People who take opiates for some time may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using them. Some home remedies may support medical therapies in relieving opiate withdrawal symptoms.

Opiates are a type of opioid drug for treating severe pain, such as after surgery or in the later stages of cancer. Opioids are drugs that activate opioid receptors in the body and block pain signals. Opiates are naturally occurring opioids.

Heroin is one example of an opiate. Other examples include morphine and codeine. Synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids include tramadol, oxycodone (Oxycontin), methadone, and hydromorphone.

Research suggests that daily opioid use can lead to physical dependence within days or weeks, depending on the individual. Some experts advise that withdrawal symptoms can occur after regularly using opioids for 2 weeks. This can involve severe and potentially life threatening withdrawal symptoms. If withdrawal symptoms worsen and become unmanageable, it is essential to seek medical assistance.

This article looks at some common symptoms of opiate withdrawal and how some home remedies and natural treatments may support medical treatment.

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According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR), opioid withdrawal can lead to:

  • watery discharge from the eyes or nose
  • goose flesh, or goosebumps
  • pain
  • diarrhea
  • nausea, vomiting, or both
  • dilated pupils
  • sensitivity to light
  • insomnia
  • rapid breathing
  • rapid heart rate
  • heightened reflexes
  • high blood pressure
  • high body temperature
  • sweating
  • yawning

A person may also experience long-term symptoms, such as:

  • anxiety
  • sleep problems
  • persistent fatigue
  • a general feeling of being unwell
  • drug cravings

Most of these can last for several months, but a craving for drugs can last for years.

Learn what a person can expect during codeine withdrawal.

Discontinuing the use of opioids can cause symptoms that are similar to those of the flu, including chills and sweating.

People may manage sweating and chills by:

  • using over-the-counter (OTC) medications, which include acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
  • wearing loose, comfortable clothing made of absorbent materials, such as cotton, to manage sweating
  • wearing layers of clothing that a person can remove one at a time.
  • using cool compresses, such as washcloths dipped in cool water or cloth-covered ice packs, or bathing in cool water
  • drinking at least 2–3 liters of water per day to replace water lost through sweating and help prevent dehydration

When a person stops taking opioids, they may experience shivering and tremors.

Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and soda, may worsen a person’s shaking or stimulate tremors. Drinking decaffeinated alternatives may help reduce this risk.

Mentally focusing on reducing tremors can sometimes make them feel more pronounced. Instead, a person could try a distraction technique, such as:

  • holding a heavy object
  • watching a movie
  • listening to music
  • drawing or doodling

Nausea and diarrhea can affect a person, even with mild withdrawal symptoms. Experts advise drinking at least 2–3 liters of water daily to compensate for fluids lost through diarrhea and vomiting.

These symptoms may pass independently, but eating bland foods, staying hydrated, and taking anti-sickness medications can help aid recovery.

People withdrawing from opioids may experience strong cravings and a desire to return to the drug they are quitting.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends motivational incentives to help manage withdrawal from heroin or prescription opioids. Therapists and recovery experts can recommend other tips and techniques to help someone overcome their cravings in the long term.

Withdrawal from opioids can make a person feel sleepy, but they may also have difficulty getting good quality sleep.

Tips for managing sleep include:

  • establishing and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule to help regulate the body’s internal clock
  • ensuring the bedroom is dark and at a comfortable temperature
  • getting some exercise during the day
  • avoiding caffeine and large meals before bedtime

A range of prescription and OTC medications can help people manage their withdrawal symptoms from opioid medications.

  • Clonidine: This medication can help relieve diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps, as well as other symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
  • Lofexidine: This helps alleviate symptoms of withdrawal and comes as a pill that a person can take as needed.
  • Loperamide (Imodium): This OTC medication can help reduce diarrhea symptoms.
  • Methadone and buprenorphine: These drugs can help reduce cravings without giving the “high” that opiates can.
  • Naltrexone: This blocks opioid receptors, helps prevent the euphoric and sedative effects of opioids, and suppresses cravings. However, it will not reduce withdrawal symptoms and may make them worse for a while.

Withdrawal from opiates can be challenging. In some cases, it can be life threatening.

Anyone seeking to discontinue opiate use, including heroin use, should seek medical advice. The unwanted use of any substance — whether legal or not — is a medical condition, and a person has the right to seek medical help.

For more information or treatment referrals, a person can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline at 800-662-HELP (4357). This hotline is available 24 hours a day, year-round, for anyone who wants help managing a dependency.

Learn what to know about opioid withdrawal.

Here are some questions people often ask about stopping opiates.

What helps with withdrawal?

It is essential to follow a doctor’s advice and follow the treatment plan they recommend. Home remedies alone are unlikely to enable a person to stop using opiates.

However, body temperature management, distraction techniques, and OTC remedies may help with withdrawal symptoms.

What are the most severe symptoms when withdrawing from opioid use?

There are no specific severe symptoms, but common symptoms — such as a rapid heart rate and breathing, gastrointestinal symptoms, and shivering — can range from mild to severe.

How long do withdrawal symptoms last?

How long withdrawal symptoms last depends on the type of substance, the length and frequency of use, and individual metabolism.

Heroin is a short-acting opiate, and withdrawal symptoms can begin 4–6 hours after the last dose and persist for 7–14 days. Symptoms of methadone withdrawal will begin 12–48 hours after the last dose and persist for several months.

A person may feel generally unwell and continue to crave opioids for up to 6 months or more.

Opioid withdrawal syndrome can cause a range of symptoms when a person who has been taking opioids discontinues their use. These drugs can include prescription opioids, such as codeine or Oxycontin, as well as heroin. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, shivering, and cravings for opioids.

Anyone who wishes to stop taking opioids should seek help from a specialist doctor. They can provide medications to support a person through the withdrawal process. At the same time, people can use some home and natural remedies to manage their symptoms, such as staying hydrated, meditation, and distraction techniques.