be difficult to drink liquids, especially early on in the acute withdrawal phase when feelings of nausea may be at their worst, but it is important to keep hydrated. Sports drinks like Gatorade that specialize in helping your body stay hydrated are a good idea.


There are a host of supplements available on the market that are designed specifically to counteract the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. None of these will eliminate the withdrawal symptoms entirely, but they can provide some relief for a wider range of symptoms than any of the above remedies will on their own. You can learn more in our guide to opiate withdrawal supplements.