Just making the decision to detox is a giant step for anyone who is battling with opiate addiction. The fact that you are reading this, likely means that you have made that decision yourself and should be commended for it. There are different paths that can be taken to a successful opiate detox. None of them will be easy, but the reward for success, having a life free of opiate dependence, outshines the difficulty of the withdrawal process. This guide will help you to prepare appropriately for an opiate detox in the comfort of your own home.

Prepare

No matter which method you choose for your detox, the most important thing that will contribute to your success is your attitude and mindset. What are your reasons for wanting to stop taking opiates? It has to be something more than just, “I want to stop.” Do you want an improved family life? Is your work suffering? Are there health concerns? Unrealized dreams and ambitions? There has to be something that you really feel passionate about.

A good exercise before you begin your opiate withdrawal is to sit down and write a short list of why you really want to quit. Writing these reasons might feel a bit silly to some, but it really helps to solidify and cement the reasons in your mind of why you are detoxing and why you are going to do it successfully.

Not everyone will have this luxury, but if you can, take a few days or even a week off of work when you begin your detox. Although it is not impossible to function and make it through withdrawal while still working, freeing yourself of work-related stress only increases your chances of success.

Comfort is key. Obviously, opiate withdrawal can be a very uncomfortable experience, but do everything you can beforehand to relieve some of that discomfort. A few things you can do to minimize the discomfort:

  • Have a couple of changes of clothes and bedding nearby. Hot and cold sweats are a common symptom of opiate withdrawal. You will be grateful to have clean clothes to change into and fresh sheets to lay on.
  • Make sure you have easy access to some of your favorite music, movies, TV shows, books, or games. Simple things like these can prove to be a great distraction to temporarily take your mind off of what your body is going through.
  • Be certain to have plenty of liquids in the house. Water or sports drinks like Gatorade designed to rehydrate your body are preferred. The sweating and intestinal distress that opiate withdrawal can cause can bring on a danger of becoming dehydrated. Stock your home with plenty of liquids.
  • If there are any supplements or medicines you are going to use to relieve some of the withdrawal symptoms, buy and have them ready before you start your detox. We will discuss some options below.
  • Have a support system. Whether it is a single loved one that can stay with you the first few days of withdrawal or a group of friends and family that can rotate in and out of the house, surrounding yourself with people who will support and help you through detox dramatically increases your odds of success. It should go without saying, but we will mention it anyhow, having the wrong type of people around you, such as those who you frequently abuse opiates or other substances with or who may have enabled your addiction intentionally or unintentionally, is going to submarine your chances of success.
  • Make sure you have plenty of food. The first day or two it might be difficult to eat, but you will need to try. Also as the digestive distress settles, you are going to need to keep your body nourished.

Cold Turkey or Taper?

There are a lot of different methods out there suggested for opiate withdrawal. For the most part, they basically all boil down to one of two options: quitting cold turkey or tapering. This is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong answer here. While quitting cold turkey has worked for millions of people, quitting by a tapering process has been equally effective for millions of others.

It comes down to what is the best solution for you. Ideally, everyone would quit cold turkey. It gets opiates out of your system the fastest and puts you on the path to reclaiming your life in the shortest amount of time. On the other hand, quitting cold turkey will make the opiate withdrawal symptoms more intense. For many people, this will increase the chance of them relapsing back into a pattern of taking opiates rather than dealing with the withdrawal.

The disadvantage of tapering is that it draws out the whole detox process much longer, sometimes taking weeks or months (and in many cases over a year). What tapering does provide is much less intense, and for many, much more manageable opiate withdrawal symptoms. By dragging the detox out over a longer period of time some believe there is a greater chance for a relapse.

Which one is right for you? You know your own body, mental state, and tolerance for discomfort. If you believe you can handle the withdrawal symptoms, perhaps with a little help from some supplements and OTC medications, then quitting cold turkey is likely your best option.

On the other hand, if you think the opiate withdrawal symptoms may be too difficult to handle and drive you back to ingesting opiates, try tapering to limit the intensity of the withdrawal side effects and give you the best chance of making it through the detox.

If you are going to use a tapering detox method, you can find all kinds of recommended tapering schedules all over the internet. However, keep in mind that all opiates are not the same. Although they have similar characteristics and behaviors, they are chemically different, and each behaves slightly different in your body. The type of opiate you have been using will have an impact on both the duration and intensity of your withdrawal. The best thing to do is consult with a physician to come up with a tapering plan ideally suited for your unique situation.

Providing Relief

Although there is nothing that is going to completely eliminate the discomfort you will experience, there are some simple things you can do to make your detox a little more comfortable.

As already mentioned, hydration is important as is nourishment. Becoming dehydrated, which the sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea can cause, will only make you feel drastically worse. Try to drink plenty of liquids, no matter how bad you are feeling the first few days. Equally important is to eat. The vomiting, and diarrhea, along with potentially causing dehydration, will also cause your body to lose essential minerals and vitamins. You need to replace these to give your body the strength it needs to cope with the withdrawal symptoms.

As soon as you feel up to it, get some exercise. Nothing too strenuous, but walking, swimming, or riding a bike can all stimulate the production of endorphins which are your body’s natural pain relievers. Exposure to the sun can also help to stimulate endorphin production. Regular exercise can improve your mood and promote a more relaxing, restful sleep.

Getting some fresh air can also do wonders for your mood and morale.

While certainly relaxing for your body mental state, hot baths will also help to relieve some muscle aches and cramping you will experience. If you do not have access to a bathtub, hot showers can also be soothing. Take as many baths or showers as you want.

Can Supplements or Other Medications Help?

There are a variety of supplements and medications that are recommended by various counselors, specialists, and medical professionals. None of them will completely remove the symptoms of withdrawal, but they may provide you with varying levels of relief. Again, keep in mind that every addiction is different, each person’s body is different, and what works for one may not provide the same level of relief for another.

You can read our guide on some common opiate withdrawal supplements for information on specific supplements. There are a few general principles you will want to keep in mind when selecting any other substances to take during your detox:

  • Unless under direct medical supervision, avoid other addictive substances. Using another potentially habit-forming substance during your detox introduces the risk of trading one addiction for another. Benzodiazepines such as Valium or Xanax are recommended in some detox regimens such as the Thomas Recipe, but are highly addictive in their own right. The relief they provide for insomnia and anxiety are just now worth the risk.
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol.
  • Stimulants can increase the anxiety brought on by opiate withdrawal.
  • Typical over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen can be used. They’ll provide some relief for aches and pains, but the relief is likely to be minimal.
  • Over-the-counter medications for upset stomachs and diarrhea are generally acceptable to take as long as their directions for use are followed.

You Can Do It

Remember that making the decision to stop taking opiates is a big step in the direction of freeing yourself from substance abuse. Your detox is the next step. The first few days are when you will experience the most intense withdrawal symptoms. Once you get through them, each day is going to be easier than the next as your body recalibrates back to normal. Hold on to that list you made of why you want to stop taking opiates and keep it close by. Look at it as often as you need to.

You can do this.

You will do this.