Medical personnel holding packs of pills

7 Options for Treating Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Last Updated: Sep 21st 2022

Reviewed by EliteStrategies

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous. If you or someone you love has become dependent on these drugs, it’s important to get help in order to safely withdraw from them and avoid the negative consequences of addiction.

While there are many different options available, one of the most common approaches to opioid withdrawal treatment involves substituting certain medications for opioids in order to ease the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms and manage the transition into sobriety more effectively. Here are some facts about treating opioid withdrawal symptoms and the drugs used in this process.

1-Antidepressants

A common medication that can be prescribed to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings is antidepressants. Antidepressants like Paxil and Prozac are strong enough to dull the effects of withdrawing, but not powerful enough to cause addiction. In addition, antidepressants can help with reducing panic attacks and nausea during withdrawals. Oftentimes, doctors will prescribe both antidepressant medications along with a short course of narcotic-like drugs to help detoxify the body while minimizing discomfort.

The most popular types of these short-term opioids include Suboxone, Methadone, or Buprenorphine. These drugs act on the same receptors as prescription painkillers but have far less severe side effects and carry a lower risk of addiction. They also come in different doses depending on how severe the person’s withdrawal symptoms are and how long they have been using opiates before seeking treatment.

2-Anti-Anxiety Medications

Certain anti-anxiety medications can be very effective in treating opioid withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines such as lorazepam, alprazolam, and diazepam can reduce anxiety and lower heart rate, which will allow you to relax and alleviate the intense feelings of panic that often accompany opioid withdrawal.

If you are experiencing severe symptoms like nausea or vomiting, another medication called metoclopramide can suppress those side effects.

Drugs like baclofen may be prescribed to treat restless leg syndrome that occurs during detoxification. A common symptom is the inability to sleep, so a doctor might prescribe something like clonidine (catapres) or temazepam to help you sleep better. Some people have problems with constipation while they’re withdrawing from opioids, so they might be given a stool softener if necessary.

Antibiotics are also sometimes prescribed because bacterial infections can happen when your body is depleted of its natural defenses due to addiction.

3-Anticonvulsants

Medications such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants can help control withdrawal symptoms, but they may have unpleasant side effects.

Clonidine, lofexidine, guanfacine, gabapentin, and divalproex sodium have all been used in treating opioid withdrawal symptoms with varying degrees of success. Other drugs that are sometimes used in the process include methadone and buprenorphine.

4-Naltrexone

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the pleasurable effects of opioids but does not cause opioid withdrawal when someone who has been taking opioids suddenly stops taking them. Although it does not cure addiction on its own, naltrexone is often prescribed as a tool to help recovering addicts achieve a strong recovery.

Research suggests that people who use naltrexone regularly during their first year of recovery are more likely to remain abstinent from substances for at least one year than those who do not take it. It’s recommended by the World Health Organization as part of a comprehensive approach to opioid dependence treatment and management, including medication-assisted therapy.

Doctors usually do not offer naltrexone to patients unless they have already been diagnosed with opioid addiction, as they cannot prescribe it to prevent or treat opioid addiction. Doctors may also want to test the patient’s urine before prescribing this drug, and then monitor their dosage carefully. This is because naltrexone is a long-acting drug that could cause withdrawal symptoms if it is used improperly.

It may be especially dangerous in individuals who are not physically dependent on opioids and that does not take the medication exactly as directed by their doctor. If you are struggling with opioid withdrawal symptoms, don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor about the options available to you.

5-Buprenorphine

With this medication, it’s possible to reduce withdrawal symptoms and the craving for opioids. It is usually recommended that you take buprenorphine under close supervision of a doctor or counselor in order to avoid any potential abuse. Side effects may include constipation, breathing difficulties, and nausea.

6-Methadone

Methadone is the most commonly prescribed drug for treating opioid withdrawal symptoms. Methadone was created as a painkiller but became a popular treatment for opioid addiction when it was discovered that it could also block the effects of other opioids and lessen withdrawal symptoms.

Although methadone is well-known, it may not be right for everyone with opioid addiction because it is quite powerful and can interfere with regular life. There are two different forms of methadone treatment, oral and intravenous (IV). Oral methadone treatments come in pill form and can be taken at home or at a clinic. The other type of oral form requires you to take the medication under supervision by your doctor.

Some people choose to do both oral and IV treatments. Intravenous methadone treatment is given through a needle in the arm, which means it cannot be self-administered like oral doses. For those who do not want long-term use of methadone or cannot handle its side effects, there are options like naltrexone, which blocks the effect of opioids rather than replaces them.

Other side effects of naltrexone include headaches, nausea, vomiting, and stomach upset. Naltrexone is usually taken once daily via injection or pill form; many people will have success with this option if they take their dose each day as directed by their doctor instead of skipping days between doses.

7-Lofexidine

Lofexidine is an oral medication that has recently been approved to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms. It can also be prescribed in advance to prevent those symptoms from happening at all if the risk of developing them is high.

Lofexidine does not work as quickly as other medications and will usually take at least a day to have an effect on the withdrawal symptoms, but it should not produce any unwanted side effects when used properly. If you are considering taking lofexidine, discuss the pros and cons with your doctor first.

Treating Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Opioid withdrawal can be quite difficult or even life threatening to the patient. Your best course of action is to consult the professionals at North Jersey Recovery Center for safe and effective treatment.

Contact us today to learn more about our opioid addiction treatment programs!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by EliteStrategies

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