Withdrawal from narcotic/opiates, whether “street drugs” or prescribed medications, is physically and psychologically painful, often requiring a medical detox for the patient. Natural remedies and at-home solutions are available for the addict and caregiver who do not wish to go the medical route. These are suggestions only, and should not take the place of a medical professional’s advice.
Deciding to Stop
The decision to stop taking narcotics is the most difficult part of the process. Fear of withdrawal is very real, and for good reason. It won’t kill you, but you might likely wish it would. The bad news: leg cramps, sweats, diarrhea, insomnia, nervousness and craving. But there’s also good news: it doesn’t last forever. You can do it. And while there’s nothing that will completely eliminate the symptoms, there are natural remedies that you can keep on hand to ease things for you and make it easier to stop and stay stopped.
One caveat: don’t do this alone. See if you can get someone to stay with you to support your decision. It’s always easier to get through if you have support, especially when you feel like you just can’t do it.
Find a comfortable place to detox. Some clever drug “addiction specialists” will tell you that opiate withdrawal is no worse than a bad case of the flu, but when did a bad case of the flu keep you from sleeping, or even getting comfortable for more than 10 minutes? Everyone seems to focus on a different symptom–the leg cramp thing, the stomach issues, the sweating, the craving, the nerves. Make sure you have a place where you can be as comfy as possible.
Stock up on the following: Imodium AD, which is crucial for the diarrhea, and some kind of juice, preferably apple or something else non-acidic. Get ibuprofen for aches and pains; you’re going to have them. Benadryl and valerian can help you sleep. Consider St. John’s wort and kava for your nerves. Take these as recommended on the labels. Kava, especially, is rough on the liver, but it’s very effective for anxiety. Get cans of soup. Chicken-noodle or whatever you like–you probably won’t be able to keep much down the first few days, but you need to eat something. Jello is good too.
Fluids, fluids, fluids. In addition to keeping you hydrated, they will help flush the drugs out of your system.
Warm baths or showers every couple of hours for muscle aches. You’re probably not going to feel like taking a shower; do it anyway. You don’t have to groom like you’re going out for the night, just get under the warm spray.
Rest. Take the Benadryl. You’re not going to be able to sleep much the first few days, but catch naps when you can.
Get some movies–funny ones that distract you, but nothing that’s going to make you have to think. And stay away from drug films, like “Rush,” “The Basketball Diaries,” “Trainspotting” and the like.
The Good News
Yes, there’s good news. After about the fourth or fifth day, you’re going to be able to eat a can of soup and keep it down–maybe sooner, maybe later. You’ll be able to sleep for maybe three hours in a row. If you feel up to it, try to get some light exercise at this point. Take a walk around the block, at least. You won’t want to, but you’ll feel better if you do.
This is the time when you need the most support. Cravings will sneak up on you, and it will seem much easier to revert to drugs and feel better. Don’t do it. It’s just going to drag things out, and if you’re committed to really getting clean and detoxing yourself, you don’t want to drag it out any longer than necessary.
There is help available. Narcotics Anonymous has a hotline in every area; if you need someone to talk to, call them. If nothing else, it’s another voice on the line that will keep you from feeling completely insane.
There’s no easy way to do this. There are no magical herbal cures that will take away the detox symptoms. But if you follow these instructions, and if you’re committed to doing it, it’ll be worth it.
If you’ve gone through the detox, you’re going to need help staying clean.This can be difficult, especially if the thought of 12-step programs isn’t appealing to you. Particularly difficult is the pain issue for chronic pain patients. You will have to find alternatives to narcotic pain medications.
Acupuncture, reiki and chiropractic are all viable options for non-narcotic pain relief. Speak to your doctor about ways to keep your pain under control without the use of narcotics.
As for support groups, that’s a personal choice, but one worth exploring. There are plenty out there, both in real life and on the web. The most important thing to remember is that you’re going to need help to stay narcotic-free, and you should not be embarrassed to seek it. You don’t want to have to do this again, do you?