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If you’ve decided on a rapid opioid taper or a sudden stoppage of use (going cold turkey) you’re probably worried about withdrawal symptoms: How bad are they really going to be? Will I be able to get through them without relapsing?

Well, everyone’s experience differs, but withdrawal symptoms are to be expected and unfortunately, an unassisted cold-turkey heroin detox or a too aggressive opioid taper is more likely to end in relapse.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go through this alone and there are medications that can help to minimize the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. And even if you plan to go through withdrawals on your own at home, you should still talk to your doctor to see what medications he or she might recommend and or prescribe to help you minimize the discomfort of the period.

Read on and talk to your doctor about which of the following medications (and others) might be right for you.

According to a Group Health doctor’s manual of safety guidelines for the chronic use of opiates for non-cancer pain1, some medications which can be useful in reducing the severity of fast taper or sudden opioid stoppage withdrawal symptoms include:

Anxiety and Restlessness

  • 25 mgs of Hydroxyzine (Vistaril) every 6 hours, as needed
  • 25 mgs of Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) every 6 hours, as needed

Hypertension, Anxiety, Sweats, Restlessness and Tremors

  • Clonidine  - in a dosage recommended by the prescribing physician

Insomnia

  • 25 - 50 mgs of Hydroxyzine (Vistaril) before going to sleep
  • 25 - 50 mgs of Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) before going to sleep

Nausea

  • 25 mgs of Promethazine (Phenergan) every 6 hours, as needed
  • 10 mgs of Metoclopramide (Reglan) every 6 hours, as needed

Abdominal Pain and Indigestion

  • 1 or 2 tablets of Calcium carbonate (Tums) every 8 hours
  • Mylanta, Milk of Magnesia, as directed on the package

Pain and Fever

  • 325 mgs of Acetaminophen every 4 hours, as needed

Cautions

This information is provided with the hopes that you’ll use it to seek out medical advice and if appropriate receive medications that maximize your odds of success as you minimize the discomforts of the detox period. Please do not use the preceding information as a substitute for a doctor’s advice.

***Hydroxyzine, Diphenhydramine and Promethazine are high-risk medications for people over the age of 64.

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Page last updated Jun 07, 2014

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