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Opiate Withdrawal Medication

Opiate Withdrawal Medication

While there is no questioning the effectiveness of opiate withdrawal medication, one also needs to take into consideration the fact that they have some side effects of their own.
Abhijit Naik
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Opiate withdrawal refers to the acute state which is triggered as a result of cessation or dramatic reduction in the use of opiate drugs after using them in high doses for a prolonged period. These include heroin and morphine, which are often abused, as well as hydrocodone and oxycodone, which are found in various prescription medication. The chances of a person getting addicted to these drugs―especially the ones that are found in prescribed medication―exist in plenty.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis of this condition involves physical examination alongside the evaluation of person's medical history and drug use. At times, the doctor may even prescribe a urine test or blood test and screen for opiate drugs to confirm withdrawal. The treatment, which predominantly revolves around the use of medication and supportive care, is basically targeted at reducing the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms and facilitating detoxification.


Basically, the medication includes various opioid agonist drugs, such as clonidine, methadone, etc. Of these, the most commonly used medication is clonidine, which is mainly targeted at reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms like sweating, anxiety, agitation, muscle ache, cramping, etc. It helps in bringing the person's blood pressure to normal by decreasing the level of certain chemicals in the blood. At the same time, it also makes sure that the blood vessels in the body relax by easing the person's heartbeat. Clonidine can be administered as a transdermal patch or oral medication. It is most often administered as a transdermal patch, which dispenses the drug through the skin. Even when the person uses transdermal patch, he has to resort to oral medication for the first two days, as it takes approximately 48 hours for the drug to start working when ingested through the skin.

Yet another drug is buprenorphine, a semi-synthetic opioid which is widely used to treat opioid addiction in higher dosages. It is deemed effective in reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms. It is also known to shorten the total detox period. More importantly, buprenorphine can be also used for the purpose of long-term maintenance, which is a must when it comes to opiate drug rehab. Similarly, methadone, a long-acting opiate, is also prescribed for detoxification from opiate medication. Other medicines include hydroxyzine or trimethobenzamide for nausea and vomiting, dicyclomine for abdominal cramps, ibuprofen for headache and body ache, loperamide when severe diarrhea is one of the withdrawal symptoms, etc. Other than these medicines, ginger and Valerian root are also used to accelerate detoxification.

You must have also come across drug treatment programs, like 'detox under anesthesia' or 'rapid opiate detox', which are often advertised as most effective treatment methods. These programs involve placing the person under anesthesia and administering significant doses of opiate-blocking drugs to accelerate the return to normal opioid system function. While there is no concrete evidence to suggest that they reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, there do exist some instances of these methods resulting in fatalities. Experts are of the opinion that the chances of fatalities are at their peak when these programs are carried out without proper medical supervision.

The effectiveness of these drugs is bound to vary from person to person, depending on the period of drug use, prescribed dosage, etc. At the same time, one also has to take into consideration the fact that they also have some side effects of their own, and that makes it all the more important to use them as prescribed by the doctor.

Disclaimer: This article is purely for the purpose of providing information and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice.