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Medications for
Opiate Withdrawal

For centuries, opiates have been used by several societies. The term opiates is derived from opium, which is processed from the opium poppy. Opiates are known for their pain relieving effects and recreational use. They have a very addictive nature and once an individual develops a tolerance, it is hard to discontinue the habit alone. Persistent use typically leads to addiction.

Opiates Effect on the Body

There are numerous ways opiates can be taken. They can be injected, chewed, smoked or insufflated. Once the drug is in the bloodstream it travels quickly and floods opiate receptors in the brain causing stimulation. As soon as the receptors are stimulated, greater amounts of dopamine is released. This results in euphoria followed by a relaxed state.

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

  • Strong cravings
  • Cramps
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shakes
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Dilated pupils

Medications for Opiate Withdrawal

Medications can help the addict get through initial withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse. The most common medications used to treat opiate withdrawal are Clonidine, Buprenorphine, and Methadone.


Clonidine is an antihypertensive drug that lowers blood pressure and heart rate. It also decreases adrenaline levels that can cause anxiety and works with the receptors in your brain to handle pain. In addition to opiate detoxification, it has been used to treat ADD, Tourette 's syndrome and certain sleep disorders. Depending on your level of addiction, Clonidine can be administered through a seven-day patch or orally.


Another drug used in the treatment of opiate withdrawal is Buprenorphine, commonly known as Suboxone. It is known as a partial opiate agonist and works to treat addiction by blocking the brain's opiate receptors. The reason it has been so successful is because it treats the addiction while keeping the receptors stimulated, much like opiates do. Over time your body is no longer physically dependent on opiates and you can slowly decrease your buprenorphine dosage. Buprenorphine can be prescribed for both inpatient and outpatient treatment.

Methadone Treatment

Methadone is another drug that can be used to treat opiate withdrawal symptoms. Much like buprenorphine, methadone is a full opiate agonist that works to stimulate the opiate receptors in your brain while blocking opiates from affecting them. The risk with methadone is it has a greater potential for dependence. It can also result in overdose and more severe withdrawal symptoms. It is not administered in outpatient treatment and is monitored daily.




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