Over the Counter Medications for Heroin (Opiate) Withdrawal
I recently posted an article outlining the top natural remedies for opiate (heroin) withdrawal. For those of you not intent on using only natural products to ease withdrawal symptoms, I have put together this supplemental list of the best over the counter medications for easing withdrawal symptoms.
I have tried countless products during my own withdrawals. The products below, as well as the products listed in Top 15 Natural Remedies for Opiate Withdrawal, are the best on the market for easing withdrawal, short of the prescriptions used in medication assisted treatment programs. Syringes to Sobriety has interviewed hundreds of opiate users who have had success easing their opiate withdrawal symptoms with the following suggestions.
As a former OxyContin user who progressed to Using heroin intravenously, I know firsthand how awful withdrawal symptoms can be. Many have said, and I must agree, “Even if it is not immediately life-threatening to withdrawal from opiates like it is to withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines, it is likely you will wish you were dead during the withdrawal process.
If this is your first time going through opiate withdrawal, please read this article: Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline- Slaying the Dragon
It is important to have a full understanding of which symptoms you will experience and the extent to which the symptoms will affect you.
Although it is not common to have life-threatening complications during withdrawal from opiates, you need to be able to identify the symptoms that may require further medical assessment by a healthcare professional.
Also, as discussed in Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline, most users are not able to make it past day 3 or 4 in the withdrawal process before caving and seeking out opiates to help ease symptoms. It is worth your time to seek out your local methadone clinic.
Most of these clinics prescribe Suboxone, as well as methadone. They can administer Suboxone tapers, which last about a week and greatly reduce withdrawal symptoms. If you feel like giving in on day 2 or 3, try reaching out to your local clinic before deciding to give in to your urge to use. After you take a dose of Suboxone, you may change your mind.
We have compiled the following list for those of you who still want to try getting off of opiates without Medically Assisted Treatments, like Suboxone and Methadone.
Be sure to make yourself a ‘detox kit’ before you start feeling symptoms. This detox kit should consist of as many of the items on the following list as possible, as well as many of the items listed in this article: Top 15 Natural Remedies for Opiate Withdrawal. If you are not concerned about using only natural remedies, the following items are a must for easing symptoms:
Top Over the Counter Medications for Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms
- Liquid Immodium
- Unisom SleepMelts
1. Liquid Imodium (Loperamide)
The first time I went to treatment I was sent to an inpatient facility called St. Judes, over 2000 miles away from Scottsdale, AZ, in upstate New York. One of the prohibited items for patients was Imodium. I had no clue why a diarrhea medicine would be prohibited at rehab. It made sense for items like heroin, suboxone, methadone, alcohol-based mouthwash/cologne, and syringes to be prohibited, but the Imodium ban perplexed me. At the time, I didn’t inquire any further, as I knew I could live without Imodium for six weeks!
However, a few months after I was discharged and had moved back home, I relapsed. The relapse lasted about a week or so before my better judgment got the best of me. Just long enough to develop another physical dependency. This is the first time I willingly, attempted to cold-turkey detox myself.
(Yes, this is a picture of cold turkeys, in honor of cold turkey detoxers everywhere! Why? You ask. Why the hell not? I say!)
I say willingly because there had been other times I had cold-turkey detoxed, but only when forced or coerced.
Most users know what I mean by ‘forced detox.’ It happens when your dealers are dry (aka out of dope) and withdrawal is inevitable, ergo you are out of options and forced to detox. Coercion to detox happens when a user attempts to detox, but only to avoid a threat made, usually by family members or the court system. For example, my parents threatened to stop financially supporting my schooling unless I went to rehab.
This time was different though. As mentioned above, I had just completed rehab and I was not trying to go down the wrong path again. In an effort to make sure I did not get too involved in using again, I came clean to my mum and asked her if she would allow me to detox for a few days at her house. It was uncomfortable admitting to my mum I had relapsed after treatment, but I was happy I could be open with her this time around.
I hunkered down in my room, turned off my phone, and waited for the pain to begin. After about 23 hours without a hit, I started scouring the internet for home remedies to ease the inevitable hell I was about to experience.
This was in 2014 and there was little information on using Imodium during opiate withdrawal, but on page 10 of my Google search results, I stumbled across a forum on a site called BlueLight. The topic of the forum was Home Remedies for Opiate Withdrawal and, about halfway down the page was a post titled, ‘Imodium WORKS!’
Remembering the strange Imodium ban at my rehab, my curiosity got the best of me. The writer of ‘Imodium Works’ explained he had been a habitual heroin user for five years and had tried to cold turkey detox many times. He cited a study where heroin-addicted monkeys were given Imodium for withdrawal symptoms. The study concluded Imodium successfully alleviated withdrawal symptoms.
Before trusting this random guy on the internet, I decided to dig a little deeper.
How Imodium Works
This is what I discovered: Opiates like heroin, oxycontin, and morphine, get a user high because they are able to easily cross the blood-brain barrier. Although Imodium is technically an opiate, it DOES NOT cross the blood-brain barrier, and therefore it is not supposed to produce a euphoric high. Instead, Imodium attaches to opiate receptors in the gut, and, as a result, is very effective for treating diarrhea.
Some think Imodium helps with withdrawal because small amounts do cross the blood-brain barrier, but (at recommended doses) not enough to get the user hooked on the high. Critics believe users who claim Imodium eases withdrawal symptoms are suffering from a placebo effect. Either way, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it. If it gave me the tiniest bit of relief, it would be worth it. What did I have to lose?
After my unofficial research session commenced, I asked my mum to run to the drug store and buy four bottles of liquid Imodium (name brand only). I took two times the recommended dose, around 30 hours into my withdrawal when I started feeling restless.
Inevitably, during withdrawal, a user will find it extremely hard to stay still, while still feeling too crappy to do anything but lay in bed. It’s an awful tug a war between wanting to run around screaming your head off, knowing the minute you do you may barf and possibly defecate (most likely at the same time) and trying at all costs to fall asleep and escape the pain. Sorry for the graphic imagery, but it’s honest.
Anyway, after taking the Imodium I was able to sit still, making symptoms a bit more manageable. Following the dosing schedule on the package, I took the liquid Imodium (two times the recommended dose for diarrhea) for the first four days of withdrawal. It was extremely effective and I have recommended it to people since.
Note: If you are going to try Imodium, start with the recommended dose. It may be enough to provide relief.
Dangers of Imodium
Five years later, as I write this article, I have not been able to find the study referenced in the 2014 BlueLight post anywhere on the web. I wonder if it has since been taken down.
For me, this Blue Light forum post provided valuable information to help with my withdrawals. However, there will always be those who ruin a potentially good thing for everyone else. I would be willing to bet other readers, with less pure intentions, focused solely on one phrase in the post, the following four words: Imodium is an opiate.
Since my own experience with Imodium in 2014, there has been an increase in reported attempts to get high off Imodium; users report feeling euphoria after taking massive amounts. WAY more than the recommended amount. Some users reported taking up to 100 times the recommended dose, in an effort to force the substance to cross the blood-brain barrier.
This innocent forum post undoubtedly encouraged the few readers seeking a cheap, over the counter high to take much more than the recommended dose of Imodium.
I believe this uptick in abuse may be the reason I cannot seem to locate the study discussed in the Blue Light forum I found in 2014. As countless articles citing Imodium abuse were posted online, the original BlueLight forum post was buried deeper into the web, pushed further down the search results list, and eventually became unworthy of Google.
(Refer to this study for more information citing the evolution of internet posts discussing extra-medical use of Imodium, specifically for opiate withdrawal relief. Overall, the trend started with posts discussing Imodium as an aide for symptom relief. Not long after, forums discussing how to get high off Imodium emerged, and eventually, search results include what they do today, mass amounts of articles reporting on Imodium overdoses and hospitalizations.)
I do not deny that many Imodium abuse attempts have landed users in the hospital with serious heart problems and, some have resulted in death. As a result, Imodium has earned itself the title of “poor man’s methadone.” However, if taken responsibly, Imodium is a fantastic tool to help a user get clean and this truth has been lost on the internet.
Sometimes the evolution of a topic on the internet can be more harmful than a group of mean girls gossiping about their fellow classmates, distorting the truth until no one knows what to believe anymore!
Thankfully, I was not searching for ways to get high when I discovered Imodium was an opiate. I just wanted to ease a few of my symptoms, not figure out how to get high on minty green diarrhea medicine, but hey, to each their own.
If you stumbled across this article while searching for ways to get high on Imodium, you may as well click the back button now. I do not endorse taking Imodium to get high. Ever. The risks are not worth the reward. Plus, if this is you, you probably are not ready to quit using, and most likely your drug of choice will result in a more satisfying high than any amount of Imodium could.
In 2018, the FDA cracked down on Imodium abuse, changing the packaging so customers could not buy large volume containers.
It is obvious Imodium has led to health complications, but these users were taking way, way more than the recommended dose. These few extreme cases led to massive attention from the media and thousands of articles in an effort to scare the public. So much so that anyone who Googled Imodium would be scared into taking precautions; no one would blame a parent for locking up their Imodium supply just as tightly as they would their guns.
I do believe most of this information is hype. Your rebellious child is not sneaking Imodium shooters at Prom and most dope fiends are not chasing the green minty giant when their supply gets low.
Do not believe everything you read on the internet. Sometimes, it is just that, hype. However, as discussed above, use moderation with every substance you put into your body. Taking too much of any over the counter medication will cause complications.
Summary of Imodium’s Efficacy- Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms
Ultimately, Imodium will take the edge off during the first few days of withdrawal. It is one of the most effective over the counter medications available for opiate withdrawal, even though this is not its intended purpose.
Personally, taking 2 times the recommended dose, every few hours, was just enough to curb my symptoms. This will be a bit different for everyone, but not to an outrageous degree. If you drink half a bottle of Imodium and still feel like it is not helping, STOP. Try another tip on this list before you end up in the hospital. Click here for overdose information.
Imodium will help relieve any diarrhea or nausea you may experience as well. However, ingesting excessive amounts will have the opposite effect. If you are not pooping at all, by day 2 or 3, take a stool softener to avoid discomfort when you are finally able to make a bowel movement. You will thank me in a few days.
Where to Buy Imodium
If you are stocking up to attempt at home withdrawal, you can order Imodium online here:
1 Liquid Imodium Bottle:
2 Pack of Liquid Imodium Bottles:
5 Pack of Liquid Imodium Bottles:
Many experience dry heaving, which can be especially painful when you are dealing with the myriad of other symptoms associated with withdrawal from opiates. Nausea and throwing up are extremely common during withdrawal.
I am especially prone to this symptom during my own withdrawals. Usually, I am too sick to eat so I start throwing up stomach bile. If you are throwing up a yellowish, sometimes brownish, foam-like substance, this is stomach bile. Stomach bile is acidic, it will sting your throat coming up and taste disgusting in your mouth, making you throw up again.
I remember thinking I would finally stop puking once I ran out of stomach bile, but I was sorely mistaken. Once you run out of stomach bile, your stomach may continue to have spasms forcing you to gag, even though there is nothing left for your stomach to get rid of. This unproductive puking is called dry heaving.
This PukeFest will feel never-ending. I spent my fair share of time praying for someone to pull me off the puke cycle I was riding during my own opiate withdrawals. Unfortunately, only
the porcelain gods were listening to my prayers and we became very close, literally, for five full days and nights. Hopefully, you can avoid your own PukeFest with the following suggestion.
Short of prescription nausea medications, Nauzene is the next best remedy. Nauzene is sold over the counter and marketed as a nausea medication. It is sold in quick dissolving tablets and the flavor is not too overwhelming for those who are sensitive to medicinal flavoring.
Another bonus is added electrolytes in Nauzene’s formula. As discussed in Top 15 Natural Remedies for Heroin Withdrawal, it is very important to stay hydrated and replenish your electrolytes during withdrawal.
Tips to Stop Dry Heaving
Try to sit still for a few moments when you feel you can stop throwing up. Take a few deep breaths and run a bath or turn on a hot shower. After a minute or two of deep breathing, your heart rate should normalize and you should feel calm enough to get into your bathtub.
Once in the bath, take the recommended dose of Nauzene, close your eyes and try to sit still, continuing to focus on your breath, for twenty minutes or so. This is the best method I have found for keeping down the medication.
In hot water, the body feels a bit of relief from withdrawal symptoms, so you should be able to stop the cycle of heaving, throwing up bile, heaving again, and so on. If you do not have a bathtub, a hot shower should do the trick. Remember to get in as soon as the water heats up because most likely you will stay in the shower until the hot water runs out. Don’t waste the hot water letting it run before you get in the shower!
Where to Buy Nauzene
3. Unisom Sleep Melts
Insomnia is one of the most troubling of opiate withdrawal symptoms. When a person is deprived of sleep, stress levels rise and it becomes very difficult to make good decisions. Sleep is one of the only times a person will experience relief from the physical and mental withdrawal symptoms of opiates.
The less sleep a person in withdrawal gets, the more time they spend suffering. It becomes hard to blame a person who has not slept for four days when they decide to give up and relapse. At this point, it is not so much that the person wants to get high. They are just seeking a bit of relief to get some rest.
To avoid this potential pitfall, stock up on OTC Unisom Sleep Melts. Short of prescription sleep medications, Unisom is the best OTC sleep aide on the market. You do not need to take more than the recommended dose. Remember, you are not going to nod off as you did on opiates. Most likely Unisom will not put you to sleep during extreme stages of withdrawal, but it should help you relax a bit. As a result, you may eventually be able to doze off for at least a couple of hours.
Why not Nyquil or Tylenol PM?
Many people still think that Nyquil and Tylenol PM are the only over the counter options for sleep. One of the active ingredients in Nighttime Cold and Flu medicine, doxylamine, will help make you sleepy. However, these medications also contain other active ingredients that are meant to treat symptoms of the cold or flu, not opiate withdrawal.
For example, Nyquil contains acetaminophen, for fever, and dextromethorphan, for congestion/cough, in addition to doxylamine for sleep. Sleep aids like Unisom only contain one active ingredient, doxylamine. Choosing a product like Unisom with less, more targeted ingredients, gives your liver a break. Trust me, after using opiates for a while, your liver will welcome the rest.
Where to Buy Unisom
You can buy a 2 pack of Unisom SleepMelts here:
Here is a link to buy a 4-pack of Unisom SleepMelts:
4. Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)
Benadryl blocks the effects of histamine in the body, and is, most commonly, marketed as allergy medicine. Benadryl prevents nausea, relieves cough and runny nose, and induces sedation. All of these symptoms are experienced by allergy sufferers and opiate withdrawal sufferers alike. Therefore, one dose of Benadryl has the potential to ease, even prevent, multiple withdrawal symptoms at once.
Although Benadryl is marketed as OTC allergy medicine, the FDA has approved Benadryl for use as a sleeping medication. So, at recommended doses, you may be able to get some rest after taking Benadryl. Its unique ability to counteract multiple symptoms associated with withdrawal makes Benadryl a must have in your detox kit.
A Note on Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Another common symptom of opiate withdrawal is Restless Leg Syndrome. Benadryl has been known to increase the severity of leg spasms in people who experience RLS during withdrawal. If RLS is a concern for you, weigh the pros and cons before taking Benadryl. If you are more desperate to ease your nausea and insomnia, and less concerned about potentially increasing RLS symptoms, give Benadryl a try.
Benadryl Dose for Opiate Withdrawal
Instructions on the Benadryl box list 25-30 mg every 6-8 hours as the recommended dose for allergy relief. Start with this dose. If you end up increasing, it is important not to exceed 50-100mg within 6-8 hours.
It is not recommended to take Bendaryl for more than 3 days, as some have experienced dependency. As opiate addicts, dependency on Benadryl seems silly, because who the hell would want to be addicted to an allergy pill when its effects are not even close to as powerful as our drugs of choice? Nonetheless, if dependency is possible, we must take all precautions possible. Stick to three days, and then stop.
Where to Buy Benadryl
Here is a link to buy Benadryl on Amazon:
So there you have it! These are the best OTC medications available for treating symptoms of opiate withdrawal. If you have the ability to taper off of opiates, I suggest trying that method first. Many users have successfully tapered off heroin on their own. These stories do not make headlines and you will never hear a medical professional giving this type of advice. It takes some willpower, but the experience is much less jarring.
Slowly cutting down on the amount you use over time will make withdrawal much easier. As you taper down, use these OTC medications to ease the side effects of using fewer opiates. If you are a functioning addict, self- taper may help you save your job and prevent the urges discussed above that occur around days 4-6 of cold turkey detox. For more information, please read How to get off Drugs-The Power of Imagination.
Do not forget to use the suggestions listed in the Top 15 Natural Remedies for Heroin Withdrawal-All Needles to Au Naturel. You may find the natural remedy for insomnia, Melatonin, works better for you than the OTC remedy, Benadryl. Everyone is different, so our bodies respond differently to different substances. What worked for me, may not work for you. However, most users will find some type of relief from many items recommended on our site.
Wishing you Well…
If you feel like giving up during the first week of withdrawal, try checking out your local methadone clinic before buying another bag of dope. It may save your life!
If you have any OTC remedies to add to this list or would like to share your own personal experience using these remedies, please leave a note in the comments.
If you have ANY questions, do not hesitate to ask and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Good luck and stay strong!