Medication for Heroin Withdrawal
This article discusses medication for heroin withdrawal, specifically over-the-counter medications. Over-the-counter medication for heroin withdrawal is essential if you are not able to attend an inpatient or outpatient detox program. The listed medication for heroin withdrawal are also effective for easing withdrawal symptoms from other opiates, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, Fentanyl, and Codeine. (This is a non-exhaustive list.)
I recently posted an article outlining the top natural remedies for opiate (heroin) withdrawal. Natural remedies are wonderful, but you have a higher chance of success pairing the natural remedies with the medication for heroin withdrawal listed below.
I tried countless products during withdrawal. Short suboxone, methadone, and other prescription medications, the products listed in Top 15 Natural Remedies for Opiate Withdrawal, and the over-the-counter medications listed below are the best options for easing heroin withdrawal.
Syringes to Sobriety interviewed hundreds of opiate users who successfully eased their opiate withdrawal symptoms with the medication suggestions in this article.
As a former OxyContin user who progressed to using heroin intravenously, I know firsthand the horrors of withdrawal symptoms. Although opiate withdrawal is rarely immediately life-threatening, like alcohol or benzodiazepines, once you start withdrawal, you will wish you were dead. (This is not a joke. I have had multiple friends take their lives during withdrawal. Monitoring the mental state of a person in heroin withdrawal is hugely important. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH.)
Understand what you are Committing to
If this is your first opiate withdrawal, please read this article: Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline- Slaying the Dragon.
Whatever pain you imagine experiencing during withdrawal, after reading “Slaying the Dragon,” multiply that by 100%. Then, you MAY start to understand. I do not say this to scare you. However, managing individual expectations is an important part of picking a successful, individualized, detox plan.
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.
A Frightening Statistic
As discussed in Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline, most users do not make it past day three or four in the withdrawal process. Something along the lines of 90% of users seek out a fix on day three or four of detox. This happens to the strongest of people, as it is chemical. Sheer willpower rarely competes with the urge felt during this stage of the withdrawal process. It is overwhelming, near impossible to overcome without a carefully crafted detox plan. If this happens to you, seek out your local methadone clinic immediately.
Most clinics prescribe Suboxone, as well as methadone. They administer Suboxone tapers, which last about a week and greatly reduce withdrawal symptoms.
A Simple Promise, A Backup Plan
Make this promise to yourself before the withdrawal symptoms begin:
If I feel an irresistible urge to use during detox, I will try to reach out to the methadone clinic first.
Have your local methadone clinic’s phone number accessible in your detox kit. Showing up at the clinic and receiving a suboxone or methadone dose may steer you in a different direction. At least you will still be headed the right way, forward toward your goal of getting clean.
NOTE ON A DETOX KIT
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. We 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:
Top Over the Counter Medication for Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
- Liquid Imodium
- Unisom SleepMelts
Medication for Heroin Withdrawal #1: Liquid Imodium (Loperamide)
Personal Experience Using Imodium as a Medication for Heroin Withdrawal
The first inpatient treatment center I attended was St. Jude’s Rehab, located in upstate New York, over 2000 miles away from my home town, Scottsdale, AZ. On the list of prohibited items for patients was Imodium. I had no clue why a diarrhea medicine was prohibited at rehab. Prohibiting items like heroin, suboxone, methadone, alcohol-based mouthwash/cologne, and syringes made sense, 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.
I say willingly because there had been other times I had cold-turkey detoxed, but only when forced or coerced.
Detox by Force or Coercion
Most users know what I mean by ‘forced detox.’ It happens when your dealers are dry (aka out of dope) and you are on the verge of withdrawal; ergo you are out of options and forced to detox. ‘Coerced detox’ happens if a user detoxes to avoid a looming threat, usually made by a family member or someone in 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 just completed rehab and I did not want to fall back into the hole I so recently clawed my way out of. 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. Uncomfortable admitting defeat, a.k.a. relapse, to my mum, I felt immense relief after opening up to her this time around.
Preparing for the Worst
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. Desperate is too light a word to express how badly I hoped to find something, anything to ease the inevitable, impending hellish experience of withdrawal.
This was in 2014, a time when little information on using Imodium during opiate withdrawal was scant. However, on page 10 of my Google search results, I stumbled across a forum on a site called BlueLight. The topic of the forum, Home Remedies for Opiate Withdrawal and, about halfway down the page, 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,’ a habitual heroin user of five years, explained he had attempted 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 can 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 opiate 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. I took two times the recommended dose, around 30 hours into my withdrawal when I started feeling restless.
Inevitably, during withdrawal, a user finds it extremely hard to stay still, feeling too crappy to do anything but lay in bed. It’s an awful tug a war. On one side, the version of you 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) Your competitor, a worthy tug a war opponent, the version of you that would sell her soul for a few minutes of sleep to escape the pain. Sorry for the graphic imagery, but it’s honest.
After taking Imodium I stopped feeling twitchy and fidgety, my symptoms became 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 now recommend it to anyone searching for relief.
Note: If you are going to try Imodium, start with the recommended dose. It might be enough to provide relief.
Dangers of Imodium as a Medication for Heroin Withdrawal
Five years later, as I write this article, I cannot locate the study referenced in the 2014 BlueLight post. I wonder if it has since been taken down.
This BlueLight forum post provided valuable information to help with my withdrawals. However, there are always those who ruin a potentially good thing for everyone else. I bet other readers, with less pure intentions, focused solely on one phrase in the post: Imodium is an opiate.
Since my own experience with Imodium in 2014, reported attempts to get high off Imodium increased. 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, attempting 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.
Red Light, Blue Light, Never Getting Things Quite Right
I believe this uptick in abuse is the reason I cannot locate the study discussed in the 2014 BlueLight forum. As countless articles citing Imodium abuse were posted online, the original BlueLight 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.)
The Internet of Overreaction
I do not deny that many Imodium abuse attempts have landed users in the hospital with serious heart problems, some resulting in death. As a result, Imodium 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 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.
Use Your Brain, Abusing Imodium is not Legit
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.
Better put it in the Gun Safe! (Insert eye roll emoji here!)
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 to scare the public. So much so that anyone who Googled Imodium is frightened into taking precautions; no one blames a parent for locking up their Imodium supply just as tightly as their guns.
I 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.
Bottom’s Up on the Loose Bottom Medicine! Uh, Ewww.
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 is risky.
Summary of Imodium’s Efficacy as a Medication for Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Ultimately, Imodium takes the edge off during the first few days of withdrawal. It is one of the most effective over-the-counter medications available for heroin withdrawal, even though this is not its intended purpose.
Personally, taking two times the recommended dose, every few hours, was just enough to curb my symptoms. This dose is 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 helps to 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:
Medication for Heroin Withdrawal #2: Nauzene
I am especially prone to this symptom during withdrawal. 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.
GET ME OFF THIS PUKE CYCLE
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 Puke Fest feels never-ending. I spent my fair share of time praying for someone to pull me off the puke cycle I was riding during my 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 Puke Fest with the following suggestion.
Short of prescription nausea medications, Nauzene is the next best remedy. Nauzene is sold over the counter, marketed as a nausea medication. It is sold in quick-dissolving tablets, mildly flavored for those sensitive to the taste of chalky medicines.
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 will 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
Medication for Heroin Withdrawal #3: Unisom Sleep Melts
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 Unisom Sleep Melts. Short of prescription sleep medications, Unisom is the best sleep aid 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, at least for an hour or two.
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, promotes sleepiness. However, these medications contain other active ingredients meant to treat symptoms of the cold or flu, not opiate withdrawal.
For example, nighttime 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:
Medication for Heroin Withdrawal #4: Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)
Benadryl, marketed as an allergy medicine, blocks the effects of histamine in the body. 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 an allergy medicine, it is FDA-approved for use as a sleeping medication. 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 is 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 Benadryl 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? Especially 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:
TAPERING: An Alternative Technique to Using Medication for Heroin Withdrawal.
So there you have it! These are the best medications available for treating symptoms of opiate withdrawal if you do not have access to prescription medications. If you can taper off of opiates, I suggest trying that method first. Many users 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 makes withdrawal much easier. As you taper down, use these 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 Unisom or 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 know of any home remedies, or want to suggest an additional medication for heroin withdrawal, please let us know. We would love to add your suggestions to this list. Also, if you would like to share your personal experience using these remedies or other medication for heroin withdrawal, 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!