I wouldn’t wish opiate withdrawal symptoms on my worst enemy. It’s the worst feeling. Luckily, opiate withdrawal medications can make you feel much, much better.
The first time I went through withdrawal I didn’t even know what was happening to me. I only used opiates for two months then ran out one day, and I had a MASSIVE panic attack that morning of Day 1.
My friend texted me to check in on me after I left work due to the panic attack.
She told me I was going through opiate withdrawal, as she was one of the people selling me pills all the time.
So I was able to get some Valium (a lot actually) and then my withdrawal symptoms went down significantly.
If Valium is wrong then I don’t want to be right!” Haha!
But seriously, medications can help you feel better fast. Here are my Top 7 Opiate Withdrawal Medications THAT WORK.
Opiate Withdrawal Medications
Some are prescription medications that you can only procure by seeing a doctor or psychiatrist, and some are over-the-counter meds that you can obtain without a prescription.
I’ll provide a brief overview on each medication’s mechanism of action and benefits, and if you want to learn more detailed information (such as recommended dosages) you can talk to your doctor.
Now that you’re aware of the framework of this article, let’s take a look at the wide array of options you have to choose from.
Methadone is one of the only prescription opiate withdrawal medications that can totally eliminate 100% of your opiate withdrawal symptoms. This is because methadone is a powerful opioid drug.
Methadone binds to the same opioid receptors in the brain and other parts of the body that drugs like heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and other opioids bind to. Once methadone binds to these receptors, the opioid effects come on.
Common effects of methadone are the same as other opioids:
- Pain Relief
- CNS Depression
- Constricted Pupils
After an individual takes a dose of methadone, the drug quickly binds to the opioid receptors, and if enough is taken, withdrawal symptoms and opiate cravings are completely eliminated.
Many people that want to get off opiates without withdrawal enroll in methadone treatment facilities, which are outpatient programs that are commonly referred to as “methadone clinics.”
Approved by the FDA in 2002, buprenorphine has since become one of the favorite medications among individuals that are addicted to opiates. Buprenorphine, sold under the mono-drug brand name Subutex, and under the combination-drug buprenorphine/naloxone (brand names Suboxone or Zubsolv), works in the same way that methadone does, only not as strongly.
Buprenorphine, like methadone, attaches and binds to the same opioid receptors in the brain and other parts of the body that drugs like heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and other opioids bind to. Once it attaches to these receptors, it mimics the effects that opioid drugs produce (though it’s not as powerful).
For this reason, buprenorphine is referred to as a “partial opioid agonist.”
The other opiate drugs I just mentioned are known as “full opioid agonists,” because they activate the receptors in a stronger and more complete way than buprenorphine. See the illustration below.
Buprenorphine is one of the most widely-prescribed opiate withdrawal medications, and many people decide to continue taking buprenorphine as a long-term Opiate Replacement Medication to prevent cravings and opiate-relapse.
Gabapentin, sold under the brand names Neurontin among others, is a prescription medication that can ultimately prevent you from experiencing opiate withdrawal symptoms, so long as you take the right dosage.
Gabapentin is commonly prescribed in the treatment of:
- Neuropathic Pain
- Hot Flashes
- Restless Leg Syndrome
Gabapentin was designed by chemists at Parke-Davis to be an analog of the neurotransmitter GABA that could more easily cross the blood-brain barrier, thus making the effects in the brain very significant.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that acts as a mental relaxant. I often to refer to GABA as the “brain’s natural Valium.”
It is also commonly prescribed for many off-label uses, such as the treatment of:
- Anxiety Disorders
- Bipolar Disorder
Gabapentin has been shown to be a very effective opiate withdrawal medication in numerous studies.
Pregabalin has the ability to mitigate the severity of your withdrawal symptoms in a major way. Pregabalin, marketed under the brand name Lyrica among others, is a prescription medication that is very similar to gabapentin.
Pregabalin is used to treat:
- Neuropathic Pain
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Like gabapentin, pregabalin is a GABAergic anticonvulsant and depressant of the central nervous system (CNS). This means that it significantly relaxes the body and mind.
Pregabalin is classified as a GABA analogue and gabapentinoid. It is a close analogue of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA.
Some off-label uses of pregabalin include:
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Prevention of Migraines
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Alcohol Withdrawal
Pregabalin has been shown in a research study to significantly ameliorate opiate withdrawal symptoms, making it one of the most highly effective and beneficial opiate withdrawal medications in the world.
Clonidine, sold under the trade name Catapres and others, is a blood pressure (hypertension) medication that belongs to a class of drugs known as central alpha agonists.
Clonidine is also classified as a sympatholytic drug, which is a medication that inhibits the postganglionic functioning of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The SNS is part of the nervous system that is responsible for the fight or flight response.
Sympatholytic drugs are commonly used as antihypertensives and for the following disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
Clonidine is one of the most-commonly-prescribed opiate withdrawal medications for a reason…it works!
Clonidine is by no means a “magic bullet,” because it doesn’t eliminate all of your symptoms
However, when used correctly clonidine can ease the following symptoms:
- Reduces anxiety
- Helps you fall and stay asleep
- Slows down a racing heartbeat which helps to calm you down
- Prevents Restless Leg Syndrome
- Gets rid of the chills and goosebumps
Multiple studies have shown clonidine to significantly reduce the severity of opiate withdrawal symptoms.
Widely regarded as some of the most effective medications for opiate withdrawal, benzodiazepines, commonly referred to as “benzos,” are a class of psychoactive drugs whose core chemical structure is the fusion of a benzene ring and a diazepine ring.
Benzodiazepines enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter GABA at the GABA-A receptor, resulting in effects that can be very helpful in relieving opiate withdrawal symptoms.
Benzodiazepines have the following properties:
- Anxiolytic (Anti-Anxiety)
- Muscle Relaxant
- Hypnotic (Sleep-Inducing)
The use of benzodiazepines as highly-effective opiate withdrawal remedies has been reported in numerous studies, as well as in anecdotal evidence.
Opiate withdrawal is a horrific experience. Yet one can feel at least somewhat better if not much better by using one ore more medications depending on which meds they are.
I hate that people suffer through withdrawal as I did many times back in the day.
Now you’re armed with this comprehensive list of the top medications for withdrawal, and thus more equipped to deal with the experience.