Going through opiate withdrawal is rough.
With many drugs, choosing to quit is the hard part. With opiates, choosing to quit is the first part of a difficult, but life-changing decision. But once you kick the habit, your life will be freed in a wild and wonderful way. So how can you make your detox (or that of a loved one) the easiest experience possible?
First, be prepared before withdrawal starts:
You’ll want to stock up on what you need. Remove your dealer’s number from your phone and get rid of any pills you may have laying around the house to reduce your temptation to use.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Water, electrolyte enhanced drinks, peppermint tea, or whatever soothes your stomach is perfect to sip on. Try to start drinking some water now. If you’ve been using, chances are your body is depleted of a lot of good stuff, including H2O. Look for some Pedialyte in the aisle with the baby stuff, which is full of electrolytes to hydrate you when you're withdrawing.
Forgo the alcohol and other substances. If you’re detoxing hard, the last thing you need to do is dehydrate yourself more by drinking alkie. Even if you aren’t feeling well and hoping to make yourself pass out, it isn’t the best solution.
Be wary of herbal remedies. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Wrong. Before ordering everything offered online, look at the ingredients list and search for contraindications with any medications you currently take. Remember that supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, and are able to promise quite a bit with very little evidence.
Go OTC. Over-the-counter remedies can provide some relief from withdrawal symptoms. Take ibuprofen for muscle aches and pains. Take Imodium or Peptol-Bismol for stomach upset and diarrhea. Dramamine, sold as motion-sickness medicine, can be used for preventing nausea. Can't find Dramamine or don't have it around the house? Try Benadryl, the allergy medicine.
Check into prescription medications. Suboxone is a weak opiate designed to help you get off the stronger stuff. We always recommend taking in conjunction with counseling & psychosocial support. See below for our recommended Gold Standard of Care.
Then, get comfy for when withdrawal kicks in:
Detoxing from opiates means final encountering an array of flu-like symptoms those of us with an opiate addiction spent most of our time trying to avoid. Symptoms usually begin with watery eyes, jitteriness, and a runny nose, and end with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and intense body cramping. Prep for a detox just like you’d take care of someone with the flu:
Choose a TV show to veg out on, or supply yourself with lots of mindless magazines to flip through. Simple distractions can help ease discomfort.
Arm yourself with blankets, pillows, and layers. You’re going to get hot. You’ll be cold. Grab a fan. Have some ice packs and a heating pad on hand.
Wear comfy clothes that you love. And layer them. This is going to be rough, physically and emotionally. I wore bunny slippers that I loved the entire time I detoxed–and hey, it helped.
Take hot (or cold!) showers or baths. Baths and showers will become your best friend during detox. Take them often, and remember to utilize them just when you feel you’re at a breaking point.
Turn to sweets in difficult moments. When is chocolate okay? When you're trying to get clean. If you feel like giving in to a craving, give in to a Hershey’s Kiss instead.
Take a walk, or sit outside, when things start feeling really bad.
Finally, get support to make it through opiate withdrawal:
All those people who said they were worried about you and wanted to help you in the past? Now is the time to take them up on their offer. I know it feels uncomfortable to ask for help. But this is too hard to do on your own.
- Speak up about your choices, and ask someone to be there with you. If one person doesn’t have the time, see if friends and family can rotate in on shifts to assist with cleaning, cooking, and any other assistance you might need.
- Tell your friends about your choice before you start detoxing, so no one hits you up to use in the midst of an extremely rough moment of physical (or mental) withdrawal. Shield yourself from temptation in moments of weakness.
- If it becomes too much, call someone! Just not your drug dealer. Call a friend, a family member, or drive to an emergency room (if you can afford that option).
Remember, you can do this. Why do we know? Because many of us have done it. We've gotten through to the other side, and it is a beautiful place to be.
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Kali Lux is a content writer and editor with a gift for breaking down big ideas into digestible bits. She loves to talk, write, and read recovery. Her short humor has been featured on McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and her BA in English is from ASU.